Last year, I said the Oilers should search for the next Patrick Maroon: an undervalued forward who could play alongside skilled players and score 15-plus goals. I mentioned Josh Leivo, Brett Connolly, Daniel Carr, and lastly, Alex Chiasson. I argued they should find the next Maroon instead of paying the big winger free-agent money. I thought Maroon would get too much money and term and the Oilers couldn’t afford that. Maroon didn’t get either, although he gave St. Louis a sweetheart deal to be closer to his son.
Now, the Oilers are in a similar position with Chiasson. Chiasson has certainly made good on his $650K contract, scoring 17 goals and 27 points already. Chiasson’s on pace for 25 goals and 40 points, but his current totals already would be just fine for the Oilers’ investment.
Can a team with such a lack of offence up front really let a likely 20-goal scorer go? Yes. The Oilers cap situation isn’t great and that might be an understatement. They have to be sure they’re not adding another bloated contract to the salary cap.
Chiasson has a 21 percent shooting percentage, nearly double his career average of 13.1 percent. He’s never been over 12 percent before last season with Washington, when he shot 15 percent. If the Oilers sign Chiasson, they need to pay him for what he’s going to do going forward not the hottest season of his career. Chiasson has 1 goal in his last 19 games.
The Oilers should follow the same path they did with Maroon. Flip him at the deadline for draft picks or prospects and sign or trade for some players who might score 15 goals on a dirt-cheap contract. The Oilers used this strategy this season and it paid off. The problem is they only used this strategy, betting on a group of extremely raw wingers and one of their centers playing the wing. They re-signed Ty Rattie, signed Chiasson after his professional try-out, and signed Tobias Rieder to a one-year contract worth $2 million. Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto both made the team out of camp.
Who can replace Chiasson next season on a cheap contract? Josh Leivo is on a 35-point pace since he was traded to Vancouver. Brett Connolly is on pace for 19 goals and 42 points in Washington, but is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
LW Daniel Carr hasn’t broken into the NHL full-time yet, although he has 23 goals and 57 points in 40 games with Vegas’ American Hockey League affiliate in Chicago. Carr’s an intriguing option because he’s fast and cheap.
LW Brandon Pirri is another Vegas winger I’d have time for. Pirri scores goals. Pirri has 15 points in 21 games with the Golden Knights this season after tearing up the AHL. Vegas could re-sign Pirri, but I’d offer him a contract worth a million and some if he made it to free agency. Pirri’s never made more than $1.1 million in a season and could score some goals alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.
LW Charles Hudon is a skilled winger who might be on the way out of Montreal. Hudon scored 30 points last season but hasn’t had the same success this season. He has 5 points in 31 games and playing almost three minutes less per game. Hudon hasn’t been a huge goal scorer in the NHL, but he’s scored over 27 goals twice in the AHL. His 5-percent shooting percentage might go up playing with one of the Oilers’ talented centers.
RW Richard Panik has played with skilled players before. Panik has a 22-goal season to his name and is responsible defensively. He already makes $2.8 million, so he’d be one of the more expensive options listed here. I’d be tempted to take Rieder’s money and hand it to Panik.
LW Anthony Duclair has 11 goals and 17 goals with Columbus this season, but head coach John Tortorella isn’t the biggest fan. Duclair is young and will probably be on another cheap contract next season. Duclari’s on pace for 16 goals. Sure, he’s already on his fourth NHL team, but the Oilers badly need wingers who can score.
The Oilers need more scoring wingers. They’ll have to add some established options, but their cap issues mean they’ll need another Chiasson or two if they want to remedy their depth scoring issues next season. Chiasson’s provided value, but they should search for the next cheap winger who can score 15 goals and cash Chiasson in for picks this trade deadline.