The Edmonton Oilers received mixed reviews for signing defenseman Nikita Nikitin to a hefty contract this offseason, but that salary dictates that he’ll play at least a somewhat prominent role with the team if he can stay healthy. That health seems to be in some doubt as of Thursday night, even if the Oilers themselves seem pretty optimistic that his ankle injury won’t be a big issue.
It’s difficult to sugarcoat “leaving the arena in a walking boot,” though. Various sources reported as much, but only the Edmonton Journal’s John MacKinnon used the word “gizmo,” so we’ll roll with his take:
The Oilers announced that he’s dealing with ankle issue:
While head coach Dallas Eakins said he thinks it will only sideline him for a week or two:
If Eakins is correct, then the 28-year-old dodged a bullet in that seemingly dangerous exhibition versus the Vancouver Canucks.
Even if he’s healthy, Nikitin faces the challenge of justifying his two-year, $9 million contract to critics include Tyler Dellow, who was recently hired by the Oilers. Here’s what Dellow wrote about the Nikitin signing well before he was hired by the Oilers in June:
The usual failing of free agency is that it involves paying players for what they’ve accomplished in the past rather than what they might reasonably be expected to do in the future. The Oilers pulled off the rather unique feat of paying a player who hasn’t accomplished much in the past and, given his age, can’t reasonably be expected to accomplish more in the future.
A clean bill of health would certainly be a nice first step for Nikitin to prove doubters wrong.