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.
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.
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?