The Oilers signed Nikita Nikitin to a two-year deal worth $4.5 million/year. The price tag is $2 million/year too high, but the Oilers must feel they aren’t in a cap crunch and felt it was worth it to sign him for way more money for only two years. The one positive is this will allow the Oilers to develop Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse slowly rather than rush their development.
What does this signing signify?
- It means Craig MacTavish and the Oilers recognize they are a few years away from being a real contender. They will never admit that, but a two year deal gives them a lot of flexibility for the future and it allows them to improve in the short term. Nikitin is better than Anton Belov, Mark Fraser, Philip Larsen, Corey Potter and Denis Grebeshkov. I know that isn’t saying much, but in theory he shold improve their blueline and he should be motivated to what to play well enough so that in two years he can sign a new contract worth the same money. I think at the midway point of the season fans will be furious with this signing, however.
- This has no bearing on Jeff Petry or Justin Schultz. Both of them are restricted free agents, and if they elected to file for arbitration they wouldn’t be able to use Nikitin’s contract as a comparable because he was an unrestricted free agent.
I don’t see why the Oilers need to sign Petry or Schultz for more than two years. At this point no one knows how good they will be, or conversely, if they’ve reached their peak. Of course the Oilers and players hope they will improve, but why overpay them now for a “best case scenario.”
I could see the Oilers signing both of them for just under $6 million/year combined. Petry made $1.8 million last year, while Schultz’s base salary was $925,000. Signing Petry for $2.8-$3 mill/season and Schultz for $2.4-$2.6 million/year would be reasonable and fair. There is a risk that Petry could walk as a free agent at the end of his two year deal, but for me it is worth it to give him a bridge deal and see how he continues to develop.
The Oilers need to start taking advantage of the negotiations when they have more leverage than the player.
- Even with Nikitin’s new contract, the Oilers still have $20 million in cap space if they want to use it. Today they have have 17 players signed.
Eleven forwards: Hall, RNH, Eberle, Perron, Gagner, Yakupov, Hendricks, Gordon, Joenssu, Arcobello and Lander.
Four D-men: Nikitin, Ference, Marincin and Klefbom
Two goalies: Fasth and Scrivens.
After they sign Petry and Schultz they should still have around $14 million. They could spend that on a two UFA forwards and another defenceman.
- I think we all agree that Nikitin got more money than he was worth, but that is the harsh reality of being a perennial losing organization. Players won’t flock here unless you overpay, and at least the Oilers didn’t sign him for three or four years at that price tag. I don’t expect him to fix the Oilers blueline, far from it, but he has more experience than Schultz, Marincin, Klefbom and Nurse combined, and that might be the best thing about the signing. It means they won’t rush more D-men.
Nikitin is a top-four D-man on an average to below average NHL team, and right now that is what the Oilers are. In two years, if the young defenders develop into the players the Oilers expect them to be then Nikitin likely takes a pay cut to play on the third pairing or doesn’t return.
- He was playing behind James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin, Jack Johnson and Ryan Murray in Columbus. The Oilers blueline doesn’t boast the same talent level. Nikitin will be a top four here, and he will be an improvement. You can look at his numbers when he played top-four minutes in 2012 and 2013 and he was a decent defender.
- Essentially the Oilers traded Nick Schultz, at the end of his $3.5 million deal, for a 5th round pick, and then gave that pick back to Columbus for two years of Nikitin at $4.5. Nikitin still has room to improve, while Schultz was on his last legs. This signing isn’t great, it is closer to bad, but at least it doesn’t limit the Oilers ability to make other moves long-term.
- He also can play the point on the PP. He has a heavy shot and he shoots left, which is something the Oilers need.
- What do you think of the deal?
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