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.

Darnell Nurse is apparently seeking $8 million annually on his next contract
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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?

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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?

  • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.


    2 years too long IMO. If they were going to sign him for 4 years it should have been a 12 million deal max. This is one the Oil are going to regret in 3 years or sooner when Russell breaks an ankle while blocking a shot. But dear Gord, I hope he proves me wrong.

  • Tombstone

    He’s only making 900k more than last year so that’s not a big deal. Also, it’s good to have depth when players get hurt. With Sekera out and Nurse injured half of the season it’s unreasonable to think everyone can stay healthy next year. We know Russel can play RD. The 4 years suck. It wouldn’t surprise me if he gets bought out the last year or 2 of his contract.

    • crabman

      You’re right depth matters. But 4 million for a soon to be depth player is ridiculous. It looks like the only improvement out D will make this year is personal development as long as the young guys keep progressing. This signing probably doesn’t hurt this year but the 3 after this don’t make any sense. I think it was a horrible signing and I hope I’m proven wrong.

    • The Whispererer

      Only $900K ?
      Last year we paid him $500K more than he had ever made in a single year. Now he is a year older and we will pay him $5 million next year and $4.5 the following year. Making $1 million of his final year a bonus instead of salary likely makes the contract untradeable and buyout proof as the cap savings would be minimal.

  • Mr.Snrub

    So basically Chia thinks our current D-Men are Cup contender worthy?!? Andrej Sekera,Larsson & Russell all signed for the next 4 years while Oscar is locked in for 6 more seasons. Nurse & Benning as our 3rd pairing with hopes they can move up the ladder in the future.

    Of course we still need a stopgap to replace Sekera for at least the first half of the season and who’s our utility 7th D-Man now? Certainly not Mark Fayne/Eric Gryba or are they going to let the kids battle it out? (Mantha,Paigin,Jones,Bear)

  • 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.

  • freelancer

    Doesn’t matter if you like Kris Russell or not this is not a good deal for the team. Oiler moved Eberle because they thought he was a cap issue and the used that free space to sign a guy who is going to be a bigger issue in a year.

  • Bleeds Oil

    He helps this team win , lays it all on the line each game and the players love him ! We need NHL D and Russell is exactly that ! With Reggie hurt this was a must … also I think chia isn’t finished yet

    • Rock11

      We can argue over how much of a “must” it was to have KR back all day, or in the case of ON for the next 4 years, but there is no defence for the length and dollars on this deal. This deal will result in the Oilers having to trade one of Nurse or Benning within 2 years as they will need new contracts and the cap will not have room. For all those praising the Eberle deal yesterday for it’s cap flexability I would expect to hear from each of them today about the idiocy of this contract and how it will hamstring every future opportunity.

      • Danglishish

        “For all those praising the Eberle deal yesterday for it’s cap flexability I would expect to hear from each of them today about the idiocy of this contract and how it will hamstring every future opportunity.”

        He can be moved in 2 years. He cost nothing in assets to sign. He will probably get a decent return at the trade deadline when we move him. If you completely ignore the terms of the contract, then your point may have some merit. But if you understand the contract, everything you just said is garbage.

        • Rock11

          Are you really so head over heels in love with this player that logic can be thrown out the window. Seriously, if the best thing that can happen with a deal is that you will be able to escape it halfway through then it isn’t a good deal. As for the nothing in assets line that is simply untrue as well. We have no idea what assets this deal will cost yet and we most likely never will. How many conversations with other GM’s and agents will have to stop short because the cap is in the way of making a deal. Opportunity cost. It’s a thing.

  • crabman

    4×4 is too much. He might be a #4 today but when not if he slips down the depth chart it is a huge overpay. Maybe he gets moved next off season and no harm no foul. But this could also cost us Benning or Nurse or Klefbom if the roster spot and cap space is needed in the future and there isn’t a market for Russel.
    I think the signing was short sighted and could hurt us longterm.
    But I’m just a fat guy on a sofa. What do I know.
    In Chiarelli I trust….ish.

  • Shameless Plugger

    Hall for Larson was a bad deal. Singing Lucic was bad deal(at the end of the contract) signing Russell is bad deal. Yet somehow the Oilers improved by 33 pts. and almost made the conference finals. I’ll trust the hockey people when it comes to hockey decisions. This isn’t Lowe and Mac-T running the show anymore.

    • Rock11

      So sick of that childish logic. 33 points is almost exclusively the result of healthy years from 97, 93, Oscar, and improved play and consistency from Talbot. I’d be willing to bet that if the Oilers had done nothing last summer but signed a guy like Demers that the point total would have increased by nearly the same amount. Lets not forget what an extra 40 games from Mcdavid can do for a team.

      • Danglishish

        Childish logic? Stating facts = childish logic?

        Meanwhile you’re response is “I just know that things would have been even better if we didn’t do the things that we did before we turned into a good team. I JUST KNOW IT!!!”

        Have a look in the mirror junior.

