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WWYDW: Committing to Zack Kassian

With Leon Draisaitl and Kris Russell both on expiring contracts, it’s understandable that not a lot of attention has been paid to Zack Kassian, whose current one-year deal comes to an end on July 1. In this week’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday, we ask what tack the armchair GMs of Oilers Nation would take toward the big winger this summer.

This coming contract will be Kassian’s fourth at the NHL level, and the last before he qualifies for unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2018. His salary history, as per NHL Numbers, is as follows:

  • 2011-14: Three-year entry level deal, $870,000 cap hit.
  • 2014-16: Two years, $1.75 million cap hit
  • 2016-17: One year, $1.5 million cap hit

The final year of Kassian’s entry-level deal was the best of his career; he scored a career-high 14 goals and 29 points. Things went off the rails for a bit afterward, and he accepted less than his qualifying offer this season to re-up with the Oilers.

Kassian has averaged about 12 minutes per game for Edmonton this year, 11 of them at evens and one on the penalty kill, totals which make him a top-nine forward for the team at 5-on-5 and place him 10th overall in average ice-time in all situations.

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Performance is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. I think he’s got more to give offensively – his shooting percentage at 5v5 is down this year, he’s had a bunch of goals called back and he hasn’t set foot on the power play. His shot metrics are pretty middle of the road, which fits with the rest of his career and his usage as a forward on the third-line bubble.

As for contract expectations, it’s worth looking at what forwards with similar scoring totals and expiring contracts at the same age earned on their next deals:

Player Season PTS/GP Size Prior Cap Hit New Term New Cap Hit
Zack Kassian 2016-17 0.32 6’3″, 217 $1,500,000
Sean Bergenheim 2010-11 0.36 5’11”, 200 $700,000 4 years $2,750,000
Shawn Matthias 2014-15 0.35 6’4″, 231 $1,750,000 1 year $2,300,000
Mason Raymond 2011-12 0.36 6’1″, 179 $2,550,000 1 year $2,275,000
Daniel Winnik 2011-12 0.27 6’2″, 206 $950,000 2 years $1,800,000
Ryan Jones 2010-11 0.31 6’1″, 205 $975,000 2 years $1,500,000
Trevor Lewis 2012-13 0.29 6’1″, 201 $725,000 1 year $1,325,000
Patrick Eaves 2010-11 0.32 6′, 200 $750,000 3 years $1,200,000
Paul Byron 2015-16 0.29 5’9″, 160 $900,000 3 years $1,166,667
Justin Fontaine 2013-14 0.32 5’10”, 174 $600,000 2 years $1,000,000
Blake Comeau 2012-13 0.29 6’1″, 202 $1,250,000 1 year $1,000,000
Colton Sceviour 2015-16 0.32 6′, 195 $650,000 2 years $950,000
Brian Flynn 2014-15 0.27 6’1, 183 $637,500 2 years $950,000
Riley Nash 2015-16 0.34 6’1″, 200 $1,150,000 2 years $900,000
Nate Thompson 2010-11 0.27 6′, 212 $625,000 2 years $900,000
Kyle Chipchura 2012-13 0.30 6’2″, 203 $675,000 3 years $875,000
Drew Miller 2010-11 0.27 6’2″, 183 $650,000 2 years $837,500

The first thing that stands out to me about this list is that there aren’t a lot of players who qualify for the big man’s premium on this list. It’s not a coincidence that Shawn Matthias is at the higher end of this spectrum for that very reason.

The second item is that the level of offence Kassian has provided this season can often be found quite cheaply. Blake Comeau and Patrick Eaves are players I’ve always liked and very much comparables in terms of role on the roster when they signed their deals; both come in around the median on this list and are cheaper than Kassian is even now.

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If anything, the price on this level of scorer has come down a bit in recent years as NHL GMs get more efficient with their spending.

The only Oilers player on this list of comparables is Ryan Jones, who has some things in common with Kassian in terms of both scoring and role (though I’d argue strenuously that Kassian is the superior player). He got two years at $1.5 million/season.

