Craig MacTavish made a very curious trade and signing in the summer of
2014, acquiring Nikita Nikitin from the Columbus Blue Jackets and then
signing him to a two-year, $9 million deal. It was the kind of
transaction that had most fans, media and observers wondering aloud
about the wisdom of it. Many months later, we are counting down on that contract, and Nikitin has a chance at redemption. What should we expect of him?

Last season was a tough one for Nikitin, he had back issues and that led to conditioning problems and on it went. His boxcar and fancy stats were not without merit:

  • 5×5 points per 60: 0.54 (4th among regular D)
  • 5×4 points per 60: 2.50 (3rd among regular D)
  • Qual Team: 4th best available teammates among regular D (2nd pairing)
  • Corsi for 5×5 %: 48.8%
  • Corsi for 5×5 % REL: -1.2
  • Shots on goal/percentage: 80 shots, 5.0%
  • Boxcars: 42, 4-6-10

There is some good there, Nikitin is the best option available to draw in on the roster (Andrew Ference has been activated, so he may start the road trip in front of Nikitin). NN has a terrific shot from the point, something Edmonton needs (and may have in Brandon Davidson, although the club seems hesitant to play him there).

Dallas Eakins and Todd Nelson used Nikitin second pairing last year, he got some power-play time and he shot the puck a helluva lot (basically two shots a game). He was slightly less than average in possession, and that was with or without his teammates.


It looks like the Oilers may run Ference out in Boston, and Nikitin could get a start in New York or later in the road trip. It is important to remember Edmonton sent NN down because he was not able to beat out a bunch of unproven players, and part of the issue was conditioning.

That is an important quote, because Nikitin may in fact be healthy, without back issues, and that could mean a far better player when he finally draws in. He will need to be in order to stay in the lineup. The kids who passed Nikitin kept on going, and have left Mark Fayne behind them (in the estimation of the management). This is an important month in the NHL career of Nikita Nikitin.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    “Last season was a tough one for Nikitin, he had back issues and that led to conditioning problems and on it went”.

    So why was his conditioning a problem this year again??

      • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

        ‎@JasonGregor DEC 11th

        Twitter feed.

        I’ve already noticed his fitness level is better. He has more confidence.He’ll need to show his defensive play is good.” McLellan on Nikitin

        Thats Gregors Twitter account and McLellan talking about Nikitin fitness level this year indicating it was an issue.

    • TheBirdOfAnger

      Last year Nikitin had a back injury. These are extremely painful and take time to rehab. Your comment suggests you have never had such a problem. May you continue to be so fortunate.

      If his back has healed then he will have had the chance to train properly and this should make a difference in the overall calibre of his game.

      I believe we will find out fairly soon.

        • Cheap Shot Charlie

          Are you a professional athlete too, whose preformance and durability directly impacts if you have a job and your pay? You should try out for the NHL sir…sounds like you have it figured out.

          Who knew it was that easy?

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    May be his last chance in the nhl,wish him luck. Have to give a shoutout to the man that sang the anthems Friday,didn’t catch his name,but he was one of the best I’ve heard yet.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    this is strictly playing him so we can get something for him at the deadline, nothing more. after this season he’s thankfully gone! it will be nice to see the MacT signings and trades be finally off the books….Nikitin, Ference (hopefully), Scrivens, Purcell….all gone!

        • abbeef

          There is no way Purcell will sign a 1 year with anyone at age 30. He is a good complementary player but was overpaid for signing a two year contract with the oil. He definitely has value . I see a minimum signing of two years again with the oilers as a possibility but only if he is overpaid again. He will be looking at term of 3-5 yrs at a lower rate( probably around $3.5 million) . I can see him possibly taking a home town discount to stick around Edmonton to maintain his positive chemistry/production on the Hall/drai line. Most likely outcome is a trade at the deadline for the oil to get a pick back. ( probably a third round)

          • bradleypi

            He will be traded at the deadline, players like him are going to have to come out of your development system so you are able to pay your expensive core in the future.

          • Dan 1919

            Purcell was not signed by the Oilers. They assumed his Tampa Bay contract in a trade to get rid of Gagner’s contract. He has value, but I would not pay much in amount or term to keep him. The money can be spent better elsewhere.

