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Photo Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

If the Oilers sign Kris Russell, will the world end?

This summer, the online Oilers community is unlikely to explode as it did last summer, mostly because the team has no Taylor Hall to trade. Unless Peter Chiarelli can find a deal big enough to trade the Nuge and Jordan Eberle on the same day, we’re going to have to rage watch the activities with less dynamite for the explosion.

One thing that could drive us wild and crazy? Signing Kris Russell. The patented “Oilers fracture” online is already set up, with troops from each side amassed along the border and each picking away at the other side. No blood yet, but we’re hopeful.

How bad/good is Kris Russell? Depends on your point of view, as it seems to be in so many areas of life these days. Coach Todd McLellan clearly loves him (plays the daylights out of him) and the general manager is onside with bringing Russell back, as long as the money and term are right and the bigger pieces fit in ahead of the KR deal.

What’s wrong with that? Depends on your point of view and how you evaluate defenders. Most Oilers fans and observers can be convinced to agree that Russell’s one-year deal (at $3.1 million dollars) was reasonable value. Most. Some think it was a great deal and those blasted numbers tell you whatever you want to hear (not really, but it seems like it sometimes).

If you look at straight Corsi for 5×5, Russell does not show well:

  • Corsi for 5×5 %: 46.4
  • Corsi Rel 5×5 %: -5.8

If you look at the new (and innovative) metric being touted by Woodmoney (which measures Dangerous Fenwick against specific levels of opposition) Russell looks about average (compared to other Oilers defensemen) against elite competition:

  • DFF Elite 5×5 %: 47.8
  • DFF Elite Rel 5×5 %: -1.1 (35 percent of TOI v. elites)

I will tell you that’s about the same as Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera and Adam Larsson in the measure, with all  four men spending about 35 percent of their icetime against elite competition. The Woodmoney site will be up soon, and I promise to link to it immediately upon completion.

  • Note: A quick explanation is required. Corsi for 5×5 above is the ratio of shots for and against (any shot at the net) while a specific player is on the ice.
  • Dangerous Fenwick is explained here. I think this is the future of analytics, and highly recommend reading it.

On the other hand, Russell led the Oilers in 5×5 shots-against 60 (27.44) with a solid number. That ranked him No. 40 league wide for 2016-17. I think the Oilers value those shots-against measurements and that may be a reason the club values Russell so highly.

So, what does reasonable look like when it comes to a Kris Russell contract? Earlier today, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug had a lash at it during his regular hit with Dustin Nielson and Wil Fraser on TSN1260:

  • Ryan Rishaug: “I don’t think the Oilers are going to overspend on Russell. I don’t think you’re going to see a four-year deal at $4.5 million dollars. If they can get him in with a contract that makes sense, they would love to have them back.” Source

Seems reasonable, right? If it’s two years at reasonable coin, I expect most fans will be happy enough, but it’s also true other teams (Calgary?) will have plenty of interest. There may be a little extra urgency to get a deal done with Russell, as the injury to Andrej Sekera means the defense is already weaker compared to one year ago.

Question: Would you prefer a two-year, $3.9 million (per year) deal or a three-year contract at $3.5 million per season? Or, and I’d like to know, is any contract offered to Kris Russell unacceptable to you?

  • godot10

    One year. One year only.

    But I would prefer a real solution, like Faulk or Hamonic, and a stop gap like Hainsey on a 1-year deal to cover for Sekera’s injury.

    The goal is contending now. Overpaying and/or giving duration to a declining 30 something D is not a contending strategy.

  • Dan 1919

    Russell is what he is, top shot blocker in the league and an effective top 4 guy. No one’s saying he’s Karlsson so I don’t know why these analytic guys get their backs up about him. If you have a more effective player to replace him with, then sure! Let him walk. If you don’t, then we need 6dmen and Russell is plenty good enough to be one of them. If we don’t have a better option, either of the contracts LT suggested are fair, shorter term is probably better, then is tradable next offseason if someone better comes along through trade/development etc.

