June 20 2014 12:36PM
The Edmonton Oilers have acquired the negotiating rights to pending unrestricted free agent Nikita Nikitin. If they sign him, they will need to give the Blue Jackets a draft pick most likely.
Basically the Oilers got a window of opportunity that allows them to negotiate exclusively with Nikitin. They are able to try and negotiate a contract with him up until July 1st. Starting next Wednesday, other teams can talk to Nikitin, but they can't offer formal contracts.
Scott Howson traded for Nikitin when he was the GM in Columbus, and he knows him well. If the Oilers sign Nikitin before the draft they will surrender a pick this year, but if they sign him after the draft then it will be a pick next year. Either way it will be a late round pick. If they don't sign him, Columbus gets nothing.
At this point it is hard to say where he fits in, but he is likely a #4 or a 3rd pairing guy.
Two years ago, he played the most minutes and produced the most points.
However, as the Blue Jackets signed better D-men his icetime diminished and he only played 17:06/game this past year. In the playoffs he was the 6th D-man for the Blue Jackets. That doesn't guarantee he'll only be a 6th D-man here, but it suggests he'll need to improve if he wants to play impactful minutes with the Oilers.
The Oilers need some veteran D-men so they don't have to rush their young defenders, and if Nikitin can do that for a season then he'll be a good signing. I'm interested to see the term of his contract. The Oilers can't give him more than three years, and I think two would be ideal, but will he sign for only two years when he is only 28 years old?
Teams usually over pay and give longer terms to UFAs, and if he wants three years, then I'd offer him a lower average salary.
This is how he was deployed, at 5x5, the past three years in Columbus.
He was used more in the offensive zone this past season, when he played fewer minutes, and that is likely due to the emergence of Ryan Murray.
His possession stats from the past three seasons are okay, but not great.
|GP||TOI||CF%||CF% rel||FF%||FF% rel||GF||GA||GF%||GF% rel|
In 2012, he had the best CF% of every Jacket's defender, and last year he was third on the team, behind Murray and James Wisniewski. Keep in mind he was playing 3rd line minutes and easier competition than Fedor Tyutin and Jack Johnson. He played with Tyutin in 2012, and that had a lot to do with his numbers. I see him as a stop-gap #4, and when the Oilers young guys are ready he becomes a 3rd pair defender.
Nikitin had better numbers when he played more minutes, which isn't always the case, and I wonder if part of that was due to him being more into the game. He didn't sit on the bench for long stretches, and for a big guy his body likely stayed warmer and he felt like he was into the game more.
If the Oilers sign him they should expect him to be a four, five or a six, and hopefully he gets paid in that range.
He shoots left, but he can play right or left defence, which makes him more valuable.
At the right price I'd be okay with Nikitin, but no one should expect him to be a top-minute defender.
I'd be surprised the Oilers offer "major money," but I guess it depends what the agent considers major. Interesting tidbit from Aaron Portzline the Blue Jacket's best beat reporter.
Gary Bettman sent out a memo to every NHL team on Wednesday regarding the free agent interview process. If you recall, last year Bettman told clubs they could not discuss any contract terms or dollars during the interview process. It was a ridiculous thing to say, because it made the interviews pointless.
Many GMs didn't like it, and they expressed their concern to Count Bettman. The commissioner agreed with them and the basis of his memo was that teams can now discuss the parameters of a deal.
"Please be advised that clubs are permitted to discuss the potential interest in as well as general parameters of a potential future contractual relationship with another club’s pending RFA or UFA during the applicable interview periods. The clubs may not enter any agreements or make any binding offers, promises, … oral or written concerning the terms of a potential SPC (standard players contract) with another club’s pending RFA or UFA.”
That was the gist of Bettman's memo according to Mike Russo.
It makes sense, but it is ridiculous to expect teams not to enter into any verbal talks about a potential deal. Two years ago I had drinks with an agent after the NHL draft, and he told me that two of his clients had already been to an NHL city, spoke to the GM and discussed contracts. Both of those deals were announced in the first two days of free agency, with the exact figures the agent had told me over drinks.
It is ludicrous for the commissioner to think teams, agents and players won't discuss the exacts details of a contract, however, this new format does make it more fair than it was before when certain teams weren't afraid to break the rules.
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