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.

    • 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.

    • 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?

      • 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?

        • 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?

        • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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(??).

    • 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.

    • Jason Gregor

      The contract is obviously an overpay of at least 1 Mill/per. However, until this team is considered a perennial winner overpays are necessary to land better players.
      Only issue is:
      1) He is not a 1st pairing D which is ultimately what is most needed to clear up the muddle of 2nd and 3rd pairing D.
      2) Will his overpay have a domino effect on signing Petry, Shultz, etc. ?? Cap space is not the issue yet. But 1 million overpays here and there and the cap space can go away in a hurry.

      I get this move but in my opinion future overpays should only be made for elite(1st or 2nd line forwards and/or 1st Pairing d men). Everyone else is easily replace or found via UFA, Trades, Draft.

    • 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.

    • Jason Gregor

      This deal hurts, but deep down I think most of us knew we’d have to make some overpays to get us out of the basement long enough to be able to sign UFAs for normal amounts of money. 2.5M for Nikitin and 2M to help launch us up from the bottom tier of the league.

      I think it does help us out in a few years when this team will have its shot at a real playoff run, and if that’s the case it’s worth eating a bad deal for 2 years.

    • 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!

    • I had a dream last night that everyone stopped referring to BOLD in the wrong context…MacT meant Bold as in Bold flavor, a tasty treat. No, he meant unorthodox! That would make more sense.

    • 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.

    • A-Mc

      Lots o Monies on this deal.. but its better than losing out and having to use an AHLer in his spot.

      We need another Centerman now for sure, so i’m hopeful macT can put something together to get a 3C

    • vetinari

      When you look at the depth we have on LD I have no problem with this signing. If we can get one more guy that can slot in a 1/2 spot I would consider this a successful summer for D signings

    • 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

    • Would you rather trade assets for Coburn on the same money and term? Not great money, but the term is good and without moving a piece.

      #1 D / Petry
      Marincin / Nikitin
      Ference / Schultz
      Engelland (you know they will…)

    • 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.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      Huge money, like the 2 years though. Good signing. We need more vets. Are any of Niskanen, J Jokinen and Penner realistic???

    • pkam

      I am expecting some overpayment to attract UFAs and I am okay even with 4.0M for 2 years but 4.5M is a little too rich. I guess it just reflects how difficult it is for the Oilers to attract UFAs.

      Nitikin better be better than Smid or the Smid trade will look really silly.

    • 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.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Petry and Nikitin

      Ekblad and Mitchell (2 yrs)

      Ference and Schultz

      MacTavish can afford to do this. Mitchell is fine, he has played 76 games in each of the last two seasons.

    • 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.