    • Rock11

      The statement of fact that he is a effective top 4 D is where you lose most of us in the so called “anti KR” crowd. Effective top 6 I can give you but not top 4. Too much defending and too little offensive to be considered top 4. Having said that on a short term cheapish deal I have no problem having him back. Where I struggle is Chiarelli’s claim, that I think is bang on, that the Oilers D cant yet compete with the Anaheims and Nashvilles of the world. Knowing that I’m not sure how bringing back the same 6 guys moves you forward. Seems to me to take that next step an upgrade must be found and KR’s spot is the logical place to look.

      • Dan 1919

        Where you lost me is when you didn’t understand what I said. I said the exact same thing as you, if you’ve got someone else better in mind that’s great, bring them in. But to just let him walk because he’s not perfect and to hope that the team improves without would not make the team better, they’d be worse without.

  • Action Jackson

    Of the options you give, here is the most explosive to least explosive for the fans:
    1. He leaves for Calgary
    2. $3.5 for three years
    3. $3.9 for two years

  • Johnnyo

    Russell sat for almost 2 months unsigned last summer, which wasn’t a banner year for UFA defensemen.

    He played well enough for the Oilers this past year, but regressed point wise.

    Unless expansion creates a big need for defensive defenders, I don’t foresee a bidding war for his services.

    Seems to me he’s ripe for the “home town discount”. Oilers like him, but don’t over value him it appears.

    Wouldn’t surprise me to learn they’ve offered him $3.1 x 3 or 4. Term over dollars. If it were me, I’d sign him for 3-3.5 over 2 and leave him exposed in expansion draft.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    2×3-3.5 is good enough. If KR wants more, as good as he is in the dressing room, he can walk.

    I would rather see a true 3-4 dman come this way rather than have Russell signed long term.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Who needs a lousy actual NHL defender? Not us, what we need is Petry back, or Schultz, or Gilbert. Is Poti busy? I sure miss the excitement of the draft lottery. Lowetide asks if the world will end when Russell re-signs here? Only his, and woodguy’s. And probably Willis’. The rest of Oiler fandom will just enjoy the Oilers in the playoffs next year, even if nobody can push the river like dearly departed Taylor. Remember, you asked.

    • jultz=2cups?

      Haha! Oilers would be lucky to have Schultz back. A puck moving right shot dman is something oilersnation has been bellyaching for all year lol. And he played a heck of a game tonight in the Stanley cup finals and scored a power play one timer goal in case you haven’t been paying attention. But I think the oilers should definitely bring rusty back for a couple years for sure in the 3-4mill range. Guys a battler and that’s something the oilers were missing for the last decade

  • toprightcorner

    Prefer 2 year at $3.6
    Consider 3 year at $3.2
    Would rather trade Eberle for Hamonic at $3.8 x 3 and lose the asset than pay Russel over $4 mill without losing an asset. Have to pay that #4 spot low until it can be replaced with a quality top 4 PP QB. For a quality 2nd pair PP QB I would pay $6.5 mill, if he was 27 or younger. The cheap top pairing contracts allow you to do that and the Oilers need that type of player to really contend for the cup.

  • Hemmercules

    I could handle either of those deals but they aren’t ideal thats for sure. Obviously a 2 yr @ 3.5 per year would be better.

    As other have said, if they have a replacement, by all means let him walk. If they don’t have a replacement then they need to keep him for sure.

    I feel like Russel will be looking for 3-4 years, Chia only 2. To keep him they might have to settle on 3 years. If that happens hopefully Chia can keep his pay around the same as last season.

    Who knows though, maybe they trade Eberle for a Dman and Russel walks or sticks around on a cheap 1 or 2 year deal anyway.

