On November 11, 2011, The Blues traded away defenseman Nikita Nikitin for Kris Russell, formerly of the Columbus Blue Jackets. On the surface, this trade looks to be relatively even – the teams merely swapped young defensemen with lots of upside but not any major accomplishments to date. However, as the 2011-2012 season showed, the Blue Jackets definitely came out on top in this deal.
In Columbus, Nikitin has been a top-four defensemen, finishing first in points among blue liners with 43, despite playing in only 54 games last season. He was also ranked in the top five in average time on ice (ATOI), power play points and PP assists for the Blue Jackets. Clearly, Nikitin is an essential piece to a defense that is slowly developing into a staunch unit with Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, and Fedor Tyutin. His production has steadily improved each year, and if he can stay healthy his point totals and ATOI will only continue to rise.
Russell, on the other hand, has been largely a disappointment during his brief tenure in St. Louis. After
he tallied 23 points and 37 penalty minutes with Columbus in 2010-2011, Russell only scored 12 points and posted only 25 penalty minutes during his first year with the Blues. Granted, he did play 18 less games due to injury, and his ATOI decreased by about one minute per game, but he did not provide a spark to a team that needed blue line production behind Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. Russell has the ability to become a top four defenseman for the Blues, and at only 25 he is still a young player, but at this point it appears that Columbus made out with the better end of this deal.