The Edmonton Oilers recently signed former Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin to a two year deal worth about $4.5 million a year.
Many have been fairly torn about the decision, with fairly persistently lingering comments that Edmonton overpaid for the defenseman in this case. While the Oilers are not in a huge cap crunch yet, it’s always a better to have a little wiggle room. One thing many fans have expressed concern over is how Nikitin’s signing may potentially complicate the contracts with Jeff Petry and Justin Schultz – seeing Nikitin signed for over 4 million a year might make them reluctant to sign for a smaller amount and make things difficult for Edmonton. However, while Petry and Schultz are restricted free agents, Nikitin was not – so, in my opinion at least, the comparison would likely not have a huge impact on future discussions about either of the defenders’ contracts. Also, let’s face it – the Oilers are likely not the top choice for players, given how they’ve been doing lately. Until they improve and become a team who consistently makes the Playoffs, they’re probably going to have to put up a little bit more cash in order to convince players to come their way.
One good thing about signing veteran 28-year old Nikitin is that some of the potential defensive talents the Oilers have been nurturing – Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin – can take a little more time to grow. While he’s not a star defenseman, he’s solid, and that’s enough of an improvement for the flailing Oilers.
Another benefit to the two year signing in particular is that it gives the Oilers a little bit of both worlds and is a bit more flexible than a one year signing or a longer 4-5 year signing. Nikitin will hopefully help them improve in the short term – if he ends up not meshing with the other players and not helping the team, they’re stuck with him for a relatively short time, and if he makes a positive addition, they can hopefully easily resign him.
The Oilers still have about $20 million in cap space, which is a reasonable amount to make some tweaks. While many fans were concerned Nikitin’s signing would push Petry and Schultz to ask for more, having earned about $2 million and $1 million, respectively, their past season (something like $1.8 million for Petry and $925,000 for Schultz), the Oilers could likely get both defensemen on board for about 6-7 million if they chose to do so, which would still leave low double digits in cap space for acquiring two or three more players.N