Nikita Nikitin was a sore spot for the Edmonton Oilers in the 2014-2015 season’ although the team’s defensive lapses certainly weren’t all on his shoulders, the 29 year old native of Omsk, Russia failed to play at a level that befit his $4.5 million AAV cap hit.
The Oilers, short of buying the veteran blue liner out (which is no longer feasible this year, as the buyout window has passed for the 2015-2016 season), can’t do much about the cap hit. What they can do, though, is place him on waivers — if he clears, he’ll report to the AHL on Sunday at noon.
Should Nikitin clear waivers and report to the Bakersfield Condors next week, the former St. Louis Blues fifth round draft selection will only cost the Oilers $3.55M in cap space for the final season of his contract. The deal, signed as a two year, $9M extension starting in the 2014-2015 season, will expire at the end of the upcoming year; if he’s already being placed on waivers as the true odd man out in Edmonton’s lineup, it seems unlikely he’ll earn himself a new deal when the current one is up.
While Nikitin on waivers is already a bit of a shock, there’s another name that was placed on waivers this weekend — and actually cleared at noon on Saturday.
Bryan Bickell is the 29 year old depth forward that the Chicago Blackhawks have been trying to unload for cap-related purposes likely since the start of the summer; even though the team already had to get rid of fellow depth forward Kris Versteeg earlier this off-season, though, the team still tried to offer him up around the league. Bickell was placed on waivers by the Blackhawks on Friday morning, and he officially cleared on Saturday; the Blackhawks can now reassign him to the AHL, although they won’t get much in the way of cap relief for his own $4M AAV cap hit.
Drafted in the second round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Blackhawks themselves, Bickell has racked up 65 goals and 133 regular season points with the club in 359 games over his NHL career. A former Ottawa 67’s forward, Bickell has never played in another NHL club’s system outside of Chicago; as a now three-time Stanley Cup Champion, the veteran depth forward is putting the Blackhawks in a tight position by failing to get claimed on waivers. Per General Fanager, Chicago is $189,710 over the salary cap; reassigning Bickell to the AHL would put them just under the upper limit, but not by much.