        • Rock11

          ignoring McDavid’s health in the improvement of the team just to try and make a point is absolutely childish. It is like a 4 year old who thinks pulling his dad’s finger is actually causing him to fart. Yes one happened before the other but it does not mean one caused the other.

    • oilerjed

      judging by this tweet he threw out there last night, I think you are right,

      Oilers Nation blogger Matt Henderson @Archaeologuy
      I want to negotiate my next raise with Chiarelli… I don’t even want to know what he asked if 4×4 is the settled price…Flames: Our D needs help. Let’s get Hamilton, Hamonic, and Demers. Oilers: Our D needs help. Let’s get Reinhart, Russell, and Russell…Today will be like the day Clarkson became a Leaf and all the clueless people tweeted wild sh*t celebrating their victory…How toxic is the Oiler dressing room that literally no other defenseman was willing to come here?

  • bazmagoo

    It wasn’t our defence that lost the Anaheim series, it was the lack of offence at critical moments (cough*eberle*cough)

    For those hating on this contract you are entitled to your opinion by I will say this. Russell is the type of player you need in the playoffs. When a player has copious amounts of adrenaline running through his veins in a game seven and sees Kris throwing his body on the line EVERY shift, that is extremely motivating. You don’t win cups without guys like Russell on your team, in my opinion. Plus this allows Nurse and Benning to continue their development curve without any added pressure. Maybe a bit of an overpay, but sure beats seeing him in Calgary red next season!

  • Danglishish

    So. The guy that played the most 5v5 minutes for the Oilers when they went from 29th place to a win away from Western Conference Finals is going to get paid $4 million/year over 4 years.. or less, given his NTC doesn’t kick in until after year 2. And Oilers Nation is talking about “when Chiarelli gets fired?”

    Question for you guys… What does Edmonton actually lose in this deal? If Russell plays this year for us, filling in a spot on the 2nd pair while Sekera recovers, and then at the deadline NEXT YEAR we move him to a team with injuries to their d-core heading into the playoffs? What’s the damage? We didn’t trade to get him here, so no assets lost. Dmen who can play top 4 going into the playoffs get a pretty nice return at the deadline. What’s stopping us from flipping him once he’s served his purpose?

    To me this is a great win by Chiarelli, and I don’t particularly love Russell. The way the contract is structured, in effect we got EXACTLY what we wanted. A guy to fill the role while Sek is out and the kids develop (Bear/Jones) without any long term cap implications. We can just move him before his NTC kicks in, correct? What’s the problem?

    • Rock11

      Opportunity is what you lose. Opportunity to actually improve the D corps. Opportunity to sign a potential free agent because you have this money tied up. Opportunity for Benning and Nurse to step forward into more prominent roles. Opportunity to re-sign either one or both of them due to the cap.
      Plus the argument for this being a good signing being that you can trade the player half way through the deal is a little on the weak side. If you want to trade a guy after 2 years then maybe just sign the guy for 2 years. Not going to be a lot of teams lining up to trade for an undersized 30 something defenceman with $8 million left owing on a contract and the inability to trade him elsewhere if they so choose.

      • Danglishish

        Interesting. So…
        1. Who is this free agent dman you’d sign in the offseason for less than $4million to play 2nd pairing, instead of Russell?
        2. You’re suggesting we play 2 very young dmen in a top 4 role to “step forward” instead. What could go wrong??? (Justin Schultz says hi).
        3. “Just sign the guy for 2 years.” You do realize, of course, that free agents actually have a say in their contract lengths when negotiating, correct? The GM doesn’t just say “you’ll sign for 2 years.” These guys negotiate for their own interests. This isn’t NHL2017 on your Playstation.
        4. “Not going to be a lot of teams interested in a 30 something defenceman with $8 million left owing.” Good point. Teams are never ever ever looking for experienced veteran dmen at the trade deadline. Ever. And, if you actually understood the contract and read the article, his contract is front loaded so it’s not going to cost a team $8 million.

        I look forward to your responses.

        • Rock11

          no problem here is my reponse.
          1)I have no idea and neither do you. I would however suggest you look at the D corps of the two western finals teams and ask yourself if KR would play for either of them let alone top 4
          2)Yes I am suggesting that. sort of. A veteran guy on a short term deal would have been nice. Even KR by the way but I believe both Nurse and Benning are more talented than KR and can handle that workload especially once Sekera gets back.
          3)This player is not good enough to be able to dictate terms to the team. The whole league did pass on him less than a year ago. If he wanted more term elsewhere then let him test the market and if he gets it then thanks for the effort last year and good luck.
          4)Cap hit is more important than dollars for most teams. Very few playoff teams have cap room to throw at 3rd pairing guy. And once again if the plan is to try and escape the contract before it is over then don’t give out the damned contract.

          • Not a First Tier Fan

            So you have no alternatives and your whole argument is that Russel sucks, is at best a third pairing D, and shouldn’t have been able to negotiate his contract because he should have been too happy that the Oilers were offering him anything…

            Yeesh. I think I hear your NHL2017 game calling..

