After three seasons with the Calgary Flames, Kris Russell could be heading to the other side of the Battle of Alberta this coming season.
Before being sent to the Dallas Stars at the trade deadline this past season, defenseman Kris Russell had spent the past three years of his career suiting up for the Calgary Flames. He could be heading back to Alberta next season, too, though it sounds as though he could be skating for the Flames’ greatest rival.
According to TSN’s Dustin Nielson, the Edmonton Oilers reached out to Russell, 29, in the past week and the expectation is the two sides will begin talking about a potential deal for the 2016-17 season. Nielson, as well as TSN 1260’s Paul Almeida, said that the deal would be, in all likelihood, a short-term contract.
As far as money goes on any potential new deal, the Oilers have more than enough space to ink Russell, but it remains to be seen if his waiting until the final days of the off-season helps him earn a raise on the $2.6 million average salary he had on his previous two-year deal with the Flames.
Landing in Edmonton would be somewhat strange for Russell given the top-end talent the Oilers currently possess, and there’s a good chance he would see his playing time diminish from the 23-plus minutes per game he averaged in 2015-16. The Oilers already boast Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera and Darnell Nurse as top-four options on the backend, and that’s not to mention the off-season acquisition of Adam Larsson, who will also take up a spot in the top-four.
Realistically, if Russell were to sign in Edmonton, he could do so as a depth defender and be used in a specialty role. Limiting Russell’s minutes has the potential to make him more effective, and his uncanny shot blocking ability would likely be a nice asset on the penalty kill for the Oilers.
Russell’s free agency has lasted much longer than most would have expected, especially for a player who was a top-four defenseman for with steady offensive contributions for much of the past three seasons. The 29-year-old remains without a contract with less than a month remaining until the start of the campaign, though, and that’s a scenario few saw coming.
Speculation has surrounded Russell’s free agency for much of the past few weeks, though there’s been no finality to the situation. Less than two weeks ago, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported as many as eight teams were interested in Russell and that he was expected to sign before training camp, but the time left before camp is dwindling.
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