We’re still just halfway through the season and while the offseason is still a ways away — hopefully very far for the Edmonton Oilers — the discussion of next contracts will slowly start happening.
With all of the buzz around Klim Kostin and his hot start with the Oilers, fans in the market are beginning to clamour with wonder: what will his next contract look like?
There’s still lots of season left, first and foremost, and the sample size has been very small on the Oilers. There is, however, no denying the production that Kostin, a restricted free agent at the end of this season, has provided to this club at just a $750,000 cap hit.
Since the Oilers traded defenceman Dmirtri Samorukov for Kostin back on Oct. 9th, Kostin has drawn in for 29 NHL games after a stint with the Bakersfield Condors. He’s scored nine goals, fifth among all Oilers, and 13 points. He’s scoring goals on 23.7 percent of the shots he’s taken, well above any sustainable number for the overwhelming majority of NHL players, and is playing 10:33 per night. With Kostin on the ice at 5×5, the Oilers have controlled 49.05 percent of the shot attempts, 62.07 percent of the goals scored and 46.61 percent of the expected goals. He has a PDO of 104.4 in thanks to a 12.77 on-ice shooting percentage that will likely drop. According to hockeyviz.com, he provides offence at a four percent rate below league average and defence at a three percent rate below league average.
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The individual production has been great to see from a player who plays in straight lines, never shies away from contact and already has three fights to his name. With nicknames like Klim Shady et al, he’s quickly become a fan favourite with his style of play. He plays the game with an edge that the Oilers have a limited amount of in their lineup. Truly, he and Evander Kane, maybe Leon Draisaitl too, are the only ones who play with some real swagger in their game. They aren’t afraid to throw the body, get in a scrum here or there — and especially in Kostin’s case, stick up for teammates.
For many, this alone can be invaluable. For all, however, it should be a bit of a red flag. Not in terms of the player itself, but especially in Edmonton, what it could mean for a next contract.
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We’ve seen time and time again the Oilers get overly enamoured with this type of player. The Oilers have always tried to cycle this style of player through their bottom six. Who remembers the three-year deal Ben Eager got? Or the runway guys like Lauri Korpikoski, Rob Klinkhammer, et al had?
The true red flag through it all, however, is that of Zack Kassian. Kassian went on a similar scoring heater, albeit alongside Connor McDavid, and the Oilers jumped at signing him months before they needed to. The four-year, $3.2-million AAV deal was immediately an issue and one Ken Holland, who signed it, had to wriggle out of it after the first two years.
So where does that leave us with Kostin? Well right now, it’s hard to say. The remainder of the season will be a huge tell. Does he keep this production up showing signs of the offence some believed when he was drafted in the first round, or is this just another flash in the pan?
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Either way, the most logical outcome in terms of the next contract would be to issue Kostin, who is arbitration eligible, his qualifying offer of $787,500 and hope he is willing to play on it. A contract otherwise would make sense in the one-to-two-year range around $1-$1.5-million per year.
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A quick congratulations to friend of the Nation Amar Gill, who along with his wife welcomed their first born, Ruhaan Vir Gill, last Thursday, Jan. 11th. 

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]