Kassian’s last deal complicates matters a little bit. He took a pay cut last summer after coming off a difficult season; it seems unlikely that he’d be interested in doing so again. Taking size, age and some of the performance factors this year into account, in the GMs shoes I’d be looking for a modest raise and a little bit of term on Kassian, something like a $1.75 million cap hit over two years.

What would you be comfortable with?


  • Oil Is My Blood

    2 @ 1.75 sounds exactly right
    On a serious note, 2 questions:

    Now that we’ve clinched a spot, when can I start my playoff beard?
    And when can I start to fly my Oiler car flags?

  • giddy

    I think I’d consider a 2×2 contract for him. Maybe longer term for a bit cheaper. Willis, I know you like to deal with mainly the quantitative data to represent your arguments, but I fully believe what Kassian really brings to the team is the intangibles, i.e. the fact he’s bat**** crazy, but isn’t a complete loose cannon. As well, he’s the exact guy you want on your team in playoffs. He’ll play the hard, emotional, grueling hockey you see in the playoffs as good as anybody else.

    Also, seeing Jonesy there put a bad taste in my mouth. Never really understood everyone’s love affair with him.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    Kassian’s disallowed goals this year are going to cost him about a million dollars on this contract. Too bad for him.

    I’d be willing to take a small gamble that he’s got a higher ceiling and get a 3rd year at a decent price. 3 years $6M

    • FISTO Siltanen

      Honestly if that’s the price point range I’d go 4 years and let it drop off as low as possible for the final year to make him as attractive as possible to trade if such a move is necessary.

      I think he is a gamer who helps move the needle for this team in behind the scenes.

  • Bills Bills

    He needs to come on the cheap. He’s got a role to fill but you can’t commit large dollars, long term to bottom 6 forwards. It has to be bigger than Kassian. I want him on the team but on the Oilers terms.

  • Rama Lama

    I would try and leverage a longer term deal if I were Kassian……..perhaps a three year deal. He has shown that he can play in multiple situations and skate with the best of them. With a better centre, it’s not beyond him to be a 20 goal scorer.

    My insecurities about his recovery and the worries of relapse, have long disappeared. I recall a time ( after the Gagner incident) that I could not stand this player. Speaking of Gagner, I think he would make a great third liner with the Oilers………how ironic would it be if the Oilers were to secure his services…….I digress.

    Sign Kassian PC and do it soon…….he has opened a lot of eyes with his team play!

    • OriginalPouzar

      Zack is doing great, however, there will be the risk of relapse until the day he dies. That is not a shot at Zack and in no way is said to disrespect him, its simply the nature of the disease of addiction. As an addict in recovery and an active member of NA, I know multiple people with over 5 years clean time (one over 20 years) that have relapsed, two dead within a week.

      One day at a time for Zack and he is doing an amazing job.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    With Lucic, Maroon and Kassian, we have 3 guys who will drop the gloves, stick up for teammates and throw hits. It’s nice to see that on every line.

    Kass is also 24th in the NHL in hits. He’s got more grit than Eaves and Comeau. I wouldn’t mind seeing Eaves on kassians line next year but i wouldn’t want to replace kass with eaves.

  • Homer

    I’d be down with 1.75 for three years he’s a good solider that wants to be here and he brings it every game imho. We’re one of the toughest teams and he’s a big part of that.

  • OilCan2

    I would leave him without a contract until the 4th of July. That way we do not have to protect him from Vegas and he can cash in elsewhere if he hits the big $$$. If we do well in the playoffs he may want to stick around for a one year deal again on the cheap.

  • OriginalPouzar

    He should be re-signed, 100% as long as he is willing to sign a reasonable contract and, given how grateful he seems to be and how much gratitude he’s expressed to the Oiler organization, I think he will.

    You can’t overpay bottom 6 players in hit or term though so we need to be careful. I’m thinking two years but maybe 3 is better as he’ll be a UFA at the end so a bit of term is OK. 3 years at $6M or below.

