Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish has taken the initiative and gained permission to negotiate with Columbus Blue Jackets’ Nikita Nikitin.
Clarification: EDM has window in which it’s permissible to negotiate with CBJ pending UFA Nikita Nikitin, but no trade has yet been made.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 20, 2014
The Oilers have a small window to reach a deal with Nikitin. If a deal can be made, the Oilers will then need to acquire his rights from Columbus so that he can be signed.
The 28-year-old defenseman had two goals and 15 points in a career high 66 games last season. He also managed 72 blocked shots.
Unfortunately Nikitin has been battling various injuries over the past couple of seasons. Due to this, he only averaged 17 minutes of play per game last season. The Blue Jackets are stacked with defensive talent with players such as Jack Johnson, Ryan Murray, James Wisniewski and Fedor Tyutin. Due to the competition, Nikitin is no longer one of the teams top four defensmen and negotiating a deal where he would have more ice time may be smart for his career.
Without a deal with the Oilers, Nikitin will enter unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career.
The Oilers are officially one of the worst teams in the NHL and possess the longest streak of any team not to make it to the playoffs with eight straight misses. During the 2013-14 season, the Oilers were 28th overall. MacTavish has recently stated that, “I’d like to add four or five players — one or two through trades and two or three unrestricted free agents.”
Negotiating a deal with Nikitin may be the beginning of these plans as MacTavish also mentioned that he’d like to make the majority of these changes prior to the start of free agency. With only ten days to do so, MacTavish is expected to be quite busy in the coming week.