This morning the Oilers made a trade with the Montreal Canadiens swapping Ben Scrivens and Zack Kassian, two players who were playing in the NHL last season but have yet to play a single NHL game this season. In the case of Scrivens, he was demoted to the AHL after a terrible season last year and a tranning camp this season where Anders Nilsson outplayed him and claimed the backup role. Unlike Scrivens, Kassian hasn't been playing in the AHL, instead he had been dealing with some off ice issues while seeking treatment through the league's substance abuse program.
Now, obviously, Kassian has a history with the Oilers, and a history league wide as being, well, let's just say that he has a history of being a prick, but even with all of that and his off ice issues this is still a decent deal for the Oilers. Basically it's a zero risk move with the potential for some upside if Kassian has fully addressed his off ice issues.
With the Oilers retaining 24% of Scrivens' salary there is no cap savings for the Oilers in this deal, in fact the added a couple thousand to their bottom line, but those dollars were a sunk cost because Scrivens wasn't ever going to play for the Oilers this season (barring injury of course) whereas Kassian might. And if he doesn't the Oilers have the exact same amount of money buried in the AHL and both deals expire at the end of the season. It's a zero risk move for the Oilers.
So what kind of upside are the Oilers looking at here? In the last two seasons Kassian has scored 1.84 and 1.91 points/60 during 5-on-5 play; that would have been good enough for third place and fifth place on the Oilers during those same seasons. Combine that with a Corsi For percentage that has been at or above breakeven for most of his career and it looks like there is a bit of a player buried in there somewhere. At the very least Kassian has the potential to be an upgrade on several of the players currently playing on the Oilers bottom two lines, and likely make Luke Gazdic redundant.
Kassian isn't an enforcer/fighter like Gazdic is, but with just four fight this season the Oilers aren't using Gazdic as a fighter either. Instead of using him as an enforcer the Oilers have been using Gazdic as a player and that's simply not a good long term plan. It's not a good short term plan either. When the Oilers get Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov back in the lineup that will likely mark the end of Gazdic's time in an Oilers jersey because everything he does Kassian simply does better.
Regardless of your thoughts on grit or functional toughness or whatever you want to call it, this is a deal that probably makes the Oilers a better team today and certainly doesn't make them worse. It's hard to like a deal like that, even if they player they got is sometimes very easy to dislike.