Update (8:52am): The Oilers, via their team Twitter account, announced the agreement with Russell late last night.
On the heels of trading former #1 overall draft choice Nail Yakupov to St. Louis, the Edmonton Oilers are said to be on the verge of inking veteran, shot-blocking defenseman Kris Russell to a one-year deal, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Friedman hears the pact will be worth $3.1MM for 2016-17 and believes an official announcement likely will be made tomorrow.
How Russell will fit in with the Oilers remains to be seen. While the team certainly can use additional blue line help, Russell is a left-handed defenseman who is poised to join a roster that already boasts Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson, all of whom are left-handed as well. On the right side, the Oilers list Adam Larsson and Mark Fayne on their depth chart. Obviously, at least one port-side shooter will have to cross the ice and play his off side.
The lucrative, multi-year deal Russell and his representation expected this summer never materialized despite his reputation as a mobile blue liner willing to block shots. Of course his shot-blocking acumen is also one of the reasons some teams may have steered clear of Russell, as that quality has also been accompanied by poor puck possession metrics.
However, if the Oilers are simply interested in Russell as a capable, third-pair defender and someone who can chip in on the power play, they could do far worse than the 29-year-old former Flame, Blue Jacket, Blue and Star. Over the last three seasons, Russell has tallied seven goals and 43 points on the man advantage. Overall, Russell has recorded campaigns of 29, 34 and 19 points during the period from 2013-14 through 2015-16. In a somewhat sheltered role with limited responsibilities, Russell can certainly be a valuable addition for the Oilers.
Depending on how the 2016-17 season transpires for Edmonton, the club could always look to flip the nine-year veteran defender and hope for a package similar to that which Calgary received at this year’s trade deadline. The Flames sent Russell to Dallas and acquired a second-round pick and two prospects in exchange.
That this signing, presuming it in fact does become official, only came after the trade of Yakupov suggests the Oilers needed to move salary before adding Russell. Prior to the trade, Edmonton had plenty of available cap space – roughly $9.5MM – but it’s likely the team has its own internal budget and signing Russell may have meant exceeding that figure.
Barring a mid-season contract extension, Russell will hit the free agent market again next year in the hopes he can secure the multi-year deal he failed to find this summer.