Oilers, Nugent-Hopkins could finish deal soon

Set to become a restricted free agent this summer, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could have a new deal in place before the season begins.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can’t play any games right now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t sign a new deal that will guarantee he plays many more games with the Edmonton Oilers. The centreman, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, is closing in on a new deal.

RNH’s agent, Rick Valette, spent some time at Rexall Place on Monday and was seen in the stands with Edmonton GM Craig MacTavish, along with Scott Howson, the Oilers’ senior VP of hockey operations. The two sides have been discussing the possibility of a new deal for Nugent-Hopkins, who is set to become a restricted free agent this summer when his entry-level deal runs out.

“What kind of deal?” is the big question. Will it be a short-term or long-term one?

If you follow the Oilers’ plan for their young stars, negotiations should end with a multi-year, multimillion-dollar contract. It’s the approach Edmonton decided to take with both Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Hall signed a seven-year deal at $6 million per season, while Eberle went for six years at $6 million per.

With those kinds of contracts already in place for the nucleus of the team, Nugent-Hopkins could be interested in following suit with his sometime linemates. The bar has been set with the Hall/Eberle contracts, and while RNH could theoretically get a longer deal, it’s not expected he would get more than $6 million per season. Hall proved his worth last year by finishing in the top 10 in scoring with a 50-point season, while Eberle did it the season before when he was the team’s top scorer with 76 points.

The 20-year-old Nugent-Hopkins has been practising but isn’t expected to play a game until possibly Nov. 1. An injured shoulder has been the only hangup in the youngster’s game. The No. 1 pick in 2011 appeared to be on his way to a Rookie of the Year trophy until a bad shoulder cost him 20 games and the award went to Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog. Last season the recurring shoulder problem had to be eventually fixed, but not before Nugent-Hopkins played in 40 games and scored 24 points.

The wait on contract details could be resolved very soon. No major issues are expected in negotiations, which means Nugent-Hopkins’ contract could be completed in the next few days.

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