The news comes on the heels of the Nail Yakupov trade, which saw the number one draft pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft traded to the St. Louis Blues for a prospect and a pick.
Russell was one of the most talked-about remaining unrestricted free agents. He spent last season with the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames, picking up 19 points in the process. He was second overall in blocked shots, with 210 in 62 games.
The Flames traded him to the Stars in February.
The 29-year-old gives the Oilers a traditional defensive defenceman in a lot of ways, as his shot-blocking prowess is well-documented. He is also a confident skater and plays well with the puck, which makes him a solid presence on the power play. Two of his four goals last season came on the man-advantage.
Russell averaged 23:04 of ice time a game last season and dropped to 19:56 over the course of Dallas’ playoff run. He recorded four points in a dozen games.
It could be argued that the knock on Russell is a lack of size for his position, as he’s only 5’10 and 170 pounds. He sometimes struggles against larger forwards and that could be a problem in Edmonton, but he’s capable of moving the puck out of trouble and that should help balance the attack.
In 573 career games with the Stars, Flames, St. Louis Blues, and Columbus Blue Jackets, Russell has 177 career points – including 38 goals. In 36 post-season games, he has 16 points.
The Oilers had been hoping for a right-handed shot on the blueline and they didn’t get it with the left-handed Russell, but anything’s possible when it comes to line combinations.
Right now, Edmonton has options. Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom are theoretically the top pairing, with a potential partner for Russell in Andrej Sekera. And the 30-year-old Slovakian defenceman could always shift to his offside, as he already made adjustments to play alongside Zdeno Chara at the World Cup of Hockey.
There’s a lot to like about this signing if you’re an Oilers fan and there are a lot of possibilities along the blueline, with Edmonton finally addressing a long-standing issue. Sort of.