        • crabman

          Mark Fayne was a top pairing dman on a cup finalist team. Is a vetren depth dman with a smaller cap hit and had no takers all season not just the deadline. Moving Russel with 2 years left to a playoff team at the deadline is unlikly to happen unless a team is very desperate. And once his modified ntc kicks in it may eliminate the option of sending him to a team trying to reach the cap floor.

        • Rock11

          Not a first tier fan,
          Never, in my entire life have I played NHL 2017. Don’t even know what the eff you are talking about when you make that reference but I’m sure it is supposed to be an insult. That’s fine. I didn’t realize having an opinion was an insultable offence. Generally though I know I’m on the right side of the argument when the response to my points is as witty as NUHH UHH YOU’RE STUPID. Yes shockingly I have a job and a life and I haven’t pored over every roster in the NHL to find the perfect alternative. 20 bucks says neither have you and you cant say with any certainty that there isn’t the perfect stopgap solution on the market for less dollars and term.
          Yes I also believe that KR is a 5/6 Dman. He might be passable as a 4 on the left side but that’s not the job he’s being paid to do in the long run. On the draft tonite it was pointed out that he was one of 2 Dmen in the league under 180lbs. So to recap we paid a small 30 year old D who would be a 3rd pairing guy(at best) on either of this years WCF teams 4×4 and gave him no move protection on top of that. All this after the GM admitted the teams D wasn’t good enough yet to win. This makes us better how?

  • Spoils


    I was hurting after the Eberle trade, but hopeful that the money would be put to good use. JUST EFFING BRUTAL… we are worse off today without Ebs AND this team is just going to be in a world of hurt when Lucic Sekera and Russell start falling off.

    let other teams take these albatross contracts. awful.

  • Slipknot 8

    Just pointing out the obvious but CAP management is essentially why Chirelli got fired from Boston.
    After a few bad deals he left the Bruins in CAP hell they’re just getting out of.

  • Tooleybuc

    I appreciate that Benning and Nurse are probably numbers 5 and 6 on the Oilers depth chart (when everyone is healthy), but I wish we didn’t have to pair them up together as the third pairing. It was ver scary, throughout the playoffs, when they ere on the ice together. The worse thing for Benning’s development is playing him alongside Nurse. Signing Russell for 4 years is probably 2 years too many… but the Oil have more pressing issues on their defense.

  • Do not think that Chiarelli is finished at this point. They still need a RD to play second line and to play the PP. Maybe it will be Hamonic. Or maybe it will be Tyson Barrie. Whoever it is, that acquisition needs to happen eventually. It can be done if Pouliot is off the books. And it can be done if RNH is off the books. I have a feeling it’s going to be RNH since he is the only expendable piece up front that I can imagine bringing anything in return. And they still have the option of buying out Pouliot’s contract. So do not think that Chiarelli is content with the state of the defense. A very important piece is still coming that will make the Oilers more prepared for a playoff run.

    • bazmagoo

      Zero chance we land Hamonic or Barrie imo. Pouliout could be bought out still, that wouldn’t surprise me. I think we pick up one RD via free agency on a one year deal because of the Sekera injury, and Gryba is resigned.

      • It would be great to land a right-shot defenseman through free agency but I don’t see anyone (other than Shattenkirk) that would provide what they need on the PP. And I doubt that they will land Shattenkirk. Who do you think they will get? Franson? Girardi? I have a feeling that the Oilers will trade RNH for a right-shot defenseman that can play the PP. Usually trades like that happen across conferences. There probably isn’t any rush to do it before they test the free agency market. Hopefully it gets done before the season starts though.

        • oilerjed

          If the Oil were going to trade RNH for a RD than Eberle would still be here and Nuge would be gone. Chia and Todd said they were going to take a year to see who they thought was the kind of player that they wanted. Hall is gone, Ebes is gone. RNH is still here and I would guess that he will be until at least the last couple of years of his contract.

  • Disciple of McSavior

    Once Mark Faynes contract is off the books, what does signing Russel matter or cost? Its pretty much null after that.
    We now have a shot blocking defensive defenseman that’s will take pucks to the face if needed. Sounds better to me than paying a guy to play in the AHL?

    • bazmagoo

      It’ll become much more easier to digest when Fayne is off the books. Klefbom and Larsson’s contracts are so good we can afford to give Kris a tiny overpay.

      • Disciple of McSavior

        This also gives the team depth when it comes to the inevitable D injuries, If we can manage another RD ( Faulk?Barrie?). we’d effectively be able to cover any injury in any D position. It may not look like a “glamorous” signing, but its an effective once at the very least.

  • Can't Fix Stupid

    Everyone tends to forget that last year was the first time in I don’t know how many years now that our beloved Oilers have not had a season decimated by injuries. We have a team that, had it not been for Kessler’s goalie pad adjustment, might have advanced to the WCF. Who would we get to replace Russell on the backend if he was to sign somewhere else? Everything is just speculation until action actually happens. If we don’t see injuries on the backend in the next 4 years then his contract may look terrible but if the team suffers 2 serious injuries then at least we have depth. Imagine that! We are now talkin about terrible depth signings instead of just plain old terrible signings.