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.

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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?

    • wiseguy

      We’ve already tried the route of inexperienced, first time GM, who thought he knew better than “conventional wisdom” and took his team to the bottom of the standings and no playoffs. Wasn’t very much fun so no thanks to Chayka…

      • Rock11

        Surely you are not foolish enough to believe that Adam Larsson and Adam Larsson alone was worth 33 points to the Oilers. For the record my take on that deal remains the same today as it was then. The team would be better short term but the ceiling of greatness was lowered.

  • 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!

  • Rock11

    Generally I’ve been a fan of Chiarelli but when he gets fired, and he will get fired, this will be the lead item in that press release. You simply can’t tie up that kind of money over that long of term in a cap world on a mediocre(at best) player. He fully admitted at his season ending presser that the D corps wasnt good enough to win and no appears not only intent on bringing back the same group but giving them all healthy raises. Lunacy.

    • Danglishish

      Chiarelli takes Oilers from laughing stock to 2nd most likely to win the Stanley Cup (according to Vegas) in 2 years work. He gets us a franchise goalie in the top 10 in the league, Sekera, Maroon, Benning, Kassian, Caggiula, (maybe) Foo, and oversees our best draft in a decade.

      But he signed Russell, so he’ll be fired.

      Sounds rational. Carry on.

      • btrain

        My biggest concern with Chia is that he comes out looking like the desperate party in many of his dealings, Russell being the latest. I hope it won’t but his luck may run out here soon if he keeps taking these risks. Even he couldnt have predicted Talbot, an obvious target, to fill in the #1 role so well. He also couldn’t have predicted that all of Maroon, Larsson, Kassian, Benning, Gryba as a 7 and even Russell would all work out as well as they have. So does he deserve credit, of course, is there reason for some concern that he has been a bit fortunate so far, absolutely.

      • Clayton

        Yes…that is all on Chiarelli. Didn’t have anything to do with winning a draft lottery and getting a generational player like Connor. Take Connor off this team and they are not likely a playoff team.

        • Not a First Tier Fan

          That’s like saying that if you take an engine out of a car it won’t drive anywhere. No duh. The car is built around the engine just as Chiarelli is building the team around Connor. If McDavid wasn’t there Chiarelli would be building a completely different team.

      • crabman

        @ Danglishish, every GM gets fired. Brought a cup to Boston and had some other good years. Still got fired. Reasons were a combo of overpaying vets putting the team in cap hell, and ai’m sure badly losing the Seguin deal didn’t help his situation. Not saying this signing will be looked.on like that but if we lose a good young dman because no cap room and more signings like this cap strap the team in the next few years this could be looked at as the beginning of his end.

      • Keepyourstickontheice

        Vegas odds are mainly determined on where the money flows. Just because Vegas set the odds low doesn’t mean we have a yellow brick road to the SCF.

        • Danglishish

          Exactly. It means that those who are in the business of betting on winners chose the Oilers as 2nd most likely. Not homer fans. Not local media. The guys that are actually risking skin are betting on the Oilers.

          My point is that the NOBODY bet on the Oilers until the last 2 years. Chia has made a number of moves to make that happen. Saying he’ll be fired for one move that only a certain segment of the fan base hates is laughable.

          • crabman

            Of coarse he won’t get fired for one move. I chimed in because every gm does get fired. He wull get fired and odds are it will be in the next 5 years. Nature of the business. This obe deal might not matter in the whole scheme of things. But if giving aging players with diminishing skills longterm contracts becomes a trend ( see Lucic). It will be a problem going forward. I do like thecway it is structured to make it easier to trade to a “real” money budget team but the modified nmc could complicate things. I jyst hooe we don’t lose another dman in the future bevause of this signing.

  • Hockey123

    If they didn’t trade their #16 and #33 for Reinhart they would have Brandon Carlo at #33.
    NIKLAS HJALMARSSON makes 100,000 dollars more than Russell each year.

    Chia fail.

  • Hemmercules

    I like Russell. I hate this contract. What else is there to say. Chia is a bit desperate but he went too far on this one. Russel became an instant goat for a lot of fans I’m thinking.

  • 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”

  • Oiler Al

    Makes sense…… Russell gets paid same as Josi, Muzzin, Fowler,Carlson and more than Ekholm and Hamonic.
    Charelli is not deal maker! Ant fool can give the stuff away.PS.This should make McMellan happy, another stay at home pylon.

  • Keepyourstickontheice

    BOOOOOOO. I hate the cap hit, contract length and I despise that we gave out another No trade clause. I’m getting Andrew Ference flashbacks.

    • tkfisher

      You’re not alone there. It’s obvious the team would prefer a one or two year, and Russell was going for a four or five year. I would have loved a two year, could have stomached a three, but four makes me cringe. Fayne and Ference flashbacks. I like Russell as a player but the last two years could cost us big time when it counts… unless of course he comes down a skin condition when the time comes.

      • therealjchrist

        I don’t understand this view. Unless he completely regresses to useless like Ference did then he’s a tradable asset after 2 years rather than a UFA that we walk away from for nothing.

        • camdog

          When he has the drop off and it is coming, he will be Andrew Ference bad. Same type of player, same size and coming into the same age bracket. He’s still a bit younger than Ference, was so the Oilers might be alright. But when he looses that step he won’t be able to get back into the play and he won’t be an NHL player.

          • oilerjed

            How can you be so sure that Rusell’s play will fall off so dramatically? Nothing points to that and a 34 year old d man making 2.5 may be an extremely valuable contract on the 3rd pairing

          • camdog

            Russell isn’t good enough to sustain a loss in foot speed. He’s a smaller guy that gives it his all. There will be a drop, just don’t know when it will be. Last season I was adamant that Hendricks was a horrible idea for captain, because I knew he was about to lose step, which he did. He was 35 when it happened. Russell might make it through the life of the contract before he drops off, but I don’t believe he will.

  • Randaman

    When there aren’t many options outside the organization (nobody knows the ask for Hamonic), you stay with what you know. The players on the team love Russell. The coaches love Russell. Who are we to criticize? Never mind, stupid question to ask on this site. I like the deal. Let’s move on to the draft.