Edmonton Oilers sign Kris Russell

The Edmonton Oilers added a veteran body to their blue line on Friday, signing Kris Russell to a one-year, $3.1 million contract. The addition is relatively low-risk, makes sense from an asset management perspective and will bolster the club’s special teams. At the same time, it exacerbates existing problems the Oilers have at even-strength and adds one more left-shooting defenceman to a roster badly overstocked with them. 

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The contract. $3.1 million is a lot of money for what Kris Russell brings to the Oilers, but it doesn’t matter much unless Edmonton had something else to do with that cash. Barring a Jacob Trouba trade, the Oilers really didn’t have anywhere else to spend their remaining cap space, and there is no long-term risk here. So there’s precious little downside even though the dollars here represent an overpay. 

Asset management. Experienced defencemen always seem to have value at the trade deadline. Just last season the Flames dealt Russell, then a pending UFA, to the Dallas Stars in exchange for a second round pick (which would have increased to a first-rounder if the Stars had gone to the third round of the playoffs), young defender Jyrki Jokipakaa and fringe prospect Brett Pollock. If, as seems likely, the Oilers’ playoff absence extends for yet another campaign, Edmonton should be able to get some kind of trade return on the last few months of Russell’s one-year deal. 

Special teams. Russell is known for his work on special teams. He averaged just under 2:00 per game on Calgary’s penalty kill last season and will certainly reprise that role in Edmonton. He also ranks 42nd among NHL defenceman over the last three seasons in terms of 5-on-4 points/hour, which puts him all of two spots ahead of Andrej Sekera. He is arguably now the best power play defenceman on the Oilers, though he remains best-suited to a second unit role. 

Even strength. It’s fair to ask to what degree Russell’s five-on-five problems stem from being asked to do too much with the Flames. Prior to joining Calgary, he played primarily in a sheltered third-pairing role and had really solid on-ice shot metrics. After joining Calgary he played tougher opponents and spent more time in the defensive zone. Over a three-year period the Flames were out-shot by 14 attempts per hour when he was on the ice, and every single one of his regular defensive partners had significantly better numbers when paired with someone else. It takes a lot to turn Mark Giordano into a 44% Corsi defenceman and TJ Brodie into a 43% Corsi defenceman, but Russell managed – helped no doubt by the fact that those pairings were both lefty/lefty pairs. 

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Left-shooting defencemen. There’s a good chance that five of Edmonton’s six starting defenceman in Game 1 shoot left (Russell, Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Brandon Davidson, Darnell Nurse). This matters a lot. Peter Chiarelli specifically described defencemen playing their correct side of the ice as a “very significant” reason for acquiring Adam Larsson. Sekera, a veteran who has played a ton of minutes on his off-side and will likely be asked to do so again this year, really suffers when asked to switch. As we detailed this summer, there’s a five-shot attempt/hour decline for his team when he plays on his wrong side. That’s a little less than the impact on most defencemen, which a recent study found is usually in the range of 6-7 shot attempts per hour. 

Assuming that the top-six is as above, two of Edmonton’s three pairings are going to be lefty/lefty combinations, which is going to make it harder to both protect the puck, make routine passes and especially to launch the attack out of the defensive zone. 

It’s hard to come down hard on this signing, which is both low-risk and makes sense from an asset management perspective. But it’s almost equally hard to say that the $3.1 million spent on Russell makes the Oilers any likelier to reach the postseason than they were before his signing. Russell could really have excelled in a third-pair/special teams role with a right-shooting partner, and Edmonton doesn’t seem to have the luxury of putting him in a position where he can succeed. 


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After a long summer of arguing and waiting, the NHL season is right around the corner and that means it’s time for us to throw another party. We wanted a second take on last year’s season and decided that we would celebrate the start of the second year of Connor’s reign over Oil Country. Thanks to our friends at AMA Travel, Cornerstone Insurance, the Pint, Oodle Noodle, and United Cycle we’ve got a big night planned for you complete with raffles, swag bags, and two trips (valued at $5000 each) for two to the outdoor game in Winnipeg courtesy of AMA Travel.

Here’s what you need to know:

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  • Where: The Pint Downtown
  • When: Friday, October 14th at 5pm
  • Why: Because we’ve got a hankerin’ for some partyin’ 
  • How: Tickets are available here
See you on October 14th!
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    • I am Batman

      I don’t know. Yak was fun to watch if paired with certain line mates … Now we have Russel… What’s the fun in Russel?

      If this means though there’s a deal for Trouba coming up…. Then you are right, but Yak for Russell, nah.

