The Edmonton Oilers haven’t received much production from the majority of their forward group this season, with a few stark exceptions. Obviously the play of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been good enough, but there is another forward who has impressed for most of the year. Alex Chiasson, who signed to a one-year minimum salary contract after settling for a professional tryout in the offseason, has 17 goals in 43 games and has set himself up to land a new deal in the summer. Today, he told Rob Tychkowski of the Edmonton Sun that he hopes that contract comes with the Oilers. Tychkowski notes that Chiasson’s desire to stay will make it “much easier to keep him past the trade deadline.”
Re-signing Chiasson may be a good idea, but the Oilers have to be careful with how they hand out funds. Not only do they not currently have a GM in place—Keith Gretzky is performing the duties in the interim—but the team already has more than $70MM committed to players next season. By re-signing Chiasson and giving out new contracts to restricted free agents like Jesse Puljujarvi and Jujhar Khaira—not to mention a potential extension for Cam Talbot that has apparently been discussed—there won’t be a ton of room for real upgrades to get Edmonton to the next level. Simply put, the group they have right now is not good enough.
Still, there’s something to be said about a winger who has found success with the Oilers top players. While that seems like it should be a role that any halfway decent NHL winger could do, that hasn’t been the case so far. Finding players to line up beside McDavid and Draisaitl has been a struggle, and given that Chiasson will still likely be relatively inexpensive re-signing him may be worth more than trading him at the deadline.
Inexpensive is the key here though, as overpaying for a player like Chiasson is exactly the opposite of progress for the Oilers. The 28-year old is working with a ridiculous 25% shooting percentage on the season and has just 15 even-strength points on the year. It absolutely must be a short-term deal with a low cap hit, or the team will be putting themselves even further from contention.