Nikita Nikitin recalled


On Thursday, the Oilers recalled defenceman Nikita Nikitin from the Bakersfield Condors.

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Nikitin, who was demoted to the AHL out of training camp, returns to the roster as a replacement for another struggling veteran. Yesterday the Oilers placed Mark Fayne on waivers (he has since cleared) and so there was room to add another rearguard to the roster. 

This is an interesting move, and tells us a few things about the Oilers organization. 

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The first thing this tells us is about Nikitin himself. It had to be embarrassing for the veteran NHL’er to be cut by the Oilers out of training camp, and having made such a decision Edmonton could well have left him in the minors for the entire year; it’s not like there weren’t other candidates for recall on the back end. That he’s back suggests rather strongly that the coaches down on the farm are pleased with the work that he’s done to get back to the majors.  

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It also shows once again that the Oilers under Chiarelli are willing to revisit decisions. If this is good news for anyone, it’s Fayne, who in Nikitin should see his own path back to the NHL. Work hard and play well in the minors and a door opens up. 

What it says beyond that is more open to question.

Peter Chiarelli3

One way to read this is as asset management, or an indication that a trade is on the way. Nikitin is in the final year of his deal, can play both the right and left side of the ice, can contribute in multiple ways when he’s on his game and generally hasn’t been as bad a defenceman over his career as he looked in his first year with Edmonton. If he plays well, he might be worth a mid-round pick at the deadline to a team in need of help on the back end. 

The other way to read this is as a strictly merit-based decision, which is probably even more interesting. If this move was simply a result of the Oilers recalling the best defenceman in the system, that reflects negatively on people like Griffin Reinhart and David Musil, both of whom we would expect to be in the mix for NHL minutes. In Reinhart’s case, it may simply be a case of the Oilers not wanting to bounce him around like a yo-yo, though it gets harder to make the “he’s only down because of waivers” argument when Nikitin is recalled. In Musil’s case, waivers become a factor next year and if he’s going to make the NHL out of camp he’s probably going to need to do what Brandon Davidson did last year and get a cameo in which he looks at least somewhat ready.

Either way, this isn’t good news for Andrew Ference, who seems likely to resume his duties as the team’s No. 8 defenceman when he comes off injured reserve. It may also be bad news for Eric Gryba, who barring injury seems the defenceman most likely to come out of the lineup to open up space for Nikitin.

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Whether or not this move was made as a way to showcase Nikitin, it’s hard not to feel good for the player. If someone is interested in him at the moment, he’s clearly played well enough to arouse that interest; if not he’s played well enough to earn another shot with the team that waived him. Either way, he’s shown something after a tough training camp and an embarrassing demotion and he’s found his way back to the best league on earth. 


  • Tkachev v. Gaudreau

    I wonder if a team has shown some interest in acquiring NN but want to see him play in the NHL first. If something does develop I’m sure the Oil would need to retain a pretty big chunk of his salary.

  • bradleypi

    Oh yay. Oilersnation gets a whipping boy back. Now I get to read how every loss is schultz, ference and AGAIN nikitins fault. I’ll be rooting for him instead of against him tho. He probably won’t play much I’m assuming

  • Serious Gord

    Just like most other fans, I wasn’t thrilled to see him returning to the roster either. I think a goat should stay on the farm. However, being recalled may be enough incentive and motivation to have NN play his ass off and leave his best game on the ice.

    I will definitely not be getting too attached though.

  • .

    Occam’s razor says that NN is in a lot better shape now than he was during camp and has improved in his fundamentals enough to play 6-8 minutes on a 5-6 pairing or as a 7th and perhaps play on the 2nd pp.
    He’s also eaten a few humble pies and knows that there’s always another flight leaving for Bakersfield the very next morning after every game.
    Fayne wasn’t cutting it. Reinhart can use the minutes with the Condors that he would not get with the Oil.
    Gryba has been given a challenge: play better if if you want to stay up with the Oilers. I guess we’ll see if NN or EG are up to the challenge in the next week.
    Occam’s scissors say that if they’re not up for it and they both fail then the trade table opens up for business and we’ve got to look at all the pieces again. For the time being, however, recalling NN is a prudent approach to begin solving a larger problem.