    • fran huckzky

      You want Teddy gone? You forgot about Pouliot, Henndricks and Brossoit. I bet you were bitching last year about his handling of Drai. It’s about time to get over the hate and enjoy the present/

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    Honestly, went to the game on Friday, I saw him during warm up… and never again.
    Was it just me? I’m genuinely not dissing him. I did not see him play at all

  • toprightcorner

    I guess it wasn’t so much the acquisition that was troubling (N. Shultz and a 5th Rnd) but $9 Million Dollars…wow. Just beyond comprehension really. Even aside from spending someone’s earned dollars so foolishly, there is the cap aspect and detriment to the hockey club’s growth. I guess that showed the level of desperation and despair regarding our blue line. Abysmal would have been understating it.
    Certainly most people making such decisions for an organization would be terminated…but if given an opportunity to stay; How many would be able to look at their colleagues in the eye and feel good about walking the halls and cashing fat paycheque’s?

    Nobody should feel sympathy for Nik for not keeping his end of that golden goose of a deal he found. His is exactly what perpetuates the stereotype that Russian players disappear when they sign big deals, when in truth many N.Americans have been guilty of it too.

    So game in Niki. Howson and MacT’s careers as managers were likely (and justifiably) derailed by their belief in you as a player. You owe them and us a half season of 4.5million dollar play. Go

    • TheBirdOfAnger

      To your last paragraph i would also add Fayne at 3.6 in the AHL, Scrivens at 2.3 in the AHL, Ference at 3.25 for 4 years signed after he was 35 for the press box, signing Sam Gagner to a deal worth 4.8 mil per X3. With respect to Nikitin, it is beyond me how a guy made 2.35 mil and was a healthy scratch in the playoffs obtained a two year deal at 4.5 per. Ultimately i feel these moves are what cost MacT & Howson, it was their inability to identify and pay NHL level talent at the appropriate level.

      Yet i look at their work in the 2013 and 2014 drafts and it is darn impressive.

      • Dan 1919

        2013 is shaping up to be one of their better drafts in the past five years, but 2014?

        They had no centre depth, no size in their top six and they drafted the best centre with size available. There were some who thought Bennett should be the pick, but I guess you give them credit for picking Drai who is already the best centre from that draft. Who else did they draft in 2014 to watch for? It’s still early, but I’m not seeing a lot of future NHLers just yet.

  • fran huckzky

    WTF..Ferrence activated, for gods sake this guy is done and playing him ahead of Nikitin is bizarre, why bring up Nikitin if you were going to activate Ferrence other than give him a swan song cameo -2 appearance in Boston. Sometimes management makes some real face palmers !

  • fran huckzky

    Oilers fan from Boston here. I was wondering Lowetide or anyone if Connor McDavid traveled with the team to Boston. My friend has a connection where after the game I could meet injured players traveling with the team. I think seeing McDavid in person would melt my heart and I am really hoping he traveled with the team.

  • OilClog

    Not sure what is worse, running Ference out there who is turnover central or Nikitin who is also prone to a turnover with a backhand saucer pass from behind the net up the middle, I have to say id rather go with Nikitin. Overall i would rather see Reinhart in the line up but some AHL time will only help him gain confidence. Oscar, can you tape up your finger and get back out there. You were a beast against NYR.

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      At this point I want to see what NN is supposedly bringing over what I know Ference is bringing. I am happy to give him a shot. If he does well great. We want a push from underneath some one said, let it happen.

      • OilClog

        That is why free agency is not the way to go. You will always end up over paying, especially defenceman. They must be developed within the organization. There is no other way. Also why the start of the AHL team in 2010 was the most important move made by Oilers management, unfortunately it takes a long time to show dividends.

    • Blackgold

      Because he signed Nikitan to that contract, he didn’t sign Petry. If he gave Petry, Nikitan’s money we would still have him. Not only is Nikitan not earning his money, but because we signed him, we let a good d man go. Unlike the situation with Klefbom who we have now locked up for decent money. That is what we needed to do with Petry, not sign Nikitan.

      • abbeef

        What you’re describing here is two separate failures of the Oilers talent assessment. They thought Nikitin was a much better player than he was, so they traded assets and signed him.

        They had the cap room to resign Petry but they chose not to because they thought he wasn’t a very good player.

        None of the above is Nikitin’s fault.

        • hagar

          Make sure you distinguish between the oilers not choosing to sign Petry longer than a one year extension while he was still horrible, and the fact Petry wanted nothing to do with the team after that extension ran out.

          Everyone on this site including me would have freaked out if Mact signed Petry to a long term deal when he asked for it, instead of insisting on the one year extension.

