By Mike Meyer
Edmonton Oilers Writer
Only hours removed of trading forward, Nail Yakupov to St. Louis, Oilers General Manager, Peter Chiarelli made his second move of Friday night by signing free agent defenseman, Kris Russell.
The move sparks wonder and curiosity about Chiarelli’s leadership and boldness to change his club. First trading former 2010 1st overall draft pick, Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman, Adam Larsson. Next trading former 2012 first overall, Nail Yakupov for AHL forward, Zach Pochiro and a conditional 2017 3rd round draft pick. And now acquiring another left-handed defenseman in Russell. His moves to enhance and help his club on the ice have certainly been bold, questionable, and interesting.
Russell will join the Oilers as the sixth left-handed defenseman on their roster. This is not to undermine the value that Russell can bring to this lineup, it is simply stating that a move perhaps was made out of desire, and not need. Russell can indeed help out this blue line, as the 29-year-old has averaged 23 minutes of ice time over the last three seasons, along with 177 total points over a career 573 NHL games between the Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, and the Dallas Stars. Though he might not be the sexy defenseman that Oilers fans were looking to quarterback the Powerplay for the next several years, Kris has shown that he does have the ability to help in all aspects of the game. Russell is a defensive first style defenseman that can help out on the penalty kill that saw a below league average, 80.71% success rate. In the 62 games that Russell appeared in last season, he was second in blocked shots with 210. As the signing may not fit a “need” that the Oilers fans are searching for, perhaps head coach Todd McLellan feels comfortable with the group that he has and will be bringing Russell in on his 1 year deal to do what he does best: block shots. If indeed that is what the Oilers are searching for and what they feel is the true need for this team, the Oilers certainly got their man.
As Chiarelli’s moves may have not been overly appealing to fantasy matters or even that armchair general managers would make to help out their squad, Chiarelli has made hockey trades that he feels will help strengthen areas that his team is weakest in. If his club can see an increase in the overall standings and dare I say push for a playoff berth, this proves to be a success. With the regular season set to begin just days away, the impact of his moves will begin to take shape.