Nikita Nikitin recalled

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

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. 

Takeaways

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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.  

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.

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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.

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. 

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • T.J.F.M.

    Maybe he learns from his demotion and contributes positively to the team. A bonus would be him playing well enough to become a tradeable asset at the deadline. Better than nothing…found money, unless you count his insane contract. Der McT….sigh.

  • Rob...

    No problems with this. Fleming thinks Nikitin has turned his game around and has reset his attitude. Anyone slamming this needs to wake up. You want your big ticket players to be accountable, which includes the threat that they get sent down to the minors. This only works if you also give them an opportunity to get back with the big club when they improve as asked on the farm.

    • fisherprice

      While I agree with this in theory, I can’t imagine an AHL stint solved the problem of Nikitin’s horribly slow foot speed. Anyway, here’s to hoping he is at least worth half… hell, a third of his contract.

      • bradleypi

        Lol. Ya. I’m sure teams are on the phone 24/7 in hopes of aquiring two of the oilers most maligned dmen. Hey here’s an idea! Throw ference in that package! Three dmen for webber????? How could Nashville resist that deal hey oilersnation? Lol. Wow.

  • El Guapo

    I’m with Rob. If he’s turned things around like Fleming has said, it’s worth the gamble. Gryba has struggled lately and it’s a fairly low risk move to slot Nikitin in there for a game to test the waters.

  • fisherprice

    If he is willing to shoot the puck………play him! The only “shooting defenceman” that we have is Davidson and Klefblom.

    Nurse will eventually round out his game and become a shooter, but we do not have enough shooters on this team. Our “Norris” defenceman is a passer so we effectively have very few options on the PP. This might be NN’s best chance to secure a job.

    MAn would it be nice if we could send JS down to the farm to teach him how to shoot a puck……..how did this guy ever make it to the show without a slapshot?

    • fisherprice

      I’m usually more concerned with the wiffs on passes and how slow and off target the other passes usually end up being from Schultz. Its like Foster all over again.

      • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

        Rama Lama wrote:
        Man would it be nice if we could send JS down to the farm to teach him how to shoot a puck……..how did this guy ever make it to the show without a slapshot?

        Hall can’t take a slapshot and he is doing quite well in the NHL.

        • Dwayne Roloson 35

          Yes Hall is doing very well……….but Hall does NOT play defence. Hall shoots the puck from inside the perimeter and most defenceman shoot the puck from the blue line.

          Let me help you understand. It’s critical to the position……..it would be like hiring a pilot who did not know what a plane looked like??

        • bradleypi

          Doesn’t matter. It’s schultz. He doesn’t play like pronger so he’s just garbage on here. Everybody just completely ignores it when he does take slapshots because I have seen him do it. I just honestly believe that because he doesn’t have a howitzer and neither does anyone else on the team, the pp is setup for the down low play. But that’s my opinion. Oilersnation will surely disagree with that.

    • Eakins' Beard

      JS has a sneaky little wrister instead. It just doesn’t work in the NHL. I wonder how often he dreams about his glory days on the Barons when that thing went in all the time.

  • El Guapo

    I think you are underplaying what the Bakersfield coach had to say about this guy recently. Here in Oiler town, Niktin has definitely been seen as an overpayment for a guy who just doesn’t seem to care. The demotion would be hard for anyone, but Nikitin demonstrated amazing work ethic, was a real leader, and of course put up points on the scoreboard.

    Bringing him back up could easily be about upgrading the defense, getting a guy with the right attitude on the team, and also sending a message to vets and rookies that demonstrative production, a good attitude, and a great work ethic is what the organization values. Gone are the days they sent Souray to Hershey for not playing hurt or being critical of the decision making. Gone are the days they don’t trade Mike Comrie for Perry AND a first round pick because Comrie refuses to pony up back end money to the organization.

    Sure Ference is in the press box, has a great work ethic, and a great attitude, but he’s not contributing to the team success. Hopefully Nikitin can turn it around at the NHL level and the team can get something back from that horrible investment.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    This is nothing more then an attempted pump and dump. They are praying he can play like a actual 3rd pair D.. to recoup some of the lost draft picks for Tmac And Chia. Musil is a write off. Not even close to an NHL D man. Bad draft Pick.