          I can’t stand what Lowe and Mact have done to this team with signings, but not signing Petry long term when they had the chance, is not one of the hits I put against them.

    • bradleypi

      Yup! It’s always just one guys fault when ference or nikitin are in the lineup! It’s never a team game according to oilersnation when the oilers lose…. how come klefbom never gets ripped a new one when he’s -2 in a oilers loss? That’s the funniest part of oilersnation. Always so quick to blame ONE guy for every loss and absolute crickets when a guy plays good in a win. Just like schultz. Haven’t heard a peep about him since the oil went on this run after Hendersons hate filled rant about him last week. But if they do lose Monday or Tuesday I guarantee I know who’s names will be mentioned the most…..

        • bradleypi

          Oh I forgot he has more Stanley cups than ference! And way more games played in the nhl! But this story you just told was way better than your 1st! Nothing proves a point like “well he doesn’t suck”. Great hockey analysis!

          • HardBoiledOil 1.0

            Ference was brought in to show the kids how to be a pro. He has been nothing but a class act. Why do you all worry about what he is paid? Really is none of your business. his salary has not stopped the Oilers From signing any of the shiny new toys.

          • Dan 1919

            Hahaha I think I’m being punked right now, where’s Ashton?

            Seriously, Ference has more stanley cups and GP then Klefbom, therefore we should all look past Ference’s current shortcomings at hockey…

            I actually hope Ference has a good game tomorrow if he plays because it’s genuinely sad to see a player forced into retirement when he’s not ready and has two years left on his contract. I’d much rather see him effectively play out this year and next, unfortunately it doesn’t look like that’ll be the case.

        • abbeef

          You and your man crushes….
          Klefbom also gives the puck away, he also makes mistakes, he sometimes doesn’t use his size…. He doesn’t suck as the others but he does suck a little – and it is unfair that we are here hating Nikki and others (in my case Schultz is my goat – another one of your favorites) and blaming them on loses when for the same performance issues they go forgiven or unnoticed because some of these kids are fan favorites.
          It’s a fair point, we should measure everybody the same way .

          • Dan 1919

            This has gone beyond reason. I literally thought this was a bit of a joke when the comments started now I see you guys are for real. You and bradleypi are correct, I digress. Klefbom and Shultz perform the same as Nikitan and Ference.

            But all jokes aside, you guys seem really confused over this… the reason why Klefbom and Nurse and sometimes Shultz get away with more than Ference and Nikitan is because overall the young guys give solid efforts, and add more to the team then they subtract. Nikitan was guilty of not giving a solid effort and came into camp out of shape, and provided more bad plays than good, and fans don’t tolerate that. Although Ference always gives a solid effort, there is a strong argument that he benefits the team more by being off the ice, then by playing (See coach Mclellan recent game rosters). And because this a pro league that we pay hundreds of dollars to watch, a good effort doesn’t always cut it. The fans expect Pro Quality skill and material, not… well Ference material.

  • Dan 1919

    “Andrew Ference has been activated, so he may start the road trip in front of Nikitin”

    Hopefully not, and hopefully Drai & Hall are ready to put a few pucks in the net again… because if Ference plays, guaranteed there will be at least one defensive breakdown that sees a goal against while Ference is on the ice.

    Must be frustrating for the players knowing you are going into a game spotting the other team a goal.

    The problem with talking as much as Ference has in the past about how great of a character he is, and alluding to how he had to teach all the young guys to be as great of a character and leader as himself, is that eventually you talk yourself into a corner, just as Ference has.

    If he really was as great as he made himself seem these last few years saving the world from global warming and getting “cultured,” he would execute some professional pride and retire. Rather than sit in the press box and shamelessly collect $3.75mill a year.

    Most would shamelessly collect $3.75mill a year given the opportunity, but then again, most don’t spend every interview and conversation putting on ridiculous productions about how great of a person/leader they are.

    I don’t think Ference is any worse than any average guy, I just think he spends a lot of time pretending he’s not an average guy… And the fact that he will shamelessly collect cash in the rafters, shows that he was in fact pretending this whole time…. Hypocrisy of these leftists never ceases to amaze me.