    • Rob...

      That is one of the most complex applications of Occam’s Razor I’ve ever seen. Why not just say: the simplest explanation is that they believe NN is now better than someone currently playing defense on the team. Given that Fayne was just sent down it’s a substantiated explanation.

      • .

        Because the Reinhart Vacillation–if it were a Ludlum novel–needs to be accounted for as well. Put differently, as simple as it is there are still three blades to this razor:

        Why up: in shape & fundamentals are better
        To do what: play 6-8 mins & on the 2nd pp
        Why not others: Reinhart needs the minutes and work and Fayne has failed.

        If the Oilers are 3-6 points back of the playoffs In March, it will be Reinhart coming up or a trade.

      • Rem99

        Or Maybe it’s my “shiney new philosophy textbook” says that and I try to force it in a situation that doesn’t apply…..

        “how do you like them apples” – Will Hunting!

        • pkam

          That philosophy stuff,Is that like taking a 2x Rye and Coke and turning it into a Ghostbuster by dropping a B-52 in it and slamming er down?Forcing the Rye to share time and space with the B-52 in one single seamess glass,and is this the majic formula?Re-writing the Mixology textbooks,or accidentally dropping a shooter into the last 2x Rye left after last call and giving it a whirl with surprising results?

          Nikitin had a reputation before the Oilers aquired him,he was a solid aquisition,then post-signing the Oilers changed their defensive focus and went to a very quick zone exit,with little to no time consuming contact or battles in the d-zone,they went to a passive fast transition exit,how and why this was done are questions best left for dead,other than to say how much Eakins dissappointed by allowing Dellow to upset his apple-cart,he did bring his AHL d-zone exit to the NHL sucessfully,had DE had help mating his d-zone exit to more fitting n-zone tactics which could have kept up to speed he could have done a lot of damage,he missed it by just a single hair.

          Nikitin was made obsolete by process soon after
          he was aquired….now posssibly he simply fits Mac-Ls bill .

          Nikitin has something of a dirty streak in him if the process allows for it and doesnt bench him the first time he takes an aggression or nasty type penalty.

  • El Guapo

    I also have no problem with this. If he’s in decent shape and willing to do his job he is surely worthy of a third pairing spot. It’s up to him, really. I can only presume that this decision is based on his play in Bakersfield. If he comes up and can’t keep up or isn’t willing to make the sacrifices a player must make to play in the league, he’ll go back down and his NHL career is surely over.
    As you say, JW, this move is also a statement to Fayne. Sending you down isn’t a punishment, it’s an opportunity to get your form, confidence and determination back.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    man i hope that the train wreck pylon that is Nikki Nikitin does not get in the lineup anytime soon! though if he does it will likely be in place of Gryba.

  • Rem99

    As I said before, the most interesting aspect of the Hamonic trade request that no one mentions is the unique arrangement between the Islanders and Barclays arena deal and is a key factor why no deal has been done – the request happened in the summer. Essentially the Islanders have given away the hockey business operations over to Barclays in exchange for a guaranteed revenue stream, all ticket sales, parking concession revenue is owned by Barclays not the Islanders, only one in the NHL, meaning any additional salary taken on by the islanders cuts directly into the profit of Barclays corporation and because Hamonics contract is such a value contract, the only way you can make an offer is to trade a value contract back at or less than Hamonics which is very difficult to do if the Islanders want Dman back. What is interesting is offering of prospects or picks would appeal to Barclays bottom-line, Barclays would make more money Islanders would not be better off so they may not sign off, be very interesting how this unique arrangement will impact Islanders competitiveness in the future – hoping ON writes about this.

          • Rem99

            Yes the landlord has the say, that’s why this is a fascinating story. When you own all the revenues and costs – signing and trading hockey players is hockey business operations / they would have control – Quote from THN is below:

            “Essentially, the hockey team no longer administers or controls its own business operation, a highly unusual situation. The agreement to move the franchise includes the provision that the arena pays Islanders ownership an annual sum to play at Barclays Center and, in exchange, Barclays Center acquired all ticket and suite sales, sponsorships, marketing and promotions and their revenue.” Yormark added, “Charles made a promise to us and he’s delivered a very good team to us, and we’re going to monetize it.”

