All Your Recalls Are Belong to Nikitin

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Nikita Nikitin is back with the Edmonton Oilers. The team recalled the veteran defenceman on Wednesday.

The only question is: Why?

I have to admit, I didn’t see this coming. When I wrote yesterday about Eric Gryba being out for a month I assumed that Edmonton’s first recall choice would be one of its younger prospects. Griffin Reinhart is on the cusp of NHL duty, while prospects David Musil and Jordan Oesterle are both logical candidates for a late-season recall. 

Failing those three, Brad Hunt seemed the logical recall, because he can sit in a pressbox while only adding $600,000 to the cap, increasing the Oilers’ financial flexibility.

Instead, the Oilers went with Nikitin, a veteran of 255 NHL games on a $4.5 million contract who has spent most of the year in the AHL. 

It Has to be the Trade Deadline

Peter Chiarelli3

The answer has to lie in timing. The NHL trade deadline falls on Feb. 29, just 11 days from now. 

From a team perspective, at this point in the year it makes more sense to get a look at a player who might be on next year’s roster – Musil and Oesterle are both still waiting for their first recalls this year – than it does to take another look at a veteran who isn’t in the long-term plans. That is unless Nikitin somehow can be shipped out as a third-pair insurance option to a team in need of a depth defenceman.

Nikitin would seem to be on a bit of a roll. He has four points and a plus-three rating in his last three games with Bakersfield and 14 points in 27 games all season. Edmonton can play him on the right side (where he’s had his best NHL seasons) and could also plausibly give him minutes on both special teams, slotting him in as Gryba’s replacement on the penalty kill and on a power play still searching for a point man. 

It strikes me as incredible that Christian Ehrhoff and David Rundblad could clear waivers but that Nikitin might be a trade target, but stranger things have happened. Fans will remember that Nikitin arrived in Edmonton in trade for a fifth-round pick – the same pick the Oilers got from Columbus in exchange for a struggling Nick Schultz. 

Nikitin is big, he’s actually pretty good on the penalty kill, and he can both shoot the puck and make a pass. He’s also gaffe-prone and gets killed in transition because he can’t keep up. If he shows well late this year, I wonder if a team with strong defensive systems (imagine New Jersey) might take him on. The Oilers in recent years have had a tendency to make slow-footed defencemen look awful, but on a more rigid defensive team those sorts of players often look significantly better. 

The key element here is cost. It doesn’t cost Edmonton much to give Nikitin another cameo, and maybe the team gets something out of it. If not, I imagine he’ll be down on the farm again soon enough. 

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • chickenStew

    This is the song that never ends …it goes on and on my friend….

    The eternal rebuild continues…. the 8th year of players saying…”ummm we have to work smarter”…
    I’m beginning to think like Robert sometimes…except for Connor….TRADE THEM ALL

  • AJ88

    VERY OBVIOUS ANSWER

    Some other team (which, like Oilers, does not actually SCOUT other players before trading for them) has looked at Nikitin’s career stats and said “that isn’t so bad…maybe he works as a stay-at-home insurance policy down the stretch”. But they also said (unlike the Oilers) “we really want to see him play in the NHL before we make a trade”.

    I said this three months ago and I will say it again: this season is not about winning for the Oilers. THEY ARE PLAYING AN 82 GAME EXHIBITION SCHEDULE.

    I have a serious question. I really hope someone can help me with this. Last year the Oilers finished third last. Right now they are second last. WHAT MIRACULOUS THING IS GOING TO HAPPEN THAT WILL ALLOW THE OILERS TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS NEXT YEAR? In other words, why would other teams trade their GOOD players for the Oilers’ small, soft. BAD players? Why would they do that?

    Or is next season another “developmental” year?

    • vetinari

      I have a serious answer for you.

      The Oilers have made strides this year in points in the standings as well as in goal differential. All this while playing the year without a remotely complete roster. I would project about a 15 point improvement over last year when it is all said and done. That while missing a significant number of games from Mcdavid, RNH, Eberle, Klefbom, Yak plus late call-ups of Nurse and Drai.

      Give me a healthy roster that includes a new shiny Finnish winger and a new shiny D that arrives in trade for a formerly new shiny winger, actual NHL goaltending, and some baby steps forward for some of the kids and it isn’t hard to project another 15-20 point improvement. That doesn’t make the Oil cup contenders but certainly a playoff threat.

