It’s becoming abundantly clear that if the Edmonton Oilers are able to reach a deal with Nikita Nikitin, the defenceman whose negotiating rights they acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets, they will be paying full price and then some for his rights.
Jim Matheson for the Edmonton Journal, Saturday:
Sources say a decision will now come down Monday, yea or nay, on a new contract for the Columbus Blue Jackets’ blueliner, rather than what was thought to be a Sunday deadline… The feeling is the Oilers will have to offer something with 3s in it to get Nikitin to sign. A three-year term, at least, and likely $3 million or north of that in yearly salary for the 28-year-old, who plays a similar (sic) game to former Oiler defendre (sic) Jan Hejda, but isn’t as physical. He’s got more offensive upside than Hejda, however.
630 CHED’s Bob Stauffer updated things on Tuesday, suggesting that talks were “still alive” and that a “two- or three-year deal” was the most likely outcome if the two parties were to reach an agreement. He added that the price point was going to be pretty painful, saying that the deal “isn’t going to come in at $2.5 million, $3.0 million per year if it happens.”
The chart above shows the Corsi percentage for every defensive partner who has played at least an hour with Nikitin over his NHL career. The totals suggest to me that Nikitin is probably a pretty good complementary player, the kind of guy who can thrive in tougher minutes alongside talent (Tyutin, for example) or handle lesser duties with lesser players (Prout, Savard).
Nikitin, realistically, probably slots in somewhere in the No. 3-5 range on the defensive depth chart in a perfect world. If he’s the No. 4 defender, he’s probably worth $3.0 million per season.
More than that is an overpay, but the Oilers can afford an overpay on a short term contract. They certainly need the help; the left side of the defence currently features veteran Andrew Ference and prospects Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. Nikitin is probably a better player today than anybody in that group.
Nikitin isn’t worth something like $4.0 million per season on a two-year deal (I’m guessing the term here), but Boyd Gordon probably isn’t worth $3.0 million per year on a three-year deal and Andrew Ference isn’t worth $3.25 million per year on a four year deal.
The options stink, and overpaying Nikitin isn’t the worst one available. If it happens it won’t be a brilliant move, but it will be an understandable one.
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