After the Edmonton Oilers cleared some cap space earlier today by moving Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome, the team is close to bringing back one of their pending free agents. E.J. Hradek of NHL Network is hearing that Kris Russell will re-sign with the team.
Russell was one of the more interesting cases in free agency last summer, expected to lock down a long-term deal but eventually having to settle for just a one-year pact. Edmonton ended up giving him $3.1MM for last season, something that he’s sure to improve upon this time around. The 30-year old played over 21 minutes a night for the Oilers, registering 13 points in 68 games while blocking his regular 200+ shots.
One of the battlegrounds between “old” and “new school” player evaluation, Russell seems to be an effective defender but records extremely poor possession statistics. Despite that, coaches seem to rely heavily on him in many different situations and have put him on the ice more than 21 minutes a night for four straight seasons. Especially with the loss of Andrej Sekera to injury for the first part of the season, the Oilers needed to bring in a left-handed shot at some point this summer.
Whether Russell should be that defenseman is up for debate, as Edmonton fans are just as split as anyone when it comes to his performance. Though he once put up 34 points in a season for Calgary, he’s far from an offensive contributor and shouldn’t be expected to get back to that total going forward. The reason for moving Eberle, cap space, is also at risk should the Oilers decide to lock him up long-term. With Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid needing new contracts, locking in close to $4MM per season for a past-30 Russell is a risky proposition.