Chiarelli has Plan B if Nurse won’t sign

Lethbridge Herald - - HERALD SPORTS | TOP STORIES -

Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers gen­eral man­ager Peter Chiarelli says he has a Plan B if con­tract talks re­main at a stale­mate with de­fence­man Dar­nell Nurse. Chiarelli ad­dressed that and other is­sues — rang­ing from Con­nor McDavid ques­tions to the Erik Karls­son trade — as the team hit the ice for the first time Fri­day at train­ing camp.

“We ob­vi­ously couldn’t come to an agree­ment, but we hope we can get him in camp at some point here shortly,” Chiarelli said, ref­er­enc­ing Nurse.

Chiarelli de­clined to go into specifics on Plan B: “We’ll cross that bridge when (we) come to it.”

The two sides are ne­go­ti­at­ing a bridge con­tract com­ing out of Nurse’s en­trylevel deal.

Nurse’s ab­sence, and the off-sea­son torn Achilles ten­don to An­drej Sek­era, their top puck-mov­ing de­fender, has left the Oil­ers thin on the blue line.

Chiarelli said help may be com­ing from farmhands Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones along with top draft pick Evan Bouchard, who is con­sid­ered so close to be­ing ready for prime time that an­other year of ju­nior would al­most be a waste.

Ed­mon­ton also signed free agent Jakub Jer­abek, late of the Washington Cap­i­tals, after learn­ing of Sek­era’s in­jury.

“He moves the puck well,” Chiarelli said of Jer­abek.

“He’s a very cere­bral player, eco­nom­i­cal player ... He’s go­ing to get a shot here, too.”

The top de­fen­sive pair­ing is Adam Lars­son and Os­car Klef­bom, fol­lowed by Kris Rus­sell and Matt Benning. The Oil­ers are look­ing for an­swers as they try to re­bound from a dis­ap­point­ing non-play­off cam­paign, the sec­ond in the last three de­spite hav­ing two-time NHL scor­ing cham­pion McDavid.

There has been crit­i­cism of late that hav­ing McDavid, the bright­est light in the game, ab­sent from the post-sea­son is a dis­ser­vice not only to the fran­chise but to the sport.

Chiarelli ad­mit­ted there is added pres­sure.

“You want to max­i­mize what you can do when Con­nor is here and when he’s per­form­ing at the level we all ex­pect,” he said.

“We have to meet those ex­pec­ta­tions, as does the rest of the team.”

The pres­sure got more in­tense this week when divi­sion ri­val San Jose traded for top de­fence­man Karls­son from Ot­tawa.

Chiarelli said Ed­mon­ton was not on Karls­son’s ne­go­ti­a­tion list and there­fore didn’t have a chance to get him, but said the trade stings nonethe­less.

“I won’t lie, when he came to our divi­sion there was a lit­tle bit of an ex­ple­tive com­ing out of my mouth,” he said. “That’s a heck of a D over there now.”

Chiarelli has also been ques­tioned for sign­ing backup goalie Mikko Kosk­i­nen from the KHL for one year at US$2.5 mil­lion to back up Cam Tal­bot. Chiarelli said the ask­ing price for Kosk­i­nen was high be­cause there were other bid­ders, adding that Kosk­i­nen’s backup sta­tus is not set in stone.

“We felt we wanted a com­pe­ti­tion at goal­tend­ing,” he said. “He’s go­ing to get a chance and we hope that he pushes Cam and vice versa.”

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