The Edmonton Oilers signed Kris Russell late in free agency, and at a value dollar. Russell has fit nicely into Todd McLellan’s defense this year, and there appears to be interest in signing him long term. What does he bring, and what is it worth in today’s NHL?

During Peter Chiarelli’s media avail discussing the Russell signing (and Nail Yakupov trade, video above) he told us what Kris Russell would bring to the Oilers:

  • Peter Chiarelli: ‘Just watching this morning, the skating and puck retrieval, I think it was a need for our defensive unit. I think we’ve made it significantly better this year, and Kris rounds it out, makes it more diverse.’

I think that speed is a key for Edmonton, for Chiarelli and Todd McLellan. The evidence on the ice visually is clear—Russell is miles faster than Mark Fayne, for instance—and the results so far show Russell pitching in some good minutes. If you look at goals-against per 60 minutes at 5×5, Russell shines like a diamond:

ga60 def feb12

As you can see (this is via, Russell and partner Andrej Sekera are doing fine work for the Oilers. If you assume that pairing averages 15 minutes a night at even strength, that would mean about 0.44 goals-against per game (1.75/60, which represents four games). That is good.

Is it sustainable? The numbers say no. Russell had a 2.90/60 last season in the metric with Calgary and Dallas, and was 2.31 the previous season with the Flames. A lot of this has to do with usage and deployment (first pair, second pair), but I don’t think we can assume Russell will post this kind of number in 2017-18. Statistics are useful with proper analysis, and I do believe there is danger in giving too much importance to GA/60 at 5×5.

I have found Corsi for 5×5, while also factoring in quality of competition, is the best predictor of future success—along with using the brain God gave us to observe what is happening. Kris Russell is having a strong year in goal suppression, but the Oilers might be paying for luck if they go $4M times 4.


Kris Russell has only five assists this year, and that is a fantastically low total. He is a far more productive player over his career, and that boxcar total (47gp, 0-5-5) has to be a concern for Peter Chiarelli. If he signs Kris Russell to four times four (that number is out there, did Bob mention that number?) what kind of offensive player is he getting? Here is the career breakdown at even strength:

  • Kris Russell pre-Edmonton (per 82gp): 4-12-16
  • Kris Russell in Edmonton (per 82gp): 0-9-9

Now, luck alone can impact one season enough to skew these totals, but if PC is spending $4 million a year, should we expect more of an offensive element? And Russell has posted strong offensive seasons recently, including 34 points for Calgary in 2014-15.


Any Oilers signing now has to work into the future contracts of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Kris Russell is going to get paid. Will Edmonton be the team paying him? I think the answer right now is maybe.

  • I am Batman

    Klefbom got above 4 mill like for a thousand years without even playing (in the hospital for most of the time)

    Why would Russell not get 4 x 4 ?

    It’s not like Klefbom is an offensive dynamo either. Seems like 4 mill is the number for middling defenders

  • Bringer_Of_Snow

    Anything more than a 1 year deal is just stupid. It showed that with the shift towards analytics last year, that Russell doesn’t have much interest from other teams. Besides next year, the D lineup should look like

    Sekera-*Offensive RHD (Stone, Barrie, etc)

    Russell would be battling for a spot in the lineup. And given that the Oilers will have the cap space, I’m not opposed to signing him to a 1 years $3.5M contract. Even if he’s in and out of the lineup, he’s a great fill in when injuries hit.

    I really hope chia doesn’t give these rumoured contracts peolpe are talking about

    • bazmagoo

      4 by 4 is probably too much, but 1 by 3.5 is also probably too little. I’ve suggested 2 years by 4.5 million. I think that’s a manageable and fair amount/term. I guess we’ll see how it plays out. I like Russell, sign him!

  • MessyEH!

    4×4 is far too much. 2.5-3×4 is about right. The market will determine on July 1st. You don’t sign him before expansion. Or do, and hope he gets claimed

  • I am Batman

    Seriously now.

    Target Barrie or Trouba. Center the deal in Klefbom.

    Protect 3 D: Larsson, Sekera and Barrie/Trouba.

    See how that works and decide afterwards if we sign Russell or let him go….

    Left D: sekera, Nurse, Russell (maybe) and all the peeps on the pipeline

    Right D: Larsson, Barrie/Trouba , Benning

    • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

      I would like to see Trouba here, but that will take at least Eberle & Nurse.

      Personally, I think Trouba has more upside than Nurse, but right now are basically the same defensemen..

      It’s a lot to give up for what you already have in Nurse.

      Barrie does give you options 5×5 and most importantly on the PP, I’d go Eberle straight up but that’s a massive RW sink hole on the team.

  • OriginalPouzar

    A Russell signing of any term only makes sense if there is a trade of Klefbom or Sekera and an addition of a top-4 RD.

    They cannot sign Russell to play the right side – he is a left shot D-man and is more effective on the left side.

    Given we already have Klef, Sekera, Nurse and Davidson for the left side, he only makes sense if one of Klef, Sekera or Nurse are traded leaving the following on the left side:

    (1) Klef or Sekera, (2) Nurse, (3) Russell, (4) Davidson (possibly gone via expansion)

    Right side would have

    (1) Larsson, (2) Addition via Klef/Sekera trade, (3) Benning

    I just don’t see this happening.