The NHL Draft has come and gone and, outside of the Subban trade, there wasn’t much happening on the trade front.
The Oilers came into the draft with the expectation that they would try to shed some of their salary cap headaches, but nothing came to fruition.
Instead, the team held on to all their picks and selected a handful of players to add to their prospect cabinet, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t trade negotiations.
Kris Russell’s name seemed to be a fairly popular one for Edmonton as there was reported interest from multiple teams around the league.
Just a month ago, Russell’s 4.5 AAV was seen as an anchor contract that would be next to impossible to move without giving up valuable assets.
Fast forward to the present day and Russell’s pay cheque might not be as daunting as initially expected.
This year’s free agent class is stocked full of quality NHL defencemen.
From Tyler Myers to Jake Gardiner there are going to be some grade-A competition among teams to secure the services of one of these players but, there is one problem with these players and it boils down to one key word: money.
As always the free agency market is susceptible to overvaluing itself. Players like Myers and Gardiner are reportedly asking for annual cap-hits that land in the 7 million range, something that many teams might balk at.
Add the fact that the cap ceiling is less than many teams expected, there could be a possible market for a player like Kris Russell at an AAV of 4mil for the next 2 seasons.
For the sake of comparison, look at the recent Tyler Myers news that is being reported. Myers, who turns 30 next February, is coming off a season that saw him put up 31pts in a season that saw him average 20 minutes per game. He’s right-handed, which adds a layer of value, and is absolutely huge standing at 6 foot 8. If recent reports are true, I just described a player that will be getting paid upwards of 8 million dollars a season on a long-term deal.
Kris Russell, on the other hand, is a veteran left hand shot who was only able to put up 16pts last season. He did average about 20 minutes a game but, to be fair, a more reasonable number for Russell is around the 15 minute mark. He is a workhorse in his own zone and he is able to handle himself fairly well in a bottom 4 role. Overall, he isn’t on the same level as a player like Myers, but he is still very much a serviceable defenceman who can log valuable minutes. Russell’s AAV is a bit much for a player of his calibre but, if you compare it to Myer’s rumoured price-tag it starts to look a tiny bit better than it did a few months ago.
At 32 years old there is a reasonable belief that Kris Russell could drop off a bit but, with only two years left on his current deal, it is a fairly low-risk commitment.
To be clear I am not equating Kris Russell to being on the same level as Myers, rather I am looking at it from the perspective of a GM with cap-space trying to add to their defence. Russell comes in a lot cheaper than a lot of other defenders who a will hit the open market on July 1st and hid 2-year term is manageable from a cap perspective.
Kris Russell is a competent NHL player and does just fine in the role that he is used in. The problem that many Oiler fans have with him is his cap-hit and the fact that we have young players who could easily step in and play the role that he’s in at a cheaper price-point.
If a team trying to add to their D completely strikes out in free agency, Kris Russell could be a serviceable plan B.