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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – First thoughts on the Kris Russell extension?

Welcome, friends, to a fresh edition of the Monday Mailbag where I’ve taken your Edmonton Oilers-related questions and blasted them off to our writers through the power of this magical thing called the Internet. This week, we’re talking about the Kris Russell extension, what the next Ryan Nugent-Hopkins contract might look like, Holland’s offseason, and more. As always, I need your questions to make this feature work, so if there’s something on your mind, email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get your question into next week’s mailbag.

Nov 2, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Kris Russell (4) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. Edmonton won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

1) Clay asks – What were everyone’s first thoughts when they saw the news about the Kris Russell extension?

Robin Brownlee:

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Smart signing by Holland, especially looking ahead to the expansion draft. Price of $1.25 million is right for a third-pairing guy and there’s also value in having Russell mentor young defencemen coming up.

Jason Gregor:

Smart signing. Edmonton needs to have a D-man they can expose who meets the requirements for the expansion draft. And if Russell is your 7th Dman in 2021/2022 you are fine.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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At first, I was really surprised. I was not expecting to see that news come across and honestly, a few weeks ago I was fully expecting the team to trade him. Now that the deal is done and I’ve had time to think about it, I’m a fan of the move. If Kris Russell can be a solid third-pairing defenseman who can handle a lot of defensive zone starts and kill penalties, then he’s a bargain. If he can’t do that, then he’s a cost-effective seventh defenseman who’s a good insurance policy in case Philip Broberg isn’t ready for the NHL by 2021/22.

Zach Laing:

It was jarring at first and I honestly sort of expected a bad contract. But after seeing the terms, it sort of makes sense. Russell now will be paid for what he’s really worth as a third pairing/PK guy and it helps with the expansion draft too.

Baggedmilk:

When I first heard about it, all I could think about was what the money was going to look like because I remember the reaction around here when he signed his 4×4 deal back in the Chiarelli days. In the end, he’s finally paid appropriately and I think that he’ll give the team value for the money provided that he doesn’t end up in Seattle.

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2) Ed asks – Apparently the Oil and RNH are talking about an extension. Now that we have a better idea of what the flat cap/Covid market is like, what might an RNH contact look like? Given that the biggest long-term contract awarded this offseason was Pieterangelo at seven years X $8.8 million, would RNH at $7 million over six years work?

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t think you’re far off. RNH turns 28 in April, so I’d rather not go longer than six years — that’s not a negative reflection on RNH, but I just don’t like contracts that take players too deep into their mid-30’s. I’d prefer five years, but wouldn’t draw a hard line on that if it was a deal-breaker. Given a flat cap, an AAV of $6.5 is probably realistic.

Jason Gregor:

I see his ceiling being $6.5m and if I could keep it to five years that would be better. Longer term deals for players 28+ years can haunt you down the road. With a flat cap, I think there is a chance he signs closer to his current $6m salary.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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If Nugent-Hopkins wants $7 million, then I wouldn’t go any longer than six years, but I think we’ll see a longer-term deal. I wouldn’t mind an eight-year deal at $6.25 million a season. It would be a total of $50 million and would give him the security of knowing he’ll spend the rest of his career in Edmonton. From an Oilers perspective, if a longer-term deal means a lower AAV, I’d be all over that.

Zach Laing:

I could very well see a Nugent-Hopkins contract coming in around the $6.5-7-million mark over a six or seven-year deal. He won’t get $8-million, and the lower number the better for the Oilers due to the flat cap. He’s a player that should without a doubt be retiring an Edmonton Oiler 10 years from now.

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Baggedmilk:

GIVE HIM WHATEVER HE WANTS! Seriously, though, I think something that starts with a ‘6’ is going to be important here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Holland gives him term to make that happen. I love the guy so this extension talk makes me very happy, but we have to remember he’s knocking on his 30s and that’s something that needs to be considered here.

Jan 29, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie (94) skates against the Dallas Stars during the third period at the American Airlines Center.

3) Sara H. asks – Simple question for the panel: Given what’s been done so far, are the Oilers better than they were last season?

Robin Brownlee:

It looks that way to me. I like the forward group better with the signing of Kyle Turris for 3C and Jesse Puljujarvi is coming back motivated and ready to finally make an impression. I think Tyson Barrie is an important addition with Oscar Klefbom out. That, even with questions about goaltending, makes the Oilers at least slightly better unless Koskinen and Smith completely fold. If the goaltending is better 5-on-5, the Oilers can get something done.

