The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed defenseman Nikita Nikitin to a two-year, $4.3 million contract, club Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Scott Howson announced today. Nikitin will earn $1.8 million in 2012-13 and $2.5 million in 2013-14.
Nikitin, 26, registered seven goals and 25 assists for 32 points with 18 penalty minutes in 61 games with the Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues in 2011-12, including 7-25-32 and 14 penalty minutes in 54 games after being acquired by Columbus from St. Louis in exchange for Kris Russell on November 11, 2011. He ranked second among club defensemen in goals, assists and points, was second overall with three game-winning goals and fourth in average time on ice (23:11), setting career highs in each of those categories.
“We were very pleased with the way Nikita played after joining us last season as he became a significant contributor on our blue line,” said Howson. “He made tremendous strides this year and will continue to be an important part of what we believe is a very good group of defensemen.”
St. Louis’ fifth pick, 136th overall, in the 2004 Draft, he has collected 8-33-41 and 28 penalty minutes in 102 career NHL games from 2010-12. He split the 2011-12 season between St. Louis and its American Hockey League affiliate, Peoria, where he notched 3-11-14 and 12 penalty minutes in 22 games with the Rivermen.
A native of Omsk, Russia, Nikitin collected four assists and four penalty minutes with a +4 plus/minus rating in 10 games to help Team Russia capture the gold medal at the 2012 World Hockey Championships. He also helped Russia capture a silver medal at the 2006 World Junior Championships. Nikitin spent six seasons playing for Avangard Omsk and Omsk 2 in Russia from 2004-2010 and totaled 13-48-61, 213 penalty minutes and a +9 plus/minus rating in 262 combined games.
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