The Oilers have a big offseason coming up.
They might move Jordan Eberle after an underwhelming season that saw him score just 51 points. They’ll likely want to sign another right wing, or maybe they’ll just let it roll with Tyler Pitlick, Anton Slepyshev and Zack Kassian. That’d be wild (and ill-advised).
They’ve got to make a decision about Kris Russell.
Unless he’s willing to take a one year deal at a reduced rate, that decision should be to let him walk.
HE’S GOOD AT BLOCKING SHOTS
Nobody loves blocking shots. You’re taking a 90+ MPH slap shot to who knows where on your body. That’s difficult and painful. It’s admirable that Kris Russell does this. While it’s admirable, it’s hiding a bigger issue. The Oilers still allow a lot of shots when Kris Russell is on the ice, and that’s not good. Compare Edmonton’s shot attempts with his most common linemate Andrej Sekera. (Spoiler: Sekera does really well when he’s away from Kris Russell, yet with Russell, they’re getting hammered.)
Russell is a one trick pony. He does that trick really well, and it resonates with fans. I get that. But do the Oilers get that?
THE PUCK DIES ON RUSSELL’S STICK
The Oilers are a very good team when Connor McDavid is on the ice. One of Kris Russell’s jobs should be to get McDavid the puck. I understand that Russell isn’t really here to score goals, but getting the puck to McDavid while he’s on the ice should be the first thing on Russell’s mind after neutralizing an attack. Kris Russell has issues doing this. This is a great concern for someone playing in the top four.
When Kris Russell played with Andrej Sekera this year, it was bad. Russell was on his opposite side and too high in the lineup. Edmonton yielded a considerable amount of shot attempts when this pair was on the ice. There’s no two ways to slice this; this is a problem.
BUT WHAT ELSE?
He tries really hard. He’s a heart and soul guy. He’s a glue guy. Yeah, that’s great. He’s a bona-fide NHL player, there’s no dispute there. He’s a serviceable third pairing defenceman, and while I agree that the Oilers can use this player, going buck wild and signing this type of player to a three year deal at $3MM+ a season is goofy as hell.
THE WAITING GAME
Kris Russell was a late season signing with the Oilers in 2016. He waited long into training camp before signing a one year deal after hoping for the whale of a deal with a club. Russell is UFA come July 1st. With the expansion draft coming up, the Oilers likely won’t assume another contract that they’d be forced to protect.
Cody Franson is out there. Ron Hainsey is there. Brian Campbell. Kyle Quincey. All are unrestricted free agents, just like Kris Russell. Don’t forget about Eric Gryba, who for the sake of cost alone might find his way back.
ROOM FOR RUSSELL?
One year at about 2 million is an acceptable deal for a serviceable third pair defenceman. If he walks, the world doesn’t end. Anything more (term or dollars) will not only force Russell to play a role similar to this year, it could handicap the Oilers beginning 2018 when Connor McDavid is due a bajillion dollar raise.
For the right price and term? Yes.
Multi year? No.
More than 2 million-ish? No.