Following the Oiler’s recent road loss to the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oiler’s Peter Chiarelli pulled the trigger on a deal that had been rumoured for a few days, trading former number one goalie, Ben Scrivens for heavyweight agitator Zack Kassian, who was playing with the Montreal Canadians AHL affiliate.
From an Oiler’s perspective, the trade will not offer any cap-relief (Edmonton is retaining some of Scriven’s salary according to Jonathan Willis) but the reasons for the trade are for more than just saving a few bucks.
Will Kassian Make the Oilers Tougher?
Kassian does have potential. In spite of his personal challenges, he was a top 15 first rounder (13th overall in the 2009 NHL entry draft) and at 6’3 217lbs, can play the agitator role to a tee, because he can stir up crap and has the physical ability to clean up the mess he creates. He also has a decent touch around the net for a skater of his type, and was a point per game player with the OHL Peterborough Petes in his draft year, made Canada’s World Junior squad in 2010, and has shown he can contribute at the NHL level. So what is it about this deal that makes you want to take a shower?
The most obvious issue is that Kassian has had substance abuse issues that could flare up, or worse, negatively influence a youthful lineup.
But let’s be honest, Chiarelli has traded for a player that Oiler fans relish in detesting. Hating Kassian because he purposely injured Sam Gagner (career has never been the same since) and taunted that player about it afterwards. That sort of behaviour goes to character, and it remains an area of concern.
Another consideration is how it will affect the current lineup. You would have to think current enforcer Luke Gazdic has a target on his back and his time in the lineup will be affected by how hard he is pushed by Kassian in the minors. If Kassian proves he has recovered, Gazdic’s days are numbered, which is what it is, but Gazdic is an honest player and respected teammate.
Maintaining Player Development
As for Ben Scrivens, an opportunity to repeat history is presenting itself. Will he be able to follow in Devan Dubnyk’s footsteps and re-invent himself? My observation is he’s a career back-up, and we should all wish him the best in making the most of that opportunity. In trading Scrivens the Oilers are rightly adjusting to an AHL goalie tandem that will focus on development as talented Finnish netminder Etu Laurikainen has been recalled from the Finnish Elite league, and will continue to hone his craft in the AHL.
But getting back to Kassian, will he make the most of his opportunity? He has the ability. If all the cards were played correctly he could see time with former WJC teammate Taylor Hall. Or, if he doesn’t sort himself out, spends time in the pressbox, he likely won’t get re-signed in the summer. From a pure asset exchange, it’s a low risk trade. There’s no question the Oilers need a tough guy who can play in the top 9, and Kassian has that ability. At this point it could go either way, and while Chiarelli, has not given up a lot for Kassian, his reputation in judging character and the player are the highest risk.