In advance of free agency opening on July 1, the Columbus Blue Jackets granted permission for the Edmonton Oilers to negotiate with defenseman Nikita Nikitin. It paid off on Wednesday with an agreement and a trade.
For the rights to actually sign Nikitin, the Oilers sent Columbus a fifth-round pick in the upcoming draft as the team announced on Wednesday. What they haven't yet announced is that they have reached a deal with Nikitin as well for two seasons.
Per Bob McKenzie, the contract will cost the Oilers $9 million over the two seasons, or $4.5 million annually.
The Oilers have been on the hunt for defensemen for years now so just like that, they scoop up a potential UFA D before he hits the market and makes him now the highest-paid defenseman on the team, at least for now. It feels like a pretty steep price for Nikitin but this is the new free agency (though this was done before free agency begins, this is just like a FA contract, they had to offer him enough to sign there instead of somewhere else).
It's not as though the Oilers don't have cap space to spend but still, it's a pretty high price for a player that has yet to play more than 66 games in one NHL season, a mark he hit last season for the Blue Jackets. In those 66 games he finished with two goals and 13 assists but offense isn't the big-bodied defenseman's calling card.