Moving Some Salary: Nikita Nikitin

The offseason hasn’t even begun and it is very apparent that the Oilers brass has some tough decisions coming in the next month.

With 11 days until McDavid and 16 days until Free Agency, Oilers brass is currently meeting in Kelowna where they will begin to siphon through the 50-man roster, the draft and the trade market hoping to make some choices on who should stay, who should go, and who should get drafted.

The matter of fact is that the Oilers have a few players with a high salary where they could provide value to other teams, and be replaced by players in the Oilers system or by free agents/trade targets.

Today, I will begin a series looking at some players the Oilers could look at buying out, or trading.

Nikita Nikitin

Contract: 1 yr left, $4.5 million per

Age: 28

In Edmonton:

42 GP 4 G 6 A 10 PTS -12 12 PIM

There is no denying the hot mess that has been the Nikitin era in Edmonton. Former Oilers GM Craig MacTavish brought him into Edmonton to log big minutes and take the pressure off some of the younger players. Instead, he couldn’t stay healthy for any extended period of time and when he was playing, he seemed to be a large step behind other players on the ice.

His advanced stats show that he is barely a top four defenceman, and he was a liability most times he was on the ice.

 Why is Nikitin in the lineup? In eight games since coming off injured reserve he’s been lousy, averaging a grade of 3.8 in our post-game reviews and only once coming in higher than a bare pass at ‘5.’ He’s made bad decisions, he’s lost physical battles, he’s been lost entirely in his own end and he’s repeatedly come up short on foot races and blown a tire at inopportune moments. And it’s not like he was any better before he went on IR. – Jonathan Willis – January 17th, 2015 

Nikita could provide some upside. He has shown in the past that he has a great shot that can be used from the point and at one point was considered a mobile puck-moving defenceman, despite the fact he is 6’4.

Last season, the Oilers didn’t see the type of player Nikitin was once considered. I

Now I try and give Nikitin credit because back and shoulder injuries aren’t easy injuries for defencemen to come back from, let alone two in the same year. None the less, I think Nikitin’s $4.5 million cap hit is too rich for the Oilers blood going into next season.

What’s the prognosis, Doc?

A buyout would eliminate the remaining 1 yr from the contract, at a total value of $3.000MM in buyout payments, plus $0.000MM in bonuses. War on ice Buyout calculator

The Oilers could buyout Nikitin, but they would take a cap hit of $1.5 million per year until 2016-2017. It doesn’t sound like that bad of an idea to buy him out but I think the Oilers would be better suited trading him to a team close to the cap floor like the Arizona Coyotes or Buffalo Sabres in hopes of a mid-round draft pick in return.

Lastly, they could hold onto him and ride it out. Who knows, maybe Nikitin can turn things around next year in a bottom-pairing role, or maybe the Oilers could find a team at the deadline looking for some blueline depth. If a 40-year old Kimmo Timonen can get traded for what ended up being two second round picks (Conditional 4th turned into a 2nd), then I’m sure the Oilers could find a suitor for Nikitin.