As per the Edmonton Oilers’ official Twitter account:
Russell, 27, posted a meagre 0-5-5 in 45 GP during the 2019-20. The year prior saw Russell enjoy his best season in the AHL, with 18-22-40 in 51 AHL games in 2018-19.
In 51 career NHL games, Russell has yet to score an official goal. He did manage to find the back of the net in Edmonton’s only exhibition game during resumption against the Calgary Flames, but that’s his only tally in the majors.
As you can see above, Russell is fairly solid defensively at even-strength, grading out almost a full two standard deviations above league average in expected goals against. Unfortunately, he’s an offensive black hole that gives about all of that good defensive work away, with both his expected and actual goals for below average.
This mostly fits my eye as well, as Russell seems to be a tenacious, grinding forward who knows where to be in the d-zone but who severely lacks in shooting talent.
As you’ll see below, Russell is slightly below break-even in terms of SPAR — Standings Points Above Replacement — which I’ve grown fond of as a proximity for a player’s value of late:
In terms of SPAR comparables, names like Casey Mittelstadt, Robby Fabbri, Mathieu Perreault, and Bobby Ryan added about as much value as Russell did. Now, that is certainly no glowing endorsement of Russell, but it’s always interesting to see what kind of company guys like Russell keep:
At $700,000 — the current league minimum salary, and the same as his 2019-20 salary — there is rarely a risk when signing anyone to that number.
But, I’m not sure it’s a great deal. Even with some big ticket comparables in the above GAR chart, I think the possibility the Oilers could upgrade from Russell for around the same money exists, and that this signing might represent a ‘good enough’ result rather than something resembling best-case.
I’m not typically a big fan of giving out spots in the 50-man roster to guys who have shown effectively 0 ability to provide offense at the NHL level, regardless of the acquisition cost. When Russell’s out there, he will defend well enough — which is important, of course — but I can’t help but wonder if they could have done a little more with that money and roster spot if they had just looked outside the organization first. I can’t imagine other teams were lining up to pay him, given he signed for league min.
All that said, they certainly could have done worse.