Photo Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers sign Kris Russell to a four-year contract

It was announced this morning that the Edmonton Oilers have come to terms with Kris Russell on a new four-year contract worth $16 million dollars.

The contract renewal that may light our comments section on fire just went through as the Oilers have re-signed shot blocking warlord, Kris Russell, to a four-year deal with a limited no-trade clause on the final two years. While analytics folks, fans, and MSM argue about the value Kris Russell brings to the team, the Oilers clearly felt like that they are better with Russell in the mix than without and they paid a premium to retain him. This new deal shows just how wide of a divide there is amongst believers of analytics and the reality of what actually happens in an NHL boardroom and it’s a gap that doesn’t seem to be narrowing.

Whether you’re into stats or not, we can all agree that Kris Russell is the kind of player that will put his body on the line for his team and those are the kind of intangibles that Peter Chiarelli obviously values. It’s also been reported that Russell’s teammates adore him and there is something to be said about having good chemistry in the locker room. Is being a good team guy that’s willing to sacrifice the body worth all of that cake? After being a late signing last October, Russell obviously did enough to make himself indispensable in the eyes of the organization and earned the largest contract of his NHL career as a result.

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So why now? Jonathan Willis likely had the answer in his season review of Russell from back in May:

Now he’s coming off a good season, in a summer where there aren’t a lot of other defensive options in free agency and in which the expansion draft guarantees that some teams will have money to burn and open spots on their blue lines. It’s his last, best chance to make serious cash.

In 2016-17, Kris Russell played 68 regular season games, registering one goal and 12 assists for 13 points. In 13 playoff games, Russell collected four assists to go along with 20+ minutes of ice.


Without getting into a pissing contest about fancy stats and eyeball tests, there are some concerns about this deal that I’m going to try to break down fairly. The first is that it looks like the Oilers defence won’t be changing all that much from last season. The Oilers certainly don’t have the worst defensive core in the NHL but is it Stanley Cup worthy? If the Oilers are to improve, they’re going to need players like Nurse and Benning to make tangible strides forward which is a nice thought on paper but scarier in practice. Now, let’s say Nurse/Benning DOES make a big step (HUZZAH!) then that means Kris Russell will get knocked down to the third pairing when Sekera returns and the Oilers will then have a $4 million guy as a 5/6 which is not ideal in this McDavid world we live in.

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Another concern worth mentioning is that Kris Russell plays a flavour of hockey that is extremely tough on the body and is unlikely to be sustainable as he gets older. In his NHL career, Russell has never played a full season and has missed 10 or more games in eight of the 10 seasons he’s played and that’s worrying for a guy with a sizeable contract regardless of who it is. When you add in the fact that Russell also has a limited no-trade clause on the last half of his deal which will limit the Oilers ability to move on if they so choose. Does it really make sense to be giving out NMC to guys that could potentially be passed on the depth chart as early as next year?

At the end of the day, if the Oilers win hockey games then nobody is really going to care about how much Kris Russell gets paid. From an analytics standpoint, the worry comes mostly from the data that shows Russell was being propped up by Andrej Sekera and without him on the roster until at least January it will be interesting to see how Russell fares. Personally, I’ll hope for the best and pray to McDavid that Russell can shake the negative data that has followed him throughout his career. If not, we might be arguing about another Andrew Ference situation in a couple years time.

What say you, Nation?

  • Grover

    Excerpt from Kris Russell contract negotiations:
    Chia: “Allain it’s either 2 years for 4 mil, or 4 years for 3 mil”
    Allain: “How about we compromise on 4 years for 4 mil?”
    Chia: “Sounds fair”

  • TrueBlue

    He was the right player, for the right time, the right price last year. I don’t mind the cap hit, but I hate the 4 year term. Worried this will be one of those contracts we hate in year 3 and 4.

  • ed from edmonton

    It will be interesting to see how this deal compares to UFAs like Stone, Franson and Daly who might be comparable. The Phelgms have stated they are interested in keeping Stone. The Russel deal may set the bar. In any event we will see if PC’s evaluation of Russel’s market value was correct.

  • You just got LITT up!

    Wtf chia??? Why? I like Russel, just not at $4MM for the next 4 years. Argh! The oilers are worse today! We traded Eberle for cap space – ok, I can buy that. Now however, we gave Eberle’s money to Russel and Strome??? Terrible asset management!

  • ColoradOIL

    I know i’m going to take alot of flak for this, but what i saw from him last season was an eye opener. I went from barely knowing of him to becoming one of his biggest fans. The way he blocks shots with perfect timing is greatly needed on any roster. He is tough and gritty which seems to be missing in today’s hockey. I like the deal but only time will prove that I am correct or a complete tard. One final thought, I am certain Cam loves to have a defenseman like Russel in front of him.

  • D'oh-ilers

    I would have preferred a shorter deal, but anyone who plays the way he does should be well compensated for the pain, effort, and sacrifice. Good for him.

  • rivid

    I thought the days for overpaying UFA’s were over. For this price we could have gotten a decent puck moving dman. Like the player just not the term and salary.

  • McJeetz

    The contract is really creative actually.

    5/4.5/4/2.5 = 16 million

    What is interesting is there is a 1 mil signing bonus July 1 of the summer of year 4.

    A limited no trade last 2 years.

    So the oilers end up paying 14.5 mil in 3 years for and average of 4.8 per year BUT have a cap hit of 4 mil.

    Then the oilers can trade him to a team who will pay the remaining 1.5 mil BUT Russel carries a cap hit of 4 mil. Very attractive to a team who needs to reach the cap floor or has cap space, but doesn’t want to pay a lot.

    Really, to the Oilers it is a 3 year deal with a cap hit of 4 mil. A raise of 0.9 cap hit from last year of 3.1 mil.

    Everybody wins

  • Anton CP

    2019-20 will be an interesting season since 3 notable names will see the end of their contract: Talbot, Puljujarvi, and Pouliot. If Chiarelli unable to unload Pouliot within the next 2 years then he will have cap room again. Also that will be the time when Russell’s NTC kick in and with front loaded contract that Russell can be easily moved to teams willing to take cap hit without paying him lots.

    For those who whined about Chiarelli’s cap history should look over the entire roster’s payroll as for now. The Oilers have 20m cap space and they will get another 3.5m more space next year when Fayne’s contract is due. Chiarelli will have about 23m cap to work with Draisaitl and McDavid’s new contracts along with Caggiula, Slepyshev, Benning, and Nurse.

    The biggest concern is not about how Chiarelli manage his cap space but more so about how much money that McDavid actually wants. Of course that McDavid should get paid as much as he wants but the bottom line will be if it will cripple the team’s cap space completely.

    • Jordan88

      Flames get Hamonic for a 1st and 2 2nd rounders. no one bats an eye.

      Edmonton get Russell for a 900k raise and people lose their minds.

      Hamonic is a steady dman with a -23 rating Russell is steady dman and shot blocking leader with a +5 rating. Sure Hamonic put up 14 points, but with a -23 rating that is negligible.

      Now that Russell signing looks A WHOLE LOT nicer doesn’t it Oilersnation.

  • Reinman

    How the hell did we not come away with Hamonic in the Eberle trade. Chia is a Jekyll and Hyde GM. Eberle + Our first, NYI probably would have bit. Larsson + Hamonic looks pretty good down the right side.