After a very successful season in which they reached the Western Conference Final for the first time in 16 years, Edmonton Oilers fans are eager for even more in 2022-23. While similar success is certainly possible given the talent they possess in players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, they could run into some problems when it comes to spending this offseason due to their very limited cap space.
As of now, they have just over $7 million in cap space heading into free agency. Most are under the impression they will look to add a goalie, whether via free agency or a trade, which will take up a good chunk of that space. They also have holes to fill both up front and on the back end, and are also hoping to bring back Evander Kane. If they have any shot at doing that, however, it will require general manager Ken Holland shedding some salary from his roster. One player in particular who many believe he will look to move on from is 31-year-old Zack Kassian.
The issue with moving Kassian is that, at this point in his career, he has become extremely inconsistent. Early on in his Oilers days, he was a player you could count on to throw his body around each and every night, while also chipping in from time to time offensively. Over the past two seasons, however, there are plenty of games where you wouldn’t realize he suited up if you didn’t take a peek at the box score.
Due to his struggles in recent years, many believe Holland will be forced to buy him out this offseason. That may prove to be the case, though there are some who have suggested that if the Oilers retain some of his $3.2 million cap hit, there may be some suitors. After all, he does still at times show glimpses of the player he once was, and perhaps a change of scenery could get him back to that level on a more consistent basis. Here are three teams that may very well entertain the idea of bringing in the rugged winger.
Back in the 2020-21 season, New York Rangers management saw their best player in Artemi Panarin get rag dolled by Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals. No one stepped in for the Russian superstar at the time, and it quickly drew notice to the fact that they lacked team toughness in a major way. As a result, they went out and acquired Ryan Reaves last offseason, and to no surprise didn’t have any issues when it came to being pushed around in 2021-22.
This season, the Anaheim Ducks went through a similar situation in a game versus the Arizona Coyotes. After a scrum in which Trevor Zegras poked for a puck after a whistle, several Coyotes players became enraged, none more so than Jay Beagle. He quickly grabbed a hold of skilled forward Troy Terry and laid a beating on him. Like the Rangers a year prior, the Ducks had no one in the lineup to help prevent that situation from occurring.
Though Kassian isn’t in the same category as Reaves when it comes to NHL heavyweights, he is still regarded as a very tough opponent who isn’t shy to drop the gloves. You can bet that having a player like him on the bench would have had Beagle thinking twice before going after Terry the way he did. They are a team who has nearly $40 million in cap space this season, making them an ideal fit.
Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings find themselves on this list for several reasons similar to the Ducks. While they didn’t have any incidents similar to what Terry went through this past season, they too are a young skilled team on the rise that lacks toughness. Tyler Bertuzzi is by no means a pushover, but he is a player they would prefer to keep on the ice rather than have fighting given the fact he is one of their biggest offensive threats.
Also similar to the Ducks is the fact that the Red Wings have a ton of cap space. While they do have a number of unrestricted and restricted free agents to make decisions on, they are nearly $36 million under the cap limit at the moment. That means that taking on Kassian, whether at his full contract or perhaps just a portion of it, wouldn’t be much of a problem for Steve Yzerman and the rest of his management team.
The Philadelphia Flyers are in a very interesting spot as an organization right now. After missing the playoffs by a wide margin in each of the past two seasons, many thought they were headed for a rebuild. Instead, they went out and hired John Tortorella as their new head coach, and are reportedly looking to make other changes in order to try and compete for a Stanley Cup this coming season.
As everyone knows, Tortorella loves players who approach the game with a hard-nosed style. Kassian can be just that, and Torts may be the perfect guy to get him to bring a full and consistent effort each and every night. If this were to happen, Kassian is the type of player who would be loved by Flyers faithful if he plays to the level he has in years past.
Kassian’s Tenure With the Oilers Likely Over
Regardless of whether or not Holland is able to find a trading partner for Kassian, it appears his time with the Oilers is finished. With their less than ideal cap situation right now, they simply cannot afford to be paying $3.2 million to a player who had just 19 points in 58 games this past season. Barring a major shocker, he will be bought out if no teams are willing to make a deal for him.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.