Oilers sign Nikitin


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?

Recently by Jason Gregor:

    • hallsyoilerforever5

      Overpayment, but short term it doesn’t hurt at all. Provides another 2 year of development for guys like Nurse and Klefbom? I’ll take it. Considering it’s free agency and Edmonton isn’t a desirable place for free agents, people should always expect overpayment.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        bang on. more development time for Nurse and Klefbom, especially if they sign a right handed, tough vet d-man like for example Derek Morris. and we’ll likely have to overpay until the end of time for players who aren’t stars to play here #becauseEdmonton.

    • CMG30

      I’m all for bringing in actual NHL players because the number 1 thing this team needs is to improve. Overpayment? Sure but as the article points out, we should expect more overpayments to come if the Oil want to continue to sign free agents. The only antidote is to start winning.

    • I think it’s obvious overpay.. We all know that. But the other thing we all should know is no one really wants to play in Edmonton. No one lines up to play for a team that has missed the playoffs for 8 years and been part of controversy over its ineptitude at various levels. Overpaying is a sad necessity. Nikitin might be a 2nd pair at best, but I’m fine with that.

      This team has holes in it. Big holes. If the choice is to overpay to fill holes or to sit and roll with 20m cap space and Marincin and Klefbom as top lefts, I’ll take the former.

    • Jaxon

      For years the Oilers have lacked NHL calibre D men. Now MacT has gone out and got one for a reasonable term and a slight overpay and the knives are out.

      This deal makes the Oilers D better than they were last year. That folks is a positive. MacT will be making other moves and acquisitions during the off season. If the rest are as solid as this move I will be very pleased. This is a logical first step. If we add an asset at the draft in the #3 slot and also acquire a UFA or two we will be looking at a much improved squad this fall.

    • Reds

      I don’t mind it.

      Sure. It’s a bit rich in money but term is not crippling, which IMO is more important than the money.

      They still have plenty of cap space. sky isn’t falling with this move. Now if it was 4.5 for five six years, yeah I’d be upset.

    • 15w40

      Not in the “BOLD” category but sensible which is also necessary at this point. It is nice to have the extra pocket change to be able to over pay to help the big picture player development.

      Maybe one day they will be a good enough team that they won’t have to overpay everybody to come to play here.

    • oilerjed

      Mostly I am impressed that MacT has started his off season work so early. Seems at the very least to be somewhat efficient. Slowly adding pieces to begin down the road to respectability(??).

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      These things are situational. Given the Oilers current circumstances Nikitin is worth more to us than he is to other clubs.

      Will we always have to overpay?….Not if we build a contender. Hartnell went to Columbus because they somehow convinced him that they could contend.

      Given a weak and dwindling UFA crop, our weakness on the back end, our need for a stop gap until the kids are ready, our cap space, the two year term, and Howsons knowledge of Nikitin…MacT has made a good preemptive move here.

      I would rather have Nikitin at 4.5 than Nick Schultz at 3.5

      • pkam

        “I would rather have Nikitin at 4.5 than Nick Schultz at 3.5”

        I remember some Oilers fans also said they were so happy to have Nick Schultz at 3.5M than Tom Gilbert at 4.0M.

        Smid is also a 3rd pairing defense in a playoff team playing top 4 (actually 1st pairing with Petry) in Edmonton.

        I don’t like Smid’s 3.5M contact which has 3 years left so I don’t know how much will I like this signing. We’ll find out by the end of the coming season.

    • Why are fans not more happy that the Oilers are now a better team? At only two years this deal does not handcuff the team in any kind of cap situation.

      If the day comes when Stasny says,”well I wanted to ply for the Oilers and was only asking 5 mill to do so, but they didn’t have cap room left so I took Calgary’s offer instead,” then complain away. Till then, spend Katz’s money!

    • nuge2drai

      Oiler Domination To Follow

      Nikitin is a great example of a low risk acquisition.

      Hes been a +11 over the past two seasons, and for the fans who don’t suffer from amnesia – Nikitin put up a 49 point pace(32p-54g) in 2012.

