Fantasy Impact: The Edmonton Oilers have agreed to a contract with Nikita Nikitin, thus finalizing a trade with Columbus for a fifth-round draft pick.
The Oilers get: a very underrated – but very injury-prone – defenseman. And now you can add “very overpaid” to the list (two years, $9 million). So I guess that means he’s not really underrated. At least, not in Edmonton.
Nikitin joined Columbus in 2011 and promptly posted 32 points in 54 games. However, with James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson in the fold (for the most part they were not around during the window in which Nikitin was putting up big points), he was relegated to the second unit of both special teams. For example, in 2013-14 he averaged 48 seconds per game of power-play time. Compare that to his big season in 2011-12 when he saw 2:45.
With such a big contract will come big expectations and loads of ice time – including power-play time. What that will mean is a bump in all categories. Nikitin could very well be a player who posts 43 points, 140 hits and 110 blocked shots. In fact, I believe that he’ll do just that in his first 82 games with Edmonton. The problem is – those 82 games may take him two-and-a-half years to reach.
Here are Nikitin’s “games missed” during his three full NHL seasons:
2011-12 – 21
2012-13 – 10
2013-14 – 16
Pro-rate that lockout-shortened middle number and he’s averaging around 18 games missed due to injury per year.
Fantasy Players Impacted: If you’re in a league with weekly or daily rosters, then Nikitin becomes a very valuable player. You IR him when he gets hurt and you roster him when he’s healthy. He’ll come up really big for you, take it to the bank (no guarantees on the plus/minus though). He and Justin Schultz will man the power play.
He turned 28 last week, so he’s a late bloomer. The Oilers consider him a “veteran” who will lead the young defense corps over the next few years. His presence will ensure that one of Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom gets another year of seasoning in a lower league. This makes five defensemen for next year, plus Klefbom. Another free agent addition would pretty much guarantee that Nurse will have to wait another year. This helps him long term, obviously, but hurts in the short term.
Fantasy Players this helps, in order:
2. Nurse/Klefbom long term
Fantasy Players this hurts, in order:
1. Nurse/Klefbom short term