The Edmonton Oilers have signed Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract that will make him one of the NHL's top earners. The deal could also put him on a course to become just the fourth German to win the Stanley Cup.
In the six weeks since the Edmonton Oilers signed their captain, Connor McDavid, to an eight-year contract worth $100 million (85.4 million euros), the question on many fans' minds had been when they would move to sign their other star forward Leon Draisaitl - and what kind of deal they would offer him.
On Wednesday, they got their answer; as the 21-year-old Cologne native penned an eight-year deal worth $68 million - for a salary-cap hit of an average of $8.5 million. According to Canadian sports broadcaster TSN, this will make him the 10th-highest earner this coming season, with a salary equal to that of Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steve Stamkos.
"For me, it was never a question of going anywhere else or signing anywhere else," the German national team player told NHL.com. "That never even crossed my mind. I wanted to stay in Edmonton, I feel very comfortable there. I think we have a great group of guys and we're building something special."
After Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli gave McDavid the big deal, some had wondered whether he would be tempted to try to get Draisaitl, who was a restricted free agent, on a "bridge" contract. These are shorter term deals, designed to let a young player prove himself - with the promise of a bigger pay day down the road.
Convinced that Draisaitl is the real deal
The fact that Chiarelli has given the Oilers second-biggest star (after McDavid) a high-priced, long-term deal shows two things: First, he is convinced that Draisaitl's production in last year's regular season (29 goals, 48 assists ) and the playoffs (six goals, 10 assists in 13 games) was no fluke. Second, he is confident that the Oilers, who moved into a new arena last season, are capable of winning a Stanley Cup in the next few years.
Should they achieve this with Draisaitl in the lineup, the third-overall pick in the 2014 NHL entry draft would become just the fourth German to lift the Cup, after Uwe Krupp (Colorado, 1996, Detroit 2002), Dennis Seidenberg (Boston, 2011) and Tom Kühnhackl (Pittsburgh, 2016, 2017).
The deal also confirms what German hockey fans have known for some time now; in Draisaitl they have not just an NHL star, but a player who stands to become one of the top superstars of his era - anywhere.
Good for German hockey, not much for the national team
This can only be good for German hockey in general, but not necessarily for the national team. When the Winter Olympics are held in Pyeongchang next February, NHL players won't be there. And although Draisaitl has said he will play for Germany whenever he can, assuming the Oilers continue to go deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs in the next few years, the chances of him regularly being available for the World Championship look dim.
Still, national team head coach Marco Sturm congratulated Draisaitl on the deal.
"I am very pleased for Leon and the Oilers," Sturm said. "Both sides have planning reliability for the next few years."
And while he is by far the highest-paid German ice hockey paid player in history, due to the pay structures of North America's professional sports leagues, Draisaitl's salary pales in comparison to that of Dennis Schröder. The 23-year-old German point guard with the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, who earns a good $15.5 million on a contract that runs until 2021.