Overpaying Nikita Nikitin


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.

The Quotes

Jim Matheson for the Edmonton Journal, Saturday:

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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.”


TOI Together Nikitin without Without Nikitin Differece
Fedor Tyutin 898 51.1 48.9 50.3 0.8
David Savard 561 49.2 49.5 46.9 2.3
Dalton Prout 491 48.3 49.7 47.0 1.3
Roman Polak 306 48.1 49.6 49.8 -1.7
Brett Ledba 137 45.7 49.6 48.7 -3.0
James Wisniewski 124 56.9 49.1 50.1 6.8
Alex Pietrangelo 101 52.1 49.4 54.4 -2.3
Tyson Strachan 85 55.8 49.3 48.2 7.6
Aaron Johnson 75 46.6 49.5 49.7 -3.1
Jack Johnson 74 34.6 49.9 47.9 -13.3
Carlo Colaiacovo 70 49.6 49.5 53.0 -3.4

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).

The Contract


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.

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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.


  • Lofty

    I see C.Buttons has sure changed his mind on draft day from his June5 one on myhockey draft. Virtanen is NBR. 6 now instead of not being in his other top 30 .

  • Rusty Patenaude

    I am ambivalent about Nikitin. I would bring him in if he is the kind of a guy who will be a role model for the younger d-men…a mentor type. I get the feeling however that he isn’t that sort of guy.

  • tomger

    We need help – big time. This guy is not Cam Barker or Theo Peckham, he’s not a rookie, and he’s not over 30. Pay him what he wants, give him the term he wants, we wasted more money on Belanger, Belov, Peckham, Barker and all the other lame ducks since 2007. At least with him, we have some legitimate help, not some “maybe” help. If just ONE biggish name signs, hopefully others will follow.

  • bazmagoo

    Although I just signed up to participate in Oiler banter, I have been observing the various, wide ranging comments for quite some time. On many occasions, I must confess, I have been shocked at some of the asinine, uneducated inputs that have been posted. The constant trashing of very proud and hard working individuals is tiresome to say the least.

    The simple fact is that all things are in constant motion, trending up or down. While few NHLers may see Edmonton as a desirable destination at present, I would suggest that the perfect storm is on the way. The collective talent, coaching, management, ownership and arena will mature at approximately the same time.

    Create the environment for all of these individuals to succeed to the best of their ability and we will once again be a very proud organization! Trolls please, stay under the bridge! We have a ways to go, but we expect that…trend up, stay positive. Wait for it…

    • bazmagoo

      A real NHL defenceman, geez what does that look like? All these kids were thrown in to the wolves, good on them. I think it will make them stronger, and if we can compliment them properly we can be competitive.

  • tomger

    Use Ambivalent in a sentence
    having mixed feelings about someone or something; being unable to choose between two (usually opposing) courses of action: The whole family was ambivalent about the move to the suburbs. She is regarded as a morally ambivalent character in the play.
    Psychology. of or pertaining to the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.

    your welcome bagged milk

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Oilers would be better off with Willie Mitchell than Nikitin. Mitchell would be a much better role model for Nurse, Marincin and Klefbom. Similar cash to what Nikitins asking as well. Niki’s just using the Oilers to up his July 1st position.

    Oh well, it not like either of them would come here anyways.

    • bazmagoo

      Willie Mitchell would be a better option, good call. Better player, slightly more risk. Especially with Greene re-upping with LA, you’d have to think this is a viable option. 2 years, 8 million, doubt he gets a better offer. Bet you get Willie easily for 2 years, 7 million or less actually. I could see Mitchell trying his luck in e-town, best money he’ll get to close out his career, just won a Stanley Cup, not a bad scenario for both the player and team.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      get ready for the endless parade of players Willie’s age saying “the Oilers offered more money, but i wanted to sign with a contender instead”. it’s coming!

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Mitchell would’ve been better and cheaper.

        Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers. If they had waited a month maybe they’d have saved themselves a million per, no? MacTavish certainly appears desperate at this point. Good thing it’s only two years.

        Now go after Mitchell too.

  • I’m curious how d men and forwards affect each others corsi. If a d man does everything right to break up an opposing team’s possession and starts a clean break out but the forwards keep screwing things up on the transition, then what? Same principle applies when you’re trying to maintain possession.

    Furthermore, what if a coach enjoys all season specifically placing the Nikitin/wisniewski pairing out for OZ starts? And the Nikitin/Johnson pairing out for DZ starts? This might make Nikitin appear to help Wisn and hurt JJ at first glance.

    I like the vollman chart because it at least takes that somewhat in to consideration.

    Corsi with and Corsi without is a great starting point, but the way coaches utilize specific pairings seems to make it an incomplete stat… I think.

    Each pairing should have a combine stat:

    Wisniewski+Nikitin : EvCorsi+Zstarts+qualcomp+qualforwardlinemates

      • The Last Big Bear

        It is a big overpay. I thought anywhere from 2.5 to 3 mil would be an overpay based upon the fact that he’d never played a full season and hasn’t really proven he’s a legitimate top 4. Fedor Tyutin is a good number 3 defenceman and he’s the exact same cap hit and it can’t be argued he’s a better defenceman than Nikitin.

  • bazmagoo

    Wow…2 year…4.5 per year. The Oilers are looking desperate on this one. Nikitin is now the top paid D-man on the Oilers? Bold moves hey. I guess it is pretty bold to pay a guy 50% more than what the consensus value was for him around the league. Only good part about this signing is that it is just 2 years they will be weighted down.

  • 2yrs AAV 4.5mil…..good stop gap deal.

    Hopefully he protects the Oil from rushing too much with Klefbom, Nurse, Marincin, or putting them in tough matchup scenarios too quickly…….plus, Katz can afford it and it’s a short term deal.

    not ideal, but reasonable.

  • northof51

    I wanted to see something crazy, like paying Brad Richards $11 mil for one year or something. While this is crazy, it likely bolsters Schultz’s and Petry’s bargaining positions…

  • The Last Big Bear

    Good signing for the Oilers.

    Yes, it looks like a significant overpay, but that should surprise nobody.

    The Oilers needed NHL-capable defencemen in the worst possible way.

    Is he worth $4.5m to Los Angeles? No. No no no no.

    Is he worth $4.5m to the Oilers? Probably.


      • The Last Big Bear

        Howson convinced MacT that he is the smartest guy in the room and he can turn Nikita into the D-man he use to be.

        From what i have seen with the Oilers they have been the dumbest people in the room given their record for the last 8 years