      • fran huckzky

        Yak may have been fun to watch as a fan but I am sure his teammates didn’t find him fun. He played where he wanted to play and was very rarely in position. I think he was a real good person but that doesn’t make him a good player or teammate. His leaving is definitely addition by subtraction.

      • mantis tobaggan md

        Yak fun to watch? You like watching someone repeatedly take onetimers and fan on it,or miss the net completely? Whats fun about Russel not a damn thing but he helps the most glaring weakness of the last decade keeping the puck out of the net, which in case you didn’t know is exactly half the point of the game of hockey.

  • TurkeyLips

    Yakupov: “this is first time I’ve played on really, really good team. I think it’s awesome, I don’t know what winning is.”

    Schultz was probably thinking the same thing before he was able to acquire his very own Stanley Cup ring

  • Cowbell_Feva

    So the Oilers have much better defense, got rid of an overrated junior player that never was able to produce at an NHL level, added the prized free agent of the summer and the top college free agent, plus added size and skill with Maroon and Kassian and Puljujarvi, sprinkled in another Stanley Cup champ twice over in Versteeg, have one of the best (if not THE best) players on the planet as their top centerman in a gorgeous new rink, and there are still people on this site critical….wow.

    The old saying the proof is in the pudding. And I will puke if I read another advanced Stat trying to tell me this team is worse!

      • Hemmercules

        Like it or not, the critics will be in full force until the Oil actually win something. Its going to get really ugly if the are picking top 5 again next summer. The roster looks more NHL calibre than it has in a long time, reason for optimism, but we need to see some proof that they can win more than they lose.

        I found some of Yaks comment pretty funny. I think he got the impression the coaches and players didn’t like him and that he was one of the hardest working guy on the team. I have to think when you request a trade it could cause a little divide with your team and coaches.

    • Muddy

      Here’s an advanced stat – the Oilers currently sit 0 in the west with a 0-0-0 record. I can’t wait till we start filling in the blanks on Thursday….

    • You know I’ve heard this every summer going back to Khabibulin.

      More recently, I heard it over the Reinhart trade (he’s way further along than the draft picks they gave up!) and the Korpikoski trade (Gordon is done!) and every other misguided deal Edmonton’s made in the last half-decade.

      People want to be optimistic in the summer, and that’s fine. Other people want to think critically about trades and signings, and that’s fine too. Just don’t ask the latter group to stop trying to figure out what’s going on to preserve your sense of optimism.

      • AJ88

        As long as bloggers/ writers are “criticizing” based on facts, I am also fine with it. Too many are going over the line with their criticism though, when they don’t really know all the facts, Hall and Yak trades as an example. Stats are one thing but there are many intangibles that come into play when trying to put a team together, hence some of the criticisms are unwarranted.

        It is amazing how ON we’re falling over themselves when PC and McL came here and now after one year they are being sharply criticized for changes they have made.. IMO there is a lot more to the Hal and Yak trades than their advanced stats…

      • Cowbell_Feva

        Boyd Gordon is out of the NHL and barely played last year due to injury.

        I have always said Reinhardt can’t skate at the NHL level. He looked slow in junior to me. I was against that trade.

        I am one of the most pessimistic people on this site because previous regimes build this team back-asswards, and it wasn’t until now that we have somewhat of a semblance to an actual NHL blueline.

        The difference between me and you, is I won’t try and use advanced stats to tell the world that it was a bad trade when they haven’t even put a jersey over their head. Not preserving my optimism there mathlete, I just think this team is better today that 2 days ago.

  • ComeAtMeDog

    i watched yak miss some grade A chances last night and he was flying around like a chicken with head cut off..Good riddance . he woudl have been a liability and distraction . great guy but will be buried by hitch . off to KHL guaranteed so we got something for him


    NHL defenseman . red deer lad who puts his body on line in PK , block the shots and pass to Mcdavid !!

    Rather have him blocking shots and not Mcdavid or Nuge

  • I am Batman


    Even shame fans know he sucks and for 3.1 mill?????

    Hopefully somebody got it right, it sounds expensive for a guy without a job in October!

    • CDNinATL

      I think this is exactly what’s happening. My guess is Nurse going to Winnipeg for him. It makes complete sense. My guess is it happens on Saturday or Sunday.

      • Dirtski

        As much as we’d have our hopes up for a young RHD like Trouba I don’t think we should get our hopes up. Regarding the Red Wings trying to pry him out of the peg, Darren Dreger reported the ask was for 2 high level forwards (Larkin, Nyquist) and the jets had no interest to take a D back. So it follows that if a deal was to be made between oil and jets it would have involved yak in some way. As lowetide would say… That ship has now sailed on.

