McDavid says time is now for Oilers to become Stanley Cup contenders

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EDMONTON — Connor McDavid said there is urgency for the Edmonton Oilers to become Stanley Cup contenders. 

“I definitely think the time is now,” the Oilers captain said Tuesday.

The 24-year-old center is part of a group of maturing players that includes defenseman Darnell Nurse, 25; forward Leon Draisaitl, 26; and forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 28.

“The old excuse that we’re young guys is no longer,” McDavid said. “For us as a group, I think the time is now to start really pushing this thing.”

Selected No. 1 by the Oilers in the 2015 NHL Draft, McDavid has one Stanley Cup Playoff series win in six NHL seasons, a six-game victory against the San Jose Sharks in the 2017 Western Conference First Round. Edmonton finished second in the seven-team Scotia North Division last season and was swept by the third-place Winnipeg Jets in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup First Round. The previous season, the Oilers lost in four games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

McDavid was unanimously voted the Hart Trophy winner as NHL most valuable player last season after he scored a League-high 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) in 56 games. He also won the Hart in 2016-17. 

“The first goal coming into every year is to make the playoffs,” McDavid said. “It’s not an easy thing to do, as we know. We’ve been able to do it the last couple of years, but you can’t take that for granted, and that has to be our first main focus, and obviously, you go from there. 

“It’s a long year as well, and there are going to be highs and lows, up and downs, and as a more veteran team, a team that’s kind of been through a little more, it’ll help us stay a bit more even keel and help us reach our ultimate goal: to get in, and you never know what’s going to happen.”

Video: Expectations for McDavid and the Oilers in 2021-22

The Oilers made several moves this offseason, acquiring 38-year-old defenseman Duncan Keith, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, in a trade with the Blackhawks and signing free agent forward Zach Hyman, 29, to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract ($5.5 million average annual value). 

Edmonton re-signed defenseman Tyson Barrie, 30, to a three-year, $13.5 million contract ($4.5 million AAV); signed defenseman Cody Ceci, 27, to a four-year, $13 million contract ($3.25 million AAV); signed forward Derek Ryan, 34, to a two-year, $2.5 million contract ($1.25 million AAV); acquired forward Warren Foegele in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes and signed him to a three-year, $8.25 million contract ($2.75 million AAV); and agreed to an eight-year, $74 million contract extension with Nurse ($9.25 million AAV). 

“Yeah, it was obviously a busy summer, lots of new faces,” McDavid said. “I like the moves, and I think [general manager Ken Holland] and the management team did a great job. Now it’s on the players and the coaching staff to put it together. We have high expectations for ourselves and we’ve been building something here for the last couple of years, and it’s time to put it all together.”

Nurse said, “With guys like Hyman coming in, it’s something to build on. Obviously when you have a core led by McDavid and Draisaitl you’re always going to be competitive.”

Draisaitl won the Hart Trophy in 2019-20.

The Oilers, who missed the playoffs in 2018 and 2019, return to the Pacific Division this season after realignment last season because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus. 

“I think for all the core guys, we all have to continue to play better,” McDavid said. “I think that’s the only way we get better as a group, if we all internally continue to push and strive for better and continue to grow our games and develop our games all over the rink.”

NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger contributed to this report

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