      • Spydyr

        LET ME RESPOND

        Interesting comments.

        The Oilers roster is small, soft and injury prone. They are always going to be that way. The management needs to change that. But they will not do that. They will just keep whining about how “unlucky” the Oilers are.

        Talbot is not good enough. He is not in the top ten in any significant category for NHL goalies. But the management has said THIS IS THE GUY for the next three years. You might sneak into the playoffs with Talbot but you never going to get anywhere.

        You may be right. With a (miraculously) healthy roster and yet another 18 year old wunderkind, the Oilers MIGHT struggle into the playoffs. And then they would get absolutely blown out by DAL, CHI, ANA or LA.

        After ten years, with four first overall picks on the team, this is what “success” looks like for the Oilers.

        • AJ88

          Respond to your response.

          Not sure how a staph infection, a broken hand by a blocked shot, an awkward fall into the boards, or a takedown by a linesman make the Oilers soft or injury prone but to each his own. Any of those things could happen at any time I suppose to think all of those things will happen to the top end of the roster again next year is extremely pessimistic.

          Never said Talbot was a top 5 or 10 guy but if you discount the ugly stretch early he probably would be, at least by the numbers. I know that is a mighty big IF but more often than not he is capable of hangin with the guy at the other end of the rink.

          Yes next year will not see a parade. However if the growth of Nurse, Klef, Mcdavid and Drai is as most project it to be then year 3 AM(after Mcdavid)should see a team capable of a deep run.

  • vetinari

    this is simply another testimonial to the incompetence of Chiarelli
    He is not about winning hockey games
    He is about placating others who have no regard for the fan base
    He is about collecting his salary, full stop.

    Instead of buying out this woeful excuse for a defense man ,Chiarelli wastes more games playing him.

    He is a total incompetent.

    And so many of you have criticized me for calling him out out months ago.
    All he does is prove me right.

    • BustedSoulO

      …and all you do is prove what an immature, blinders-wearing, obstinant, mental-midget – you are…

      Every.

      Single.

      Time!!!

      You, and a few other “zero-common-sense” fanatics that dwell here like viruses, are the absolute worst part about trying to be an informed Oilers Fan.

      Your ignorance of the realities have blown past the laughable and are firmly entrenched in the realms of ridiculous, and infuriatingly inane.

      Your constant negative ignorance serves absolutely no purpose.

      Get a grip!

      Get lost!!

      Go get a life FFS!!!

    • Shameless Plugger

      Could it be he’s just stuck with the crappy players the previous regime left him with?

      Perhaps no other GM in the league wants said crappy players from previous regime!

      Maybe just maybe he HAS tried to unload the crappy players left by the old regime!

      I think you should ask yourself how easy it is to deal these players?

      If you don’t want the Nikitins of the world on your team why would anybody else want him?

      And maybe seeing as you’re so smart. You could name a replacement and a few trade proposals to defend your position instead of incessantly whining about the same thing.

  • 3 Little Birds

    Sometime before the trade deadline, Nikitin and Schultz go upstairs to have a chat with MacT taking with them a bottle of scotch and a healthy sized bag of weed. Hours later MacT rolls down to Chia with a plan for the D…….Offer Nikitin and Schultz 6mil/year for 6 years.

  • You just got LITT up!

    Oh no! Does this mean that Chia is listening to macT and KLowe? Everyone at ON told me they are not involved in hockey operations … They are in charge of food services. ROTFL. The oilers traded a first and second round pick for a guy who can’t make the oilers D? We are doomed.

  • No Verdad2.0, you are not rationality. You just cut and paste the same anti-Chiarelli rhetoric over and over and over and over. If you hate the them that much, quit watching. At this point, YOU are the worst thing about this team.

  • AJ88

    The chance at landing Austin Mathews, with a Finnish consolation piece of you don’t is a far better trade chip than any of the core. If you want something from Anaheim (no 2/3 D), or Nashville (same), or even St Louis … trade the 2026 first round pick. You can do it now along with a salary dump sweetener or wait till the end of the season before the lottery, just don’t wait till you know what that pick is going to be. If you do it now, a team gets a rental (salary dump) as well — even more enticing.

  • toprightcorner

    Maybe they can trade him for a 7th rounder.

    A 7th rounder has about a 0.3% chance of playing in the NHL in the future, better odds than Nikitin has of playing in the NHL in the future.