    • bradleypi

      I love that story! I wish you would tell us more about how terrible of a person ference is as you seem to know everything about him. You know him personally? He probably kicked your dog at some point too hey? What a loser for signing a contract to come to a young team that was in absolute turmoil and take on the captaincy so that the focus would be on him instead of a bunch of kids 22 and under. He should be forced to pay back all the money he earned with interest because we all know katz needs it more than he does! Wow oilersnation never ceases to amaze. Do you honestly believe that ference was brought in to save the franchise and score 70 points a year while being +25 and have the best possession stats on the team? We all knew that he was a 3rd pairing guy when he came here…. or at least I did. But I actually watch hockey.

      • Dan 1919

        I doubt you watch hockey because you can’t figure out why Kelfbom doesn’t take flak when he’s -2 but Ference does.

        I made it very clear, I don’t think Ference is a terrible person, I’m sure he’s fine… I just got tired of all his saviour talk and how he segregated the dressing room by always referring to what the young guys had to do to be awesome like him…

        And no he didn’t kick any dogs or steal from Katz? Are you nuts?

        Anyway, I want you to report back to me once you figure out the difference between Klefbom and Ference, you might have to actually watch hockey to figure that out though.

      • abbeef

        I actually agree with Bradley about the personal shots against Ference.

        Bradley you would be a much better read if you just gave your argument, backed it up, and had a discussion. This whole you against every other Oilersnation poster thing you have going on is obnoxious and takes away from your valid points.

        • bradleypi

          Not sure how I back up my argument when I already said what I have to say? And I understand why it makes oilersnation mad when I lump everyone together but take this particular blog for an example. It started as a story about how nikitin has worked his butt off to get another crack at the nhl and 98% of the comments have somehow turned into a hatefest of nikitin and ference who the article wasn’t even about…… if my, for lack of a better word, dissapointment in how oilersnation viciously attacks players on this team as individuals and not as a team takes away from my points then that just cements my feeling on how much the majority of the people on here actually watch hockey or are just on here to take cheap shots at guys that make more money than them.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      This has to be the dumbest thing i’ve ever read. Yeah he should totally give up the most cash he’s been able to earn in his career, because that makes sense. He’s got a family to worry about, 3.75 million can make a huge difference for his immediate and extended family for generations. Not only that the money he makes could also be used to help out many of the causes he believes in. Nobody is going to just give away 3.75 million dollars unless they’ve made so much in their career it doesn’t really matter, and Ference hasn’t. These are real people not just cap hits and sources of entertainment.

  • Van isl Oiler

    Just gonna hope he plays better so he has some trade value at the deadline. Maybe they can get a third round pick for him. I’m sure Fayne will be back in a month or two for the same purpose.

  • bradleypi

    These young guys who are now playing defense for the Oilers are going to have some tough night, question is. Will the Oilers fans have patience with these guys or will they throw them under the bus and want them traded for old guys like we are trying to get rid of.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    The one good thing about Ference is that he should be motivated.

    However Schultz and Ference is plain wrong. Should never re-visit this. It is the first time I am really questioning TMac. Haven’t we had enough? Seriously.

    I bet he dresses Nikitin too as the seventh dman insurance policy, cause I don’t see how you can run a trainwreck of the ACAF and Jultz. And sadly if Ference looks like he has for the last year and Schultz is Jultzin’ you may need Nikitin. Sigh.

    Why can’t Oiler fans have nice things all the time. I miss dreamy already.

  • abbeef

    So what you’re saying is they are putting Ference on D so they can give back the two points they earned in the last contest against the Broons(stauffer pronunciation). In Ference’ last game he played 5 mins and was minus how many? His play in that game got him benched if I recall. I guess if Ference isn’t over the hill it is preferable to being under it. Maybe.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    If it were up to me Ference would be tasting popcorn in every arena in the league. He would never see game action again on the Oil. I’ve sure as hell seen enough. McLellan cannot afford putting someone on the ice for show, not if he wants to keep this team rolling.

    He has said ever since the beginning of the season ‘only players who perform are going to play’. That would let out Ference.

    Hypothetical: ‘Would all Oiler D-men who can play in the NHL please stand up…not so fast there Andy my boy…’

  • JBear

    I for one am happy NN is getting a second chance. He has a lot to prove and his career is on the line. His contract right now has probably saved the Oilers from going out and giving another UFA a long term overinflated contract.

  • toprightcorner

    I’m sorry, but last year Nikki came into camp out of shape, and McLellan said in an interview that Nikki is now in better shape than he was in camp after some time with the Condors?? That is the type of player I would never trust to be on my team, is he gonna do whatever it takes to win? He let his team down being out of shape at camp both years of his contract, send him to the ECHL and see if he will get a KHL contract after that!