The Edmonton Oilers need to upgrade their defense and are trying to get a jump on the free agent market. The Columbus Blue Jackets have allowed the Oilers to negotiate with pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Nikita Nikitin, according to Bob McKenzie of TSN. No official deal has been made yet according to McKenzie, but he explained the process here:
Bottom line: EDM is, for a specified time, able to make a pitch to Nikitin. If a contract can be worked out, EDM and CBJ can conclude trade.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 20, 2014
The Oilers have some serious issues on the back end and Nikitin should help at least a little. The Blue Jackets were reportedly prepared to cut ties with the Russian defenseman anyway, so if they could get a little something in return -- probably a mid-round draft pick -- it's worth a shot.
Only it doesn't sound like the Oilers are going to have a lot of success with their window to discuss a contract as Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch found out:
It's worth a shot for the Oilers, but it sounds like they won't be getting any special treatment for going after Nikitin. This very well could end with nothing to come of it at all.
There's no way the Oilers should be offering four years and big money to a defenseman that has had some ups and downs over the first five seasons of his NHL career. There's still plenty of upside in Nikitin, but that would be too much of a financial risk for a team that needs to find a way to dramatically improve over the next few seasons. Committing big money to Nikitin doesn't seem sensible.
Nikitin has been hard to pin down over his relatively brief career career. In 2011-12, he looked like a possible power-play weapon with a big shot and 32 points in 61 games, but has since seen his point totals drop as he slid into more of a shut-down role. Nikitin dropped down the Columbus lineup in 2013-14, averaging 17:07 of ice time per game and played even less in five playoff games.
The 27-year-old Nikitin is a strong defender and brings size, which is probably helpful to the Oilers if they could get him under a reasonable contract. But if Nikitin's agent is to be believed, it will be done while bidding against anyone else looking to acquire the veteran of 206 career games in the NHL.
Nikitin, who had 15 points in 66 games last season, has 65 career points over five years split between the St. Louis Blues and Columbus.