The Edmonton Oilers moved out cap space when they traded Jordan Eberle and they immediately used some of that saved money and gave it to veteran defenseman Kris Russell.
Kris Russell has signed his deal with the Oilers. Front loaded contract but as @TSNRyanRishaug reported, total is $16 M over 4 yrs
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 23, 2017
Russell was a polarizing figure in Edmonton. Often used by analytics-supporters as an example of poor play, Russell blocks a ton of shots — having finished first in the NHL last season with 213 — but those who argue against the stats being positive will suggest that having to block that many shots equal a lack of puck possession. Those same naysayers will argue that Russell provides little to no offense.
Despite those arguments, Russell is a favorite among the Oilers players, coaches and management who felt his character, drive and willingness to fight each and every night were worth a long-term extension. Inside the organization, Russell was seen as an important piece to the team’s drive to the postseason.
From the player’s side, Russell was keenly interested in remaining an Edmonton Oiler. Russell said in May:
They showed faith in me by going out and signing me. I love playing here. It’s a first class organization. They treat you very well. The group inside is great. I think this team obviously has a bright future. I wish we were still playing, but I think this team grew a lot.
The Russell Deal
Reports are that the deal will pay Russell $4 million per year over four years. The deal will be front-loaded giving the Oilers an option to move the player toward the end of the term if need be. Russell was also given a modified no-trade clause in the last two years of the deal.
It’s a raise and a significant increase in term from the $3.1 million deal he signed in the summer of 2016. That one-year deal was added to the Oilers club near the end of the previous summer and was a gamble Russell took to show his talents in Edmonton. It appears to have paid off. When asked in May about his thoughts on getting an extension and what that deal might look like, he said, “Obviously I’d like to come back but there is a business side to this and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Russell deal 5, 4.5, 4, 2.5 signing bonus of $2M in year 1 and $1M in year 4.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) June 23, 2017
Thanks to a four-year extension, Russell no longer has to wonder what’s going to happen. He knows he’s going to be a part of the Oilers’ future for a while.
Ideally, if Russell pans out as the Oilers hope he will, he’ll slot in on the second pair for the Oilers’ blue line and with veteran blueliner Andrej Sekera injured and out for months to start the coming season, play an increased role in shoring up the defensive end until his regular playing partner in Sekera returns.
Moving to McDavid and Draisaitl
With the Russell deal in place, the Edmonton Oilers will now focus their attention toward the NHL Entry Draft and free agency. Part of the biggest moves the team may make will be getting their two biggest offensive stars on long-term deals.
Connor McDavid is projected to make more than $10 million per season and Draisaitl upwards of $7 million.
Reports are also that the Oilers may look to add another depth piece at right wing. Edmonton acquired Ryan Strome for Jordan Eberle on Thursday and it’s not certain whether or not Strome will be viewed as a top-six right-winger or used sparingly at center. Whether the team adds that piece via trade or come free agency is still a question, but the Oilers appear to be a busy team, hoping to make their most recent playoff appearance a more regular occurence.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”