  • Redbird62

    Is Kris Russell a legitimate 3-4 defenceman? The NHL has has 120 roster spots for that role. Now some teams may have guys playing 5-6 minutes that would play more on other teams and some teams may have players playing 3-4 minutes that would play less on other teams. Over the last 4 seasons with 3 different teams, Kris Russell is ranked 35th in minutes played and 62nd in total points. In 3 of those seasons, his team made the playoffs and in all cases won their first round series with him playing in the 3-4 role and contributing at the level. And if you think he is washed up at 30 and set for major decline, he is only 7 months older than Jeff Petry. He is still capable of playing a 3-4 role on a good NHL team, so I think the Oilers are alright if they sign him at a reasonable contract for 2-3 years. If he falls into a 5-6 role during than tenure, it is likely because Nurse and or Benning have improved to fill that spot. Paying a guy who still may be a 3-4 on another team $3-4 million while he is 5-6 on your team is still way better than paying Ference and Fayne that kind of money to not to play at all on your NHL team. The Oilers’ cap spend on its defencemen is still very reasonable compared to a lot of other teams.

  • Slipknot 8

    “If the Oilers sign Kris Russell, will the world end?”
    Thats the question…
    Well, it depends….If the Oilers trade Eberle for Hamonic, then Russell becomes to expensive for a guy covering a postion for 2 months, if the Oilers can unload 6 million in salary for 3.5 million in salary you have extra money to pursue a UFA or another big trade with CAP room to spare.
    It’s all going to come down to the expansion draft, IMHO Russell is a 5-6 defensmen that can be replaced by a top 4 defensmen for less money.

    • Redbird62

      More than 100 defencemen in the NHL make over $3 million per year so unless you have a top 4 guy like Ryan Ellis on a reasonable 2nd contract, you don’t get a 3-4 for less money than what Russell got last season and may get this season. $3-4 million is the going range for that role particularly if filled by a veteran. And three fairly successful, long time NHL coaches, Hartley, Ruff and McClellan clearly viewed Russell as fitting a 3-4 role. If Chiarelli can land a guy who can fill that role better than Russell, that would be great, but if Chiarelli has to “settle” for resigning Russell for that role it would not be unreasonable.

      • Slipknot 8

        It’s unreasonable if you can get Hamonic, arguable a 2-3 defensmen who plays against elite comp at 3.7 AAV or Sami Vatanen at 1.25 AAV or if the ducks want to move Josh Manson at 889…
        This can go on for just about every NHL team pre-expansion draft, So yes! paying 3 to 4 million AAV to Russell who on a really good team fits nicely into the 5-6 spot is poor CAP management.

        • Redbird62

          First of all, I did say if Chiarelli could get someone better that would be great, so if he can, then it wouldn’t make sense to sign Russell. Second, Vatanen has a cap hit of $4.9 million so my point still stands. Third, Josh Manson has only 1 year left on that deal and if he plays well in a 3-4 roll next year, he will get a big raise. And Manson plays a 5-6 role on the Ducks so he has not proven he can play above that yet, so he is a risk. Third, both in watching Hamonic play and reviewing results over the past few seasons, I am not convinced he is a big enough upgrade over Russell that you are much better off if you have to give up a lot to get him. Maybe if you get Hamonic straight up for Eberle you might be better off, if you can then find the replacement for Eberle’s offensive contributions, but that is not a given. If you have to give more than Eberle, including covering any big part of his salary, you better hope Hamonic plays a lot better than he did the last 12 months. Last, in 2017 including the playoffs, the Oilers were pretty much on the bubble of the top quartile of every meaningful measure in the NHL, so I would say they were a really good team. Not great yet, but a really good team.

  • Explicit

    “Coach Todd McLellan clearly loves him (plays the daylights out of him)” not much to argue over wether or not to sign him short of trading for someone else.

    I’m happy with whatever chia decides to do. Only he knows the options he has and I have more faith in him than any other gm the oilers have had.

  • OriginalPouzar

    My preference would be a one-year deal even if its bloated – I’d even sign him to a one-year $4.75M contract just to ensure its not on the books next season (when it matters) and when, presumably/hopefully Benning has proved ready for full time 2RD and Nurse full full time 2LD (or share it with Sekera).

    My actual preference is David Savard – what would it take to get him out of CBJ?

  • I think Chiarelli and McLellan assess what they see and that every single number you use in this item is secondary — and by a lot — to what their two sets of experienced eyes tell them. They like Russell. I’ll go with that just for the hell of it.