  • Copper

    Kassian is a fourth liner that can play 3rd line when needed. Oilers will have a lower cap next year while still needing to pay Leon. Need to be very careful with this salary. $1.75 is expensive for this level of player

    • Hemi-97

      He brings a lot to the table. More than just points. He looks to be a great teammate and turning into one of the most well liked and respected by the other players.

  • hockey1099

    Realistically we aren’t signing him until the playoffs are over. There is a lot that can and will happen before he is signed. We haven’t been in the dance for a decade so we forget about playoff performances. If zach does well he might look at a big pay day, if he crumbles we may leave him unprotected. I hope the big man does well because I love him on our team and I hope he has a reasonable ask because we have to be careful with our pending cap issues.

    • CDNinATL

      I’d give him 3 years too. He’s good asset that has showed us he’s worth keeping around. He’s done everything right the to prove he’s working hard!

  • Oiler Al

    On a good team he is really a 4th line guy.Very good skater, with limited skill and scoring.Wont drop the gloves too often
    [7 times ,compared to 19 for the top guy. Maroon had 9 fights] Can throw a good check when he dosen’t miss. I’
    d say 2 years @ $1.750.

  • KevCantDance

    Kassian is the type of guy who will fight Taylor Hall in his return to Edmonton. Anybody remember that exact moment he went after him? No regard, pure rage and fire. He was gonna get him a piece of some cheap elbowin’ snot, red in his eyes. Sign him up, 3 years, max 2 mil. Maybe 2 years. Probably 2 years.

  • Slanto3000

    Sign him for $5.5 million over 3 years. That hit on Ehkman-Larsson in Phoenix and the instantaneous glove drop that followed was when this team put the big boy pants on. The value of a guy like that has been missed over the last few years and it can’t be understated. I can only imagine that grin after a nasty playoff hit or greasy goal.

  • Slipknot 8

    I think he gets 2.0 X 3 years. Coaching staff loves this guy, and after watching after hours it’s clear Zack loves being here.

    It’s not just what the guy does on the ice but what he brings to the team, IIRC prior to or after the the LA game coach T-Mac had glowing remarks on Zack.

  • Shredder

    Lock him up for 4 years at $2.0M to $2.5M. He’ll prove to be worth it. May even be an ultra value contract. He’s young! Just getting better every year.

  • TKB2677

    Though I will give credit to Willis for at least mentioning the goals he’s had called back, he still mentions “shot metrics” an advanced stats as being pretty middle of the road. Kassian is a hard hitting, good skating, tough, penalty killing 3rd liner. He’s got 7 goals, 23 pts with 4 goals called back. Every one of is call back goals are on BS calls. The stupid offside rule where the refs have to slow the game down literally to frame by frame just so they can tell that the play was offside by millimeters. Hockey isn’t played in slow motion. Or the last one where the ref just blew the play down just because. You add on those goals that should count. All of a sudden he has 11 goals, 27 pts, almost 100 pims, over 180 hits, while being a good PK guy. That screams decent 3rd liner to me. Plus he seems like he is really liked in the room. I do agree with Willis that I think he has more to give offensively.

    Contract wise, I don’t break the bank on him but I’d have no problem going 2 mill – for 2-3 yrs.

  • NealH

    It’s been pretty obvious that McClellan and Chiarelli value Zack the same way as we’ve pretty much all said. What kind of deal they make will probably be behind the scenes, given Las Vegas, and I truly hope the “business” part of hockey doesn’t get in the way.

    p.s. – I unfurled my car flag from 06, and actually felt a sense of awe. It was kind of like ceremonious…

  • @Hallsy4

    The Oilers finally have a good third line, playing 3rd line minutes. I’d like the man resigned. I like DD thus far, and think he and Pouliot might be good linemates for eachother. I’ve harped on Pouliot more than most (he still makes too much money), but I’d consider even keeping that as a 3rd line next year. With very small tweaks, the team should be better next year IMO, which is good.

  • Big Jacks Meat

    Love Kass , don’t let him go. Yes cash I an issue but I think he likes it here and see’s whats returning.
    2.0 x 3 , not my money and others need to be paid but 15 goals 30-35 points with some luck for a 3rd liner
    is possible , he is snake bit right now… playoffs he will shine.