      He is also entering his prime, is big, offensive and is defensively sound – there’s upside in this move

    • Spydyr

      One NHL executives said last year if you need a 5-6 defenceman call the Oilers they have eight of them.They just keep adding to the stable.

      I hope the pro scouts got this one right.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Although I get this sentiment I would say Petry is a #2-3 D man. Marincin is so far shown to be at least a #3-4 D man. Ference can pass for a #4 D man.

        I agree this team is desperately in need of a 1st pair Dman that can push everyone down the line into slots they are more suited for.

        • Spydyr

          Sure on the Oilers Petry is a 2-3 guy.ON most NHL teams he would be a 4-5 guy IMO.

          As for Ference he would be a 5-6 guy on most NHL teams at this stage of his career.

          The Oilers still need a top pairing guy to knock everyone down a notch.To get him you will have to give up a very valuable asset.This might not be the year to do that.

          • pkam

            If Petry is a 2-3 guy on the Oilers, who is the #1 guy? I don’t know a few years down the road, but Petry is our #1 guy now, period.

            He will be a 3-4 guy in most teams. Only in a few teams like Chicago, St. Louis etc that he will be a 4-5, IMO.

    • This is bad. I don’t care about ‘short-term’ or ‘stop-gap’ or ‘cap space’. He’s a 5/6 D getting $4.5M. He’s been trending downwards for 3 years and was even a healthy scratch for Nick Schultz on CBJ. NICK SCHULTZ!

        • =/- eh? How about minutes dropping to 17/game from over 22 mins? That’s with a big increase in SV% while he’s on and GF%, not on the PP anymore against the softest competition. And this is CBJ in the East. He’s gonna get eaten alive – Belov 2.0

          • oilerjed

            TOI went down when a new coach was brought in. Could have been nothing more then a philosphy change. And as his best work came when he was getting more ice time and harder starts, Ill take these as positives and see how his season goes. Might come down to having a complimentary partner to have him takeoff again. Noone said he his the savior of our D corps, but if you cant appreciate NHL dmen for what we have been missing what can I say?

    • Bucknuck

      Will the Oilers be better with Nikitin in the lineup?

      Do they still have cap room to plug more holes?

      The answer to both of these is “YES”, so people should be happy. I know I am.

    • vetinari

      Nikitin is basically an improved Smid and we previously signed him to a $3.5M/4 year deal before trading him, so while this is a bit of an overpay, it’s not that bad in comparison.


      Honestly, I don’t see why we should care about overpaying a player to come here as long as he is a veteran who improves our team. It’s not like we are the ones paying him 4.5 Mil every year… And cap space isn’t an issue. So who cares!

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      And! He’s Russian! Good mentor for nYak, bYak and Shlepy.

      Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

      Schultz Marincin Nikitin Ference Petry…….add one more Dman via trade or free agency and we can send Nurse back to junior for one more year or Klefbom to OKC.

    • Jason Gregor

      I’ll admit I don’t know much about him as a player, but if he’s an actual NHL caliber D I’m happy. Sure it’s an overpay (from what everyone is saying), but it’s only 2 years and it means we can actually take time developing our draft picks.

    • Zamboni Driver

      I’ve always said the problem with the Oilers is with their #5 defencemen and 4th line nobodies.

      MacTavish is a genius – he has an MBA (kinda) and everything!

      • Jason Gregor

        Nikitin played behind Johnson, Tyutin, Wisniewski and Murray in Columbus.

        The Oilers don’t have ONE D-man better than any of them. He will be in the top-four here and he’s played top-four minutes before and been decent. I don’t understand why anyone thinks he is a 3rd pairing defender in Edmonton. They aren’t great today. In two years they hope they are better and he is 3rd pair guy and that is why only two year deal.

        • pkam

          Vern Fiddler would be a second line center on this team. Should we go sign him to 2 years at 6million per?

          Can’t tell me there isnt any better options to shore up the defence than Nikitin at 4.5million.