  • Jordanzza

    Nurse and Fayne for Trouba, sign Gryba…

    Klefbom – Larsson
    Sekera – Trouba
    Davidson – Gryba

    “Why are you paying 3.1million to your 7th D?!” Because injuries to the top 6 will occur.

  • FireScorpion

    So for the same player Calgary fleeced Dallas for Jokipakka a better defenseman and Brett Pollock you traded Yakupov a former first overall for (essentually)have fun with that Oh ho hoo merrrry Christmas

    • Naterator

      We didn’t trade for Rusell, so what’s your point?

      We signed him to a 1 year deal big whoop they can trade him at the deadline. Still have 8. Something in cap space, bet Lames could use some of that money, don’t they have someone left to sign up there, can’t remember his name because I dont give a f***

      I cheer for the Oil so I tend to stick to their site, you should try the same!

    • Do you understand Commas? Or Periods? OR do you like running your sentences on and on and on and sound like the moron you are is it that the problem is you are dying for attention? (see what I did there? Moron.) You probably didn’t notice….idiot.

          • ATL Oiler

            If they are bold there will be question marks. That’s why they had not been made as no one has had the balls until now. Oiler fans won’t be happy until we start winning and Hall and Yak were not the answers so it’s addition by subtraction with new leaders.

    • Ned

      Jokipakka has proven to be a 3rd pairing dman at best (even then he’s considered to be a bit shaky). Really he’s a bubble NHL’er, he could just as easily be in the AHL.

      Curious what you think about some of Treliving’s transactions this off-season? Chiasson is destined to be an average career 4th line winger, Vey has been waived and will not be claimed, he hasn’t signed anyone to fill the void on d which was less than stellar last year even with Brodie and Gio (perhaps Grossman gets a contract out of his PTO?).

      In addition Gaudreau is still without a contract. Even if he does sign before the start of the season, I would have to imagine this whole episode has created some ill will that may carry forward into future contracts/negotiations.

      Plenty of questionable moves (or non moves) on the Flames side this off season that should be cause for concern without having to look up north.

      • Parallex

        I figure defense will be much improved. Hartley and his dumbass system is gone, Elliot/Johnson net tandem, and Kris Russell will be gone (addition by subtraction… my condolences to you and yours on that front). Overall I think Treliving generally addressed the Flames needs very adaquately.

  • hockey1099

    If nothing else chia has made this team vastly different. I hope it’s the team Todd wants and I hope it gels well. 1 more crappy preseason game left before we see what we actually have. Let’s go oilers

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    Yak trade creates a serious hole in the line up. That of whipping boy.

    I mean with Schultz gone, Hall gone, and Reinhart in the A, who will ON turn on?

    I’m sure we’ll find someone to fill the spot in no time.

    • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

      There certainly is a contingent who would suggest Eberle as the front runner. If Lucic doesn’t look “fast enough” next to McD, I could see him in the contest as well. Playing with McD will be bring great expectations with it.

    • camdog

      I was pretty harsh on Fayne last season, but then again I knew what type of player he was, couldn’t understand why thy numbers guys were still still saying he was a great d-man. Now that everybody knows what he brings and know what he is, there’s no reason for anybody to be hard on him. It’s not his fault that he got that outrageous contract.

      If the team struggles there is only way person to look at and that’s the GM…

        • camdog

          This is PC’s team. The team he has built, the players he wanted. We all know the strenghts and weaknesses of each and every player on this team, that won’t change once the season starts. Whether this is a good season or bad season, this is PC’s team.

  • KACaribou

    Kris Russell is far better than the analytics people would have you believe. Wait till you see him play. He’s a great skater and will get the puck up the ice to the Oil’s excellent forwards.

    The one thing not calculable are his intangibles: good in the dressing room, brave on the ice. He will sacrifice himself for the team, and even fight guys much larger if the situation arises.

    Most analytics people will tell you his shot-blocking is a negative, but I will tell you there aren’t many character guys who will jump in front of blasts like he will. As well, hockey people who lift their heads from the stat sheets and watch play, talk to players, management and coaches, all like Russell as a player including Chia obviously.

    The only thing I find curious is the amount the Oil paid for a D-man presumably out of work less than a week prior to the regular season.

  • Dipstick

    I remember when it was a big deal that KLowe gave permission for Hall to wear his “iconic” #4. Today it’s no big deal that Russell will wear it. Says something about the recent declined value of the stock of both KLowe and Hall.