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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Keepers

Like most of you, the four-game heater Zack Kassian has been on alongside Connor McDavid going into tonight’s game with the Toronto Maple Leafs hasn’t convinced me he’s a fit there over the long term. We know better — small sample size and all that — because we pretty much know what Kassian is at this point in his career.

Likewise, I’m not expecting that bargain signing Alex Chiasson has somehow morphed into a guy the Edmonton Oilers can count on for 20 goals a season moving forward, even though he needs just one to hit that mark as the Leafs come calling. Chiasson got off to a ridiculously hot start, when everything he shot went in the net, so there’s no reason for the Oilers to throw a stack of term or money at him to retain his services this spring.

Neither Kassian nor Chiasson, who are both 28, are what they’ve appeared to be during short stretches this season. That said, both are NHL players with a team that needs more of those, and that’s something I hope doesn’t get lost in all the change we’re going to see on the ice and in the front office this coming offseason.

It goes without saying Kassian and Chiasson don’t belong in the same conversation as captain Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins when it comes to creating a foundation the new GM can build on up front, but here and now they’re as close as it gets to being sure things. Yes, there’s some maybe-guys on the way, but we know better after all this time not to count on that, no?

HEY, CRAZY EYES

Dec 23, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian (44) chases Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher (11) around the net during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

With goals in four straight games and 12-8-20 in 64 games, Kassian might yet take a run at the career-high 29 points he had with Vancouver in 2013-14, when he spent time playing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin. That doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that Kassian has a blend of speed, size, hands and nastiness that allow him to play up and down the line-up. He’s good enough to be spotted with McDavid, rambunctious enough to bang and yap in the bottom six as a pain in the backside.

“I think I have the skills to go up and down the lineup, playing anywhere,” Kassian said. “When you’re in a bottom-six role, you’re trying to create more energy and get under the other team’s skin and sometimes your emotion gets the best of you. With this, the more you play, you still have to be physical but it’s a different kind of physical.

“You are going from 10 minutes to 18, from dumping it in all the time to puck-possession. There’s a lot of off-the-rush when you’re playing higher up in the lineup. It takes five or six times to adapt and I think I’ve done a good job of it.”

No argument here. The Oilers have Kassian under contract for another year at an AAV of $1.95 million. While that’s a bit rich for a guy who is strictly a bottom-sixer, that’s not Kassian. He’s playing 13:49 a night overall. His 12 goals leave him behind only Draisaitl (41), McDavid (33), RNH (21) and Chiasson (19). Plus, every now and then, he’ll go off on somebody.

THE BARGAIN GUY

Feb 21, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Alex Chiasson (39) looks for a rebound in front of New York Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner (40) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

As for Chiasson, who scored 11 goals on 32 shots in his first 20 games after signing for $650,000 as a UFA from Washington, I’m just glad Pete Chiarelli somehow resisted the urge to offer him $3 million a season for four years before he was shown the door. Chiasson, who also went 21 games without a goal, isn’t worth that kind of money, but he is worth re-signing.

While Chiasson is a bit of a plodder in terms of skating, he’s got good hands and a nose for the net. He can work the power play (six of his 19 goals are on the PP) and play a regular shift in the top-nine. Between the hot start and his ice-cold streak, Chiasson is still shooting at 19.6 per cent, which is a career-high for a full season. I see him as a player who can get you 12-15 goals a season. You pay him accordingly. If Chiasson asks too much term or money, adios.

Given the salary cap bind Chiarelli left the Oilers in, it’s obvious whoever takes over has to find some money somewhere. If I’m that guy, I’m not looking to get rid of Kassian or Chiasson to find it. A hockey deal? Sure. Until then, until somebody — Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto or whomever — proves they can be a productive, every-day NHL player or already is one, Kassian and Chiasson are keepers for me.

The Oilers need more of those, not less.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

 

  • Edsez

    They both have a place on the team as up ‘n down utility wingers but they, both, should be knocked down the depth chart by more skilled and consistent wingers.

    If only Yak had turned out to be an NHLer … there’s becoming more than a creeping doubt that Puljujarvi isn’t that guy either

    On the plus side … Benson and Marody are tearing it up

  • Harry2

    It makes perfect sence to me to pair Kass with McD and RNH and Chaisson with LD. As far as top 6 fwds go Kass and Chaisson are dirt cheap. The #1 priority for Edm this offseason as far as top 6 fwds go for me is for the new GM to find a winger who can play with Draisaitl so they can keep him and McD on seperate lines.

    If they have to package a pick or prospect in order to trade Lucic so the above can happen then go for it.

    For me the defence is set. As long as Sekera can have a healthy offseason and hit the ground running in September.

  • Arfguy

    If even half of what Rieder makes goes to Chiasson, I’d sign him. Basically, I’m saying that Chiasson may be worth $1 to $1.6 million AAV for the next couple of years.

    I’d say Rieder should go. If the Oilers want to bring him back for some depth in the AHL, that’s fine. However, Rieder has been all but invisible. Unproductive and unremarkable.

    I also resent that Hitchcock continues to bench Rattie. At this point, we have seen enough from players like Brodziak, Rieder and Lucic to know what they are capable of. Yes, Rattie has not been the 10-15 goal scorer that I had hoped he’d be, but he does compete on a regular basis. Hitchcock’s decisions with Rattie does not sit well with me.

  • toprightcorner

    I would sign Chaisson for $1.1 for 2 years as a 3rd liner.

    I still think Kassian is overpaid and is a regular 4th liner, I think you could find a 10 goal guy for half the cost. His size and toughness is a benefit, but with the tight cap crunch, If I could sign or trade for an equivalent for around $1 mill, I would trade Zach.

    • Kassian is sixth among forwards in icetime at 13:49. He’s playing up in the line-up and on special teams often enough that he’s more than a garden variety fourth-liner. You don’t get rid of Kassian because you “think” you can find someone at half the cost. You consider it when you have someone with a track record of doing it at half the cost. That’s the entire point of the item.

    • camdog

      Eberle and Kassian have 19 even strength points. Eberle is scoring less per minute than Kassian. Hall has 25 even strength points in an injury riddled year. It’s not out of the question that Kassian outscores both at 5 by 5 this season.

  • CMG30

    The salary cap troubles relate directly to Chirelli’s penchant for overpaying on nearly every contract. He has nickled and dimed this team into cap hell. Yes he made some outright terrible signings but overall it has been death by 1000 cuts.

  • BR

    Keep Kass for another year, we don’t have enough players who can actually play bottom six and contribute. Then Chiasson will depend on the money… 1m x2? Much more than that and he can walk. The extra year is what should lure him.