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    The idea that Nikitin didn’t pout and put in the required work down in the minors to get back into the NHL does tell you something about his character.

    Why he can’t be ready out of training camp is another story but at least he managed to get back into the big league. Sounds like he was even mentoring the kids on the farm well. all positives.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      That he wasn’t ready out of training camp is a concern. Also that we wasn’t ready out of two training camps.

      Gets me wondering how much of a change/improvement players have on the last year of their contracts. Purcell – big improvement this year. Same with Schultz.

      I hope they do well but I’d sure be leery of signing them to another contract.

    • Rob...

      I love it. “You better not pout. You better not cry. You better train hard, I’m telling you why. Chia may just recall you to town. He’s making a list and checking it twice. Gonna find out if you’re worth the price, to bring back to E-town. He sees you when you’re blocking, he sees the plays you make. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. O! You better watch out! You better not cry. You better train hard, I’m telling you why. Chia may just recall you to town. Chia may just recall you to town.”

      Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

  • T.J.F.M.

    Why don’t we try Schulz at RW? We have a depth issue on that wing anyways, and with all of the injuries up front, and the “depth” of heathy dmen, it makes sense to try it.

    He may be virtually worthless as a D (dare i suggest a liability), but may have a little value as a RW. As well, he does have good hands, skates well, and has a solid wrist shot. Sounds pretty familiar to what we already have (Eberle and Purcell).

    I would really be interested to see him play up front. There is no way he could be worst than stone cold hands Korpikoski.

    Pull Schultz out of D, insert Nikitin for the time being. Pull Korpikloski out of RW and insert Schultz.

    • Jiff

      Totally agree.

      The Oilers last played Ference for reasons unknown, (showcase, trade) against Detroit.

      He was minus 2 and played 4.24 minutes.

      Only play NHL players. If they need to showcase someone for a trade or whatever he can be seen in the AHL.

      Scouts can figure out if he can play in NHL from his AHL play and prior play in the NHL.

        • Keepyourstickontheice

          Good scouts often don’t have the luxury of beyond a few games to evaluate players. Sure they can review footage later, but they cover multiple teams in a given league and can’t watch em all.

      • pkam

        You know we can’t trade Ference because of his NMC, right? So what is the point to showcase him?

        Ference was dressed in the Detroit game because we only had 11 healthy forwards and 7 healthy defenseman including him. Unless you want to dress 17 skaters, he was our only option.

  • bradleypi

    The way Gryba and Fayne have been playing I don’t blame them for taking a chance that Nikitin’s improvement would elevate him over these two. You’re only as good as your weakest man and right now Ference/Fayne/Gryba are playing the weakest man role.

  • Jay (not J)

    If the coaches honestly think he can contribute then given what he’s being paid they have to get him on the ice in Edmonton. One has to believe though that he’s down to his last chance before an off season buyout.

  • Rob...

    We sent down a RD, and brought up a RD. I don’t think this reflects on Reinhart at all. I think Chia is making an effort to sure up his right side, from within. I am fine with this move, and I think it makes sense.

    I don’t think Reinhart enters into this picture. Chia is seeing if Nikitin can give him what he was expecting from Fayne, and didn’t get. A top 4, right side D man. I am hopeful, but skeptical about Nikitin’s chances to pull it off.

  • Anton CP

    Can’t really compare Nikitin to Ference. Nikitin is 29 years old, normally a prime year for most of the defenseman. Ference is 36 pushing 37, not a lot of hopes left in Ference’s game. Nikitin’s contract is ridiculous but it is about salvaging anything of value out of Nikitin as for now. If he can at least able to just hang in there and making very few mistakes that can hold a spot on second or third pairings then maybe there is still hope for him.

  • pkam

    N.N.’s problem is he defends the net with 3 inches of his shaft exposed.
    Tighten up on the stick Nicky !! Dont expose the shaft. Lol

    Heard that 8 inch line on TSN 1260 this morning for the first time, almost crashed the Jeep i was laughing so hard.