Jason Gregor:

I might be in the minority, but I think they are. They have more depth up front and their young players will all be a year older. I think Barrie/Jones combo will be better than Klefbom/Benning overall, so I like them slightly better on the backend as well. Also Connor McDavid will have had a proper off-season of training. He will be better and the healthy competition between the two Hart Trophy winners will be a big plus.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think the moves Ken Holland made improved the team, with the exception of the Mike Smith signing. Turris, Ennis, Barrie, and Puljujarvi all give me reasons to believe the Oilers can be just as good as they were last season, however, losing Oscar Klefbom sucks and makes me think they might take a slight step backwards next season. There were some really positive moves but no Klefbom and the goaltending situation makes me think they won’t be better. They likely won’t be worse, but I don’t think they’re going to rack up 100 points in the regular season.

Zach Laing:

I think so. The Oilers made some smart signings bringing in Kyle Turris and Tyson Barrie, and both will provide a bump in overall scoring. Guys like Jesse Puljujarvi and Tyler Ennis should contribute too. A big question is what happens with the goaltending. Will Mikko Koskinen be able to carry a bigger workload? Will Mike Smith be able to provide the Oilers with 20 good games next year?

Baggedmilk:

The Klefbom news sucks really bad, but there’s not a lot that Ken Holland can do about that. As for the items in his control, I liked all of the bets he made apart from the goaltending. That said, I’d love nothing more than to be wrong and have Koskinen and Smith put together a strong campaign.

4) Craig asks – Put the following cap issues in order of your own personal frustration. Is it the $1.3 million for the Pouliot buyout, $2.5 million for the Sekera buyout, Koskinen’s contract at $4.5 million, the $750k retained salary for Lucic, or the 340k from last season’s bonus overages?\

Robin Brownlee:

No frustration with any of it. Didn’t like the Koskinen contract because Chiarelli didn’t need to offer it at the time he did. Don’t love, but don’t mind the Lucic retention because I thought they were stuck with him, so getting him gone was a good move. Really, it’s all the little wastes of money and overpays, a bit here, a bit there, that adds up and causes problems.

Jason Gregor:

Ranked from worst to not very bothersome..

  1. Pouliot buyout
  2. Sekera buyout
  3. Koskinen contact. I like him as a player, but no reason he needed to get that contract in late January.
  4. $750K retained salary on Lucic. Oilers won the trade the first year and will again this coming season.
  5. 340K bonus overage. Small detail. Who really thought Haas would be top-three in +/-. Hard to rip that bonus.
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Tyler Yaremchuk:

The bonus overage and Lucic retainment both had to happen. I don’t have an issue with either of those. Koskinen’s contract isn’t great, but he’s a capable NHL goaltender, so I won’t complain about it too much either. The Sekera buyout sucks, but you could see why they felt the need to do it. The Pouliot buyout was just stupid, they should have held onto him for one more season. That was an unnecessary buyout.

Zach Laing:

Sekera > Pouliot > Koskinen > Lucic > Overages. The Sekera buyout made little sense as he would’ve been a great third-pairing defenceman on the Oilers this past year, but he was making too much money. Pouliot was still a serviceable bottom-six forward for the Oilers. In hindsight, he only played one more season in the league after the buyout before he was out of the league. The Koskinen deal was jarring at the time given his little NHL experience but he has been a solid goaltender for the Oilers. Edmonton needed to eat a bit of salary to move Lucic so no big issue there, while the cap overages just mean that the Oilers young players are doing well and who wouldn’t want that.

Baggedmilk:

The buyouts are always annoying to me, but having Benoit Pouliot still on the books is ridiculous. The guy hasn’t played in almost three years, but the Oilers are still paying for that needless decision to cut ties. Ask me again in a couple of years and I’m sure the Sekera buyout will be just as irritating.

Nov 17, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund (11) and left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) fight with Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and center Leon Draisaitl (29) during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome.

5) Cal asks – If there is an all-Canadian division for the next season, do you think that would mean there will be restrictions on trades between Canadian and US teams? With two week quarantines and a compressed schedule, it seems at first glance this will essentially kill the trade market as no-one trades with division rivals.

Robin Brownlee:

Good question. I don’t have the answer because we don’t know where we’ll be with COVID a month from now, let alone four or five months down the road. My guess is that if the situation is good enough that teams are playing, there will be an opportunity to make trades with health checks and some form of quarantine involved.

Jason Gregor:

Not at all. Teams would know the rules. It would just mean a team might not have a guy for two weeks. But if the recently proposed two-day test results (so, no need for 14-day quarantine) is in place by the trade deadline then it won’t impact trades at all.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think it will make trades more difficult, but I don’t think it will kill them. It’s hard to know for sure and will definitely add an interesting wrinkle to the season.

Zach Laing:

That’s a really interesting question that I hadn’t even thought about. I could imagine there being some issues, but I don’t really foresee it “killing” the trade market. Seems like it would just be another wrinkle.

Baggedmilk:

If they can figure out rapid testing and a quarantine time that makes sense then I think those trades will still happen.

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