The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

ED­MON­TON — The Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers paid a huge price to lock up su­per­star cap­tain Con­nor McDavid, 20, but it could have been even higher.

The Oil­ers an­nounced Wed­nes­day that the team and McDavid have agreed to an eight-year ex­ten­sion with an av­er­age an­nual value of $12.5 mil­lion US. That makes the 20-year-old league MVP the high­est-paid player in the Na­tional Hockey League on an an­nual ba­sis, but it’s about $750,000 a year less than what re­ports last week fig­ured he would be get­ting.

“It easily could have been a lot higher in value and shorter in term,” Oil­ers gen­eral man­ager Peter Chiarelli said.

McDavid’s ex­ten­sion kicks in af­ter he fin­ishes the fi­nal year of his en­try-level deal next sea­son. If the NHL’s salary cap stays at its cur­rent level of $75 mil­lion, McDavid’s salary alone would take up 16.6 per cent of the Oil­ers’ al­lowed salary.

But any cap re­lief would be wel­come to Ed­mon­ton. The Oil­ers are also work­ing to re-sign ris­ing star Leon Drai­saitl, who is a re­stricted free agent af­ter fin­ish­ing his en­trylevel deal and due a big raise.

“Part of this part­ner­ship was talk­ing about build­ing a team, and Con­nor was em­phatic as was I about keep­ing this team com­pet­i­tive,” Chiarelli said. “There are chal­lenges at ev­ery junc­ture when you are build­ing a win­ning team in the salary cap era. Con­nor rec­og­nizes that, Jeff Jackson (McDavid’s agent) rec­og­nizes that and we’re con­fi­dent we’ll be able to ice a win­ning team, one that can con­tend and win the Cup.”

McDavid led the NHL in scor­ing with 100 points last sea­son, en route to win­ning the Hart Tro­phy as league MVP. In just his sec­ond sea­son he helped the Oil­ers tran­si­tion form league door­mat to a po­ten­tial ris­ing power in the West­ern Con­fer­ence. Ed­mon­ton made the play­offs for the first time in a decade last sea­son ad ad­vanced to the con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal, where they took the vet­eran-laden Ana­heim Ducks to seven games.

“I’m so ex­cited to be able to wear the Oil­ers jersey for the next nine years of my life and play with some of the great­est guys that I know,” McDavid said. “I can’t wait to get back at it.

“I wanted to show that I’m in it for the long haul, and I want to win here.”

Drafted first over­all by the Oil­ers in 2015, McDavid be­came the youngest cap­tain in NHL his­tory last sea­son. Barely out of his teens, he proved his lead­er­ship qual­i­ties in the play­offs by help­ing the young Oil­ers over­come po­ten­tially crush­ing losses.

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