          • Jason Gregor

            Vern Fiddler has never scored more than 11 goals or 32 points. Pretty sure Gagner has been better than that every year of his career.

            Accurate comparisons are welcome, don’t toss out foolish ones.

            Nikitin’s numbers in 2012 and 2013 (when he played in the west Tony Danza) show a player who played top four minutes and was decent.

            Fiddler has never been close to a 2nd liner.

        • Spydyr

          I think what everyone is thinking is he is a 3rd pairing D man on a team expecting to make the playoffs. If MacT does not somehow acquire an actual 1st Pair D man(i know not easily done). Then all we are doing is stockpiling the team with 2nd and 3rd pairing D men. The main positive here is that it indicates they are expecting to allow their D prospects to develop longer on the farm/ in the minors.

          • oilerjed

            Is not stockpiling depth at defense a good thing though, being one of the massive holes the Oilers have been looking to fill forever? Even if they are not 1/2 dmen, can we really expect to have D depth filled with 2/3 guys at this point? I would think that having a more experienced D Corps, even if they are 4/5/6 would make it easier to lure a top 1/2 guy. Knowing that they would at least have a little help and not have their numbers implode while they are here due to being surrounded by raw rookies.
            What do you think, does this make it easier to lure someone better?

        • Hockey Problems 101

          So, Nik gets 4.5M a year. He’s going to be in the top four D. What about Petry and Schultz? They are going to be in top four as well, If Nik is worth 4.5, then Petry and Schultz should now be in line for about 5 mil each, no?

          What happened to the 2.5-3 mil that was being reported as fair compensation for Nik. Has Oil country found its new whipping boy ?

          • Jason Gregor

            He is a UFA…they aren’t….If people expect him to magically be great they will be disappointed. Money won’t make him better, and no one should expect him to suddenly improve because he got paid more.

        • pkam

          I believe Petry will continue to be our #1 D? And Schultz will also be a top 4 D playing 23M/G. So how much are we supposed to sign Petry and Schultz?

          I know they are RFAs so 5M for Petry and 4M for Schultz for 2 years?

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      If Petry and Schultz demand more than 4 mil, boot their asses out the door. What have either of them done to deserve that money? They’re not first pairing guys (yet, anyway), even if they play first pairing minutes. Bridge contracts for both until we see what we have with them, please.

      Like the Nikitin signing, two years is manageable.

    • Craig1981

      You can’t sign players unless you are a good team…..unless you are a good team you can’t sign players.

      I think using cap space on short term deals is a good way to approach this problem. Maybe the Oil finish 15-20th this year and aren’t listed on players 10 teams they won’t be traded for or a UFA wants to sign here even!

      That is as long as the pro scouts got this right and this is the guy you want to overpay

    • People don’t realize the overpay does not matter unless we are stuck against the cap.

      With the term the overpay should not hurt us when we need the room in 3 years.

      Now we need to sign a 2nd line centre and draft Ekblad, or sign a top 4 RH D-Man and draft Draisatl

      Ference-Gilbert (or other RH Dman)

      Getting closer!

      • Spydyr

        Of course an overpay matters.They still have to sign Petry and Shultz.You cannot think they don’t see Nitkanin numbers.There is also an internal salary structure on most teams.Hall Huge Ebs at 6 million is the Oilers.Finally every dollar you overpay is one less dollar you have for the second line center or top pairing defenceman.

        • Zarny

          It doesn’t matter if Petry and Schultz see Nikitin’s numbers; both are RFAs not UFAs.

          Kadri learned his lesson last year. With RFAs the team has the hammer. If the either Petry or Schultz go to arbitration Nikitin’s contract can’t be used as a comparison.

          What could be used is PK Subban’s bridge contract – 2yr @ US$5.75 million ($2.875M cap hit) and it’s unlikely an arbitrator sees either Petry or Schultz being as good as PK.

          I agree no team should be flippant about overpaying a player; but realistically what 2nd line C or top pairing D do you envision the Oilers acquiring?

