Nikita Nikitin on waivers as Edmonton Oilers wise up

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Edmonton Oilers' Nikita Nikitin leaves the ice after an injury during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, in Edmonton, Alberta. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson)

Edmonton Oilers' Nikita Nikitin leaves the ice after an injury during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, in Edmonton, Alberta

Edmonton Oilers' Nikita Nikitin leaves the ice after an injury during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, in Edmonton, Alberta. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson)

The Edmonton Oilers dropped defenseman Nikita Nikitin on waivers on Saturday, in a reminder that new executives can clean up old messes with a clear conscience. 

Please recall the Oilers acquiring Nikitin’s negotiating rights from the Columbus Blue Jackets in June 2014, a move made under former general manager Craig MacTavish and his assistant GM Scott Howson, who acquired Nikitin from the St. Louis Blues in 2011 as GM of the Jackets.

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The Oilers’ blueline at the time was like wet tissue paper, so any NHL level defenseman added to that group seemed like an upgrade. Then they handed him a two-year deal with $4.5 million annually. Then he an injury-filled season with bad analytics, with MacTavish himself suggesting “I don’t think he was in the best shape that he could have been” in training camp.

MacTavish is gone. GM Peter Chiarelli has nothing to prove in having someone else’s $4.5-million boondoggle on the roster, so the Oilers popped him on waivers after an underwhelming preseason.

There were talks between the Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks about a Nikitin and Bryan Bickell swap; it never amounted to anything, and both players hit waivers (Bickell’s already passed through).

David Staples of Cult of Hockey felt that Niktin hadn’t played that poorly in the preseason. Before his waivering, Staples wrote:

The Oil might also need Nikitin. Right now the Oilers have good-offence, poor-defence Justin Schultz and poor-offence, good-defence Mark Fayne on the right side. There’s also newcomer Eric Gryba, who may lack the necessary mobility to make the required contributions.

Which of Schultz or Fayne is good to go with Andrej Sekera on the Oil’s top-pairing? The answer could well be neither. Schultz has played well in the preseason, but this has occurred in, well, the preseason.

Indeed, the answer for Sekera’s partner could be Nikitin, who might be big, strong and skilled enough to hold the role for a year, or part of a year.

Not everyone agreed.

OK, most people don’t agree.

Kris Hansen of Oil On Whyte didn’t mince words:

Whenever Nikitin touched the puck, it was like handling the grenade. Forget any creativity in the offensive zone: as soon as Nikitin would touch the thing, it would be a turnover where he would be losing another foot race.

Nikita Nikitin owes the Edmonton Oilers nine million dollars. How an NHL veteran shows up to camp in the same condition, or even dare I say worse condition, is beyond me. It paints to me, that this is a guy who cashed in his paycheque and he’s set for life. He’s an embarrassment to the logo on the jersey and embodies everything wrong these last few years as an Oilers fan: someone we hoped would actually be a player but turns out to be utter garbage.

Geez, tell us how you really feel …

So we imagine the next move for Nikitin will be the KHL, having played for Omsk for parts of eight years and where he'll immediately be favored to win the Russian Norris by default.

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