Apr 12, 2014; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers center Brandon Pirri (73) battles for the puck with Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin (6) in the second period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers Free Agent Targets: Nikita Nikitin (updated)

The second in our series of features on free agent targets for the Edmonton Oilers continues with a look at Edmonton’s most raw and untamed group–defence. The Oilers will need to fortify their blue line if they want any hope of tasting success next season. There will be many forthcoming profiles on possible acquisitions on defence, but today Oil on Whyte profiles a player Oilers Fans have chatted about on more than one occasion.

2. Nikita Nikitin

The Columbus Blue Jackets have always been lauded for their solid defensive core. While they haven’t always been known for explosive offense, they can shut down even the most potent scorers with their well coached, effective systems. Their players buy in and it works. Now, the Ohio based NHL team is a playoff threat.

The question is whether they keep the blue line together. Nikita Nikitin is unrestricted this year, and there’s a strong possibility Oilers GM Craig Mactavish has a sales pitch at the ready for the 27 year old d-man. Is he a good fit for Edmonton?

Definitely. First and foremost, Nikitin is a big body. At 6’3 and 217 lbs. he could be a top four option for the Oilers at any given time. He’s also a the age many defensemen turn the corner and begin to dominate the game. He has been praised for his puck moving abilities, and has a powerful shot, something that could prove quite useful on the suddenly anemic Oilers power play.

Some fans and critics have said that the Oilers need to sign a blue liner that is physical and aggressive. Nikitin has been viewed as one who doesn’t jump into the play and use his body to make plays on a consistent level. The Blue Jackets play an excellent defensive system throughout their line up, however, so his aggressiveness wasn’t always needed. Regardless, he is responsible on the ice, with a lifetime +2 rating.

Will the Oilers Sign Nikita Nikitin?

Yes. The Oilers will make a strong pitch for this blue liner. Columbus may want him too, but the bridge contract they had him on was valued at only 2.15 million per season. Nikitin will be due for a raise and Edmonton may be the organization willing to make him rich. Mactavish may entice the burgeoning player with term too. There are no guarantees in free agency, but Columbus is not Los Angeles or New York, and they aren’t such a force in the league that players are lining up to sign in Ohio. The Oilers have a realistic chance to sign this player. Expect a salary offer in the range of 4.5 million a year for five years.

UPDATE: The Edmonton Oilers have acquired the negotiation rights for Nikitin. They may give up a fifth round draft pick if he is signed. Stay tuned for more!

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