        • nuge2drai

          Oiler Domination To Follow

          Of course the overpay doesn’t matter.

          We have 22 Million in Cap Space left(Capgeek).

          Petry and Shultz worst case take up 9 Million.

          This leaves us with 13 Million in cap space.

          Who exactly are we using this space on?

          Best Case Scenerio:

          Grabovski 5, Kulemin 3.5, Fayne 3.5

          You can replace the names above, but cap is not an issue for this team.

          • Spydyr

            The best GM’s save cap room money till late in the summer than pick up some bargain rate deals.What if another team runs into cap troubles themselves and a top player has to go?Don’t you want to have the available money to pick him up?I know I do.Having cap room during the season allows room for movement during the season and at the trade deadline.

            Of course every dollar you spend and how you spend it matters.To suggest otherwise is naive.

            • Sorensenator

              Oilers do not have the luxury of waiting till last minute to get bargain deals on UFAs, they need to sign and get what they can now, this isn’t hotels.com

            • nuge2drai

              Oiler Domination To Follow

              I don’t understand what your saying.

              Are you suggesting MacT would be a better GM if he didn’t sign any ufas and saved the cap to make moves in late September?

              We could go into the preseason and training camp with Arco and Lander on our third line.

              Marincin and Klefbom could play in our top 4.

              Yes your right, that is what MacT should do to be considered one of the “best” GMS.

              Lol what a joke… You realize we still have 22+ million in cap space?

            • Spydyr

              I will put it into the simplest terms for you.Spend your money wisely, don’t upset the salary structure on your team and save some money for when you can get a wicked deal and for a rainy day.

              As the Oilers have proved for a very long time spending to the cap does not a winner make.It takes the right moves to do that.

          • pkam

            If Nikitin can get 4.5M, why do you think Grabovski and Kulemin will sign for 5M and 3.5M?

            Now Gagner’s 4.8M with only 2 years left looks pretty good, doesn’t it?

            • nuge2drai

              Oiler Domination To Follow

              Defenseman are worth more than Forwards – its a weak ufa class this year.

              With the cap going up – almost every ufa will be overpaid.

              If the Oilers didn’t sign Nikitin for 4.5 someone else would have.

              I doubt playing for the worst team in hockey for nearly a decade attracts big names… Im pretty sure if we want to get better we need to overpay.

              Fans complaining about this signing either don’t understand the economics of the game or don’t grasp the concept of free agency.

            • Spydyr

              “If the Oilers didn’t sign Nikitin for 4.5 someone else would have”

              Just because one fool does it does not mean you have to match him.

              See back to your childhood.If your friends jump of a bridge it does not mean you have to also.

            • pkam

              “Defenseman are worth more than Forwards”

              Really? How much is the highest paid forward and how much is the highest paid defenseman?

              “If the Oilers didn’t sign Nikitin for 4.5 someone else would have.”

              Then it is not an overpayment because that is the market value as you suggest. I just have hard time believing that some teams will offer him even 4M, 3.5M I do.

            • Zarny

              Top salary in the NHL is Shea Weber @ $14M this year.

              The only reason he doesn’t have the top cap hit is because he signed a tailing contract before the lockout.

            • nuge2drai

              Oiler Domination To Follow

              Defenseman are worth more than Forwards – its a weak ufa class this year.

              With the cap going up – almost every ufa will be overpaid.

              If the Oilers didn’t sign Nikitin for 4.5 someone else would have.

              I doubt playing for the worst team in hockey for nearly a decade attracts big names… Im pretty sure if we want to get better we need to overpay.

              Fans complaining about it either don’t understand the economics of the game or don’t grasp the concept of free agency.

    • ooj

      Nikitin was going to get overpaid in this UFA market. At 2 years it’s worth the investment. In my opinion, Nikitin could have easily played top 4 in Columbus but they’re bringing Murray along & obviously a history with Davidson at St Louis that carried over to Columbus when JD got there. This is an excellent signing for the Oilers in my opinion. Nikitin will play 21 – 23 mins / game!