The Edmonton Oilers are zeroing in on defenseman Nikita Nikitin, and one of their executives is no doubt hoping it’s a happy reunion.
In a tenure that featured more misses than hits, Nikitin was a diamond in the rough for Scott Howson when he was general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets. St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock wanted defenseman Kris Russell from his former team in Columbus; Howson asked for, and received, Nikitin back in 2011.
He produced that season, with 32 points in 61 games, and has had some streaks of quality games. But his special teams time dropped this season along with this effectiveness, and the Jackets were looking to deal him two months into the campaign to make room for younger players.
Nikitin was destined for free agency; so Howson, now an assistant general manager with the Oilers, want to have a chat with him.
According to Bob McKenzie, the Oilers have been granted permission to speak with Nikitin; if they’re able to strike a deal, then the Jackets would be compensated, most likely with a fifth-round pick.
Is he a good fit for Edmonton? Well, any upgrade on the blue line is a positive upgrade. He doesn’t use his size well, doesn’t exactly have wheels, but he’s a good possession player with some offensive upside. Some might look down on this, considering the Oilers need top pairing defensemen rather than depth guys. But an upgrade’s an upgrade if the deal comes through.