Chiarelli says ‘a gap’ still remains between Oilers and Nurse

Living under the microscope is tough for any Canadian NHL team, but the Oilers are under even more pressure than usual after a disappointing season last year saw them miss the playoffs.

EDMONTON — Peter Chiarelli may get to the point where he’ll meet Darnell Nurse halfway on a contract. But he wasn’t there on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers opened training camp without their hold-out defenceman.

"No real update," reported the Oilers general manager. "I know he travelled home (to Toronto) the other night. We obviously couldn’t come to an agreement, but we hope we can get him into camp at some point here shortly."

Does it concern him that Nurse, who had been in Edmonton skating for about a week, returned to his Ontario home?

"It’s part of the playbook, I guess. I’m not worried about that," he said. "We’ve had a lot of negotiations. We’ll see where it goes here shortly, but there’s a gap. I can tell you, there is a gap."

The team and player are haggling over a two-year bridge deal, expected to be worth somewhere around $6-7 million in total. With Andrej Sekera (Achilles) out long-term, Nurse’s value to the team is such that the player’s camp is less likely to settle.

Does Chiarelli have a Plan B if the hold out lasts until the regular season?

"Yes I do," he divulged. "But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it."

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In other camp news, Chiarelli confirmed a Sportsnet report that veteran winger Scottie Upshall (knee) failed his pre-camp physical. Chiarelli left the door open for him to participate in camp "this weekend or early next week," depending on the injury reacts to treatment. Upshall is here on a PTO.

Another hot topic here is the evolution of Finnish prospect Jesse Puljujarvi, who only turned 20 in May but is entering his third professional season in North America. Oilers fans are expecting a jump from the No. 4 overall pick, as he opened camp on a line with centre Ryan Strome and left-winger Jujhar Khaira.

"He’s a big, raw kid who is rounding out his game," the GM said. "He’s getting more comfortable in this environment. You can’t judge it by one (training camp scrimmage), but he’s making plays and looks more confident."

"We have to be patient with him," Chiarelli added. "He’s going to be a very good contributor in this league in due time."

Chiarelli admitted Friday that he’d investigated trading for Norris Trophy defenceman Erik Karlsson just long enough to find out that the Oilers were not on Karlsson’s list of acceptable destinations. But when he saw what San Jose gave up, Chiarelli cringed a bit, thinking he could have come up with a better package.

"Yes, you think that. I think every GM says that," he said. "I won’t lie, when (Karlsson) came to our Division there was a little bit of a expletive coming out of my mouth. He’d be nice to have here, but we were not on his list, so it was a nonstarter from the beginning."

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