Oilers insider: “Zack Kassian, there will be teams interested in him.” But should Edmonton move him?

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This in from NHL insider Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now, his take on potential interest in Zack Kassian of the Edmonton Oilers.

“Zack Kassian, there will be teams interested in him. I could see Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers, but in fairness to Zack, I didn’t mind what we saw of Zack in the third and fourth game of the (Winnipeg) series.”

My take

1. Kassian has three more years on a deal with a $3.2 million per year cap hit. He will be 31 in January. He’s at an age when many players start to fade in terms of their two-way play. That’s certainly what we saw from Kassian this 2021 regular season. But as Stauffer suggests, big Kassian did play well in the final two playoff games against Winnipeg. He provides the Oilers with a menacing physical player who can help them win in the playoffs, at least if he brings his “A” game. He’s also an enforcer with the ability to ride shotgun now and then with Connor McDavid in the regular season.

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2. Kassian’s scoring fizzled in 2021. He ranked 391 out of 432 NHL forwards for even strength scoring, with just 0.96 points per 60, about the same level of scoring as players like Wayne Simmonds, Matt Martin, Andrew Cogliano and Riley Nash.

3. On the Oilers, he ranked just 11th for Oilers forwards on hard plays at the net (screens, jams, tips, hard charges and battles won) on Grade A scoring chances. Not good, not for a player who was a team leader in that category in 2019-20, the year Kassian earned his big contract.

4. When it comes to his two-way play at even strength, of the 11 Oilers wingers who played more than 200 minutes, Kassian ranked six in major contributions to Grade A shots for but was third worst out of the 11 when it came to leaking Grading A chances against. Overall, he ranked 9th out of the 11 wingers, just behind Josh Archibald and Tyler Ennis and just ahead of Devin Shore and Kyle Turris. There’s a good case that the Oilers should move on from all those wingers, save for Archibald, who impresses with his hitting and forechecking.

5. The Kassian contract was one of the last major pieces of business that GM Ken Holland did before the pandemic and lockdown. Much has changed since then, with little to no prospect of the Oilers salary cap rising in the next few years, which would make it easier to carry a hefty contract for a fourth line tough guy.

6. The Oilers aren’t a big team and without Kassian, they’d suddenly be a lot smaller and lacking in any kind physical menace save for Darnell Nurse, who you really don’t want engaging in fist fights. Is that enough reason to keep him around at his premium price, and with the prospect that his game isn’t likely to get any better in the next three seasons? I can see the Oilers both tempted to move him but tempted to keep him. I am unsure of what’s best to do here. If I had a vote, I’d certainly like to hear what other teams have to offer.

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