Report: Oilers gain permission to negotiate with Nikitin

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Less than a week after Oilers GM Craig MacTavish spoke about his desire to upgrade the team’s defense, he might have taken his first step in that direction by gaining permission to negotiate with the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Nikita Nikitin, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

If the Oilers and Nikitin can reach an understanding, then the next step would be for Edmonton to acquire his rights so that he can be signed.

Nikitin, who turned 28 on Monday, had two goals, 15 points, and 72 blocked shots in a career-high 66 games last season. He’s dealt with a variety of ailments over the past three years, but he did average over 20 minutes per game in the shortened 2013 campaign and 2011-12 when he was healthy. Last season he logged just 17:06 minutes per contest as he found himself outside of the Blue Jackets’ top-four given the presence of Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin, and rookie Ryan Murray.

If Nikitin doesn’t sign with the Oilers, then he will be eligible to test the unrestricted free agent market for the first time in his career. He’s coming off of a two-year, $4.3 million deal.