  • Dan 1919

    Hopefully he proves to be a nice 6D option if someone is having a bad week. If he truly did get his fundamentals back as it’s being suggested, he’d be more than capable of bringing some value to the team in 6D role.

    Although we’re all still skeptical because of Nikitan’s history, a Davidson/Nikitan line has the potential to be a pretty good puck moving unit for 5/6 dmen.

    The big question for me will be if he’s been able to rid himself of his terrible mental errors. As we’ve been seeing in these tight games, one mistake and the Sharks/Bruins etc will put the puck in net.

  • Dan 1919

    I am OK with this recall. What makes me feel all Warm and fuzzy about it is knowing TM will sit his ass down on the bench in two seconds if he doesn’t play like he is suppose too. Then Chia will send him back to the airport right after the game.

  • oil.99.97.11

    If Nikitin is having such a strong influence on the development of other players in Bakersfield, then it makes perfect sense to bring him up. You want people thinking if they work hard and do what the coaches want, then they’ll get a call-up.

    And if he can play, that’s great all around.

  • freelancer

    From what Fleming has said Nikitin had turned things around. Sends a message to Reinhart too. Nikitin has performed well in the AHL AND is being rewarded for it. Reinhart will have to do the same.

  • S cottV

    I like it.

    He may well surprise for the better.

    Nikitin sure as hell won’t want to go back to Bakersfield. Might get his mobility @ss in gear, because that is his biggest problem.

    Although some apparent rough spots in PC’s reign thus far, I’m liking this stuff.

    Never a dull predictable day surrounding the Oilers any more.

    When you were in last place a week or so ago and out of the playoffs for 10 years – there shouldn’t be same old – same old.

    Another interesting sub plot to follow, to go along with the current winning streak.

  • Bob Cobb

    Don’t have a problem with this, as I see it Nikitin was an NHL caliber defenseman at one point and could get back there. He was out of shape in training camp and didn’t have the effort required. If he plays well and Chia can move him, great, at least it didn’t go down the Souray path and lead to an ugly divorce between player and organization.

  • Rob...

    I was going to say something ignorant because I thought it would be funny. Instead, I’d like to wish Nikitin a successful return to the NHL, both for his benefit, and for the Oilers’ benefit. It takes guts to dig down deep after a bad performance review and redeem yourself to your bosses.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I love accountability and redemption. If he plays poorly now he can never wine about not getting a shot. He has a chance to control his destiny. My frustration with the Oilers for years has been that top players who preformed sub-par had a free ride. What would of happened to Penner if this was the coach and GM. I bet he would of gotten in shape and had a better career. Some players need the Carrot some need the stick, some play for the love of the game.

  • Serious Gord

    What this move REALLY says Johnathon is that the oilers have zero depth on defense.

    The other two observations you make are purely secondary.

    Klowe/Mact were a compete disater at building this teams back end – horrible assessments/decisions made on what veteran defensemen to acquire. They have put the team into a hole so terrible that it may not be able to build up the defense in time to make a push with all of the frontline talent before mcdavids elc runs out and cap Armageddon hits the team.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      I know you should never feed a troll but Jebus H. Christmas your doom and gloom act is tired.

      Serious Gord circa April 2016: “aw can you believe the Oilers only have 2 out of 3 Calder Finalists this year and barely missed the playoffs? Blargh MacT Klowe Katz….”.

      4 game win-streak. Without Conor. I’m sure you will find some fault with that some how, some way, but please keep it to yourself and let the rest of us enjoy something for the first time in a decade.

  • Smuckers

    Would it be in Ference’s best interest to waive his no move clause and take a demotion to the Condors? He’d get some playing time and a good chance to polish up the weaker aspects of his game. Maybe open up trade opportunity?

    On top of that the escrow wouldn’t apply while he’s there – if I recall correctly?

    Win – win for both the Oilers and Ference in my opinion.

    • Serious Gord

      If I’m ference I’m working on my golf game and settling the escrow on my place in Florida. He’s never going to skate in an NHL game again. (Mind you who thought that nikitin would play for the oil again?)

    • Rob...

      I wish you were right, but don’t see Ference’s problem being anything more than size combined with age catching up to him. I doubt there are many Oilers who train as hard as Ference to try to stay competitive.