How’s your season treating you? Mostly good so far, yeah? The Oilers are on top of the Pacific Division, and we’re a little more than a quarter through the season. The Oilers took care of the Sharks on Tuesday by a 5-2 score. Mikko Koskinen held it together. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are straight up killing it right now. Zack Kassian scored his fourth goal in five games. What?
That’s right. Zack Kassian had another goal last night. It’s his fourth in his last five games, and his eighth on the season. That’s pretty darn good, especially when you consider that it’s coming from a guy who’s never had more than 30 points in a season.
It’s a contract year for Kassian. What should the Oilers do with Zack Kassian going forward?
FIRST OFF, BREATHE
This is a test. The Oilers have some time to figure out what their move is going to be. So let’s not rush too fast, OK?
Let’s see what Zack Kassian is.
Zack Kassian was selected 13th overall in 2009 by the Buffalo Sabres. After a couple dozen pro games, Kassian was shipped in a deal to the Canucks in a package that saw Cody Hodgson come back to the Sabres. Kassian was an aggitator to the Oilers during his tenure in Vancouver, though he never finished higher than 29 total points (2013-14).
By this time, it sure looked like Kassian’s M.O was to agitate, to be that physical presence and to throw hands if needed. That’s a fine position to have, so long as you’re responsible, and aren’t a liability on the ice.
Zack Kassian was moved to the Canadiens for Brandon Prust during the offseason of 2015. He never played for the Habs, and was eventually dealt to the Oilers for Ben Scrivens in late December of the same year.
So what’s Zack Kassian done since being acquired by the Oilers? Pretty much what Zack Kassian did for the first two-thirds of his NHL career. He’s done well as a bottom six option on the right side. Since coming over to Edmonton, he’s scored 40 goals and a total of 93 points in 291 games (.32 p/g). His work in the 2016-17 season and playoffs earned him a three year contract at 1.95MM a year.
He’s gotten top line duty this year, and it’s paid off well. In 23 games, he’s got sixteen points (8-8-16). If he continues playing on the top line with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, he’ll likely eclipse his career high of 29 points around midseason or shortly after.
16 points in just over a quarter season? Could that be 50 points? Well sure, but hang on.
Let’s say Zack Kassian busts the doors off of the season, scoring something wild. Say he scores, oh, 50 points. That’d be great, but is it worth a contract extension? And for how much?
I’m a big fan of getting a good deal. The Oilers are certainly going to have to get a good deal if they plan on keeping everyone around prior to next season.
Rishaug talking Zack Kassian potentially coming in somewhere between Micheal Ferland ($3.5M) & Tom Wilson ($5.167M)...— 3 Mic's (@akaRCN) November 20, 2019
Let me be absolutely crystal clear. If numbers like the ones you see in the tweet above start rolling in, you can let this one go. We just did this exact same thing last year, albeit on a smaller scale. Halfway between Ferland and Wilson is a little bit more than 4.25 a year, and...nah. This club should be able to find an NHL player that’s not making 4 million dollars to be able to play catch with 97.
Zack Kassian is on a heater right now. How much of a heater? He’s shooting 22.2% right now. That’s a lot! Consider his average is just about half of that, and it’s fair to say that he’s riding a wave right now. Good for that guy, and good for us. But, be prepared for when the waves come crashing down to Earth at some point. I don’t know when that will be. I certainly don’t want it to be after the club has extended him to a 3 year deal at 4.25MM a year, because that’s...not good.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
This exact thing happened last year with Alex Chiasson, who finished with 22 goals. He also had a career high 38 point season, which was great as well. He had a killer month when he went 7-2-9 in November. He scored sixteen goals prior to January 1st, then just six between January and April. The Oilers extended him to a two year deal at 2.15MM each year, thinking he’d have some more gas in the tank.
He’s got five points in 19 games this season, which will likely come out to something near 20 points at the end of the year. This is a player who I feel confident wouldn’t have gotten a multi-year deal from any other team, yet was re-signed by the Oilers on July 1st.
DOLLARS AND CENTS
I’ve got time for Kassian, just not at any extended length, or heavy dollars. Kassian will be 29 in January, and that’s also not an age I’d hand out an extended contract to a player that isn’t a superstar in the league. He’s in the final year of a three year deal valued at 1.95MM a year. Unless he absolutely tears the doors off (55+ points), I can’t see offering more than one year to this player. Why not? Because you don’t pay a heater. He’s not going to shoot 22% all of the time, adn if Tippett moves him down the lineup, you can all but erase this recent scoring touch.
Let’s see if the Oilers get this one right. One year and two and a half million? OK. Any more term or dollars, and you hand Zack’s agent the phone.