The Edmonton Oilers have worked out an extension for veteran defenseman Kris Russell, who is heading into the final season of the four-year, $16MM deal he signed in 2017. Carrying a cap hit of $4MM for 2020-21, Russell has signed a new one-year extension for 2021-22 that will pay him $1.25MM.
Russell, 33, has played in 273 regular season games for the Oilers over the last four years, but saw his role on the team diminished quite significantly in 2019-20. He averaged just under 17 minutes a night through 55 games and saw that number drop even further in the team’s short qualification round. One of the leaders in blocked shots every year, Russell is used extensively on the penalty kill but has turned into something of a liability at even-strength.
Still, at a reduced salary, he is still a useful piece for an Oilers team that is hoping to go on long playoff runs in each of the next two postseasons.
The real reason for a contract like this, however, may lie in the upcoming expansion draft. The team previously had only a single defenseman—Darnell Nurse—that would fulfill the exposure requirements. Oscar Klefbom is just four games away from meeting them, but he is expected to be out long-term with a shoulder injury and may not be able to play those. Neither of those two would be left exposed anyway, meaning the team needed someone signed through the 2021-22 season that also met the games played requirement that they could leave unprotected.
Russell is likely that player now, though that certainly doesn’t mean he’ll be a Seattle Kraken pick.
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