Alex Chiasson is having a career year — he potted his 15th goal on Sunday and is on his way to shattering any prior production records he held with the multitude of teams he’s played for throughout his NHL career. Really, the Oilers landed on found money when they signed the man known as “the answer” in Edmonton but should he keep up anything close to this pace over the rest of the regular season, there will be a variety of teams calling during the summer when Chiasson has an opportunity to capitalize as most unrestricted free agents would.
The looming question to ask is: does Chiasson overlook the luster of free agency and understand the opportunity staring him in the face?
Chiasson’s Argument to Test Free Agency
Non-star players like Chiasson only get so many chances to cash in during their hockey careers. For example, this season, Chiasson came from a Stanley Cup winning roster in Washington where he wasn’t a central part of the offense but wasn’t insignificant either. Despite adding a Stanley Cup to his resume, he couldn’t land himself a guaranteed contract in the offseason with one of over 30 NHL organizations. Instead, he had to settle for a professional tryout with a non-playoff team.
The $650,000 gamble has worked out well for Chiasson and the Oilers but there certainly wasn’t a guarantee it would. For many players, tryouts go the other way and before you know it, someone with talent finds himself out of the NHL altogether. How many summers would Chiasson like to have the feeling of uncertainty coming out of a season while making the league minimum? The answer has to be as few as possible. Therefore, he may look for some security on his next deal.
No one can or should blame him should he post 25 goals to try and hit a home run during the summer. Most of us in that position would do the same.
Chiasson’s Argument to Stay Put
There’s a pretty significant reason Chiasson is doing so well. Yes, he produced on the second and third lines, and he’s got a knack for putting himself in the right position on the ice, but his run as part of Edmonton’s top line with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl speaks to the effect those two players have on almost any linemate. One needs to look no further than a player like Patrick Maroon who set career highs in Edmonton but now has one goal in 25 games this season in St. Louis. The McDavid effect is a real thing and GM’s likely know it.
He was wise when he saw an opportunity in Edmonton to play with skilled players and leaving McDavid virtually guarantees his numbers will drop next season. A good situation is a good situation and not one a player leaves without first giving it some thought.
If you believe his production isn’t a result of playing with McDavid, consider that regardless of the numbers Chiasson produces, there isn’t a guarantee that offers will come pouring in. In today’s NHL, GM’s are hesitant to give big money to players who produce well in a single season and that describes Chiasson to a tee. If Chiasson can post back-to-back good seasons, even three in a row, the likelihood he makes massive money one day goes up. Leave McDavid and struggle? Well, that long-term, big-money offer may never come.
The Oilers Argument for Not Overpaying
Whether Chiasson stays or goes, he will get paid. At least more than $650k per season. 30 other GM’s won’t let him slip through again if he scores 20 or more goals and the Oilers will want to reward him for producing on offense. That said, should the Oilers keep him at any cost? … No.
The Oilers deserve credit for not handing out a three-year deal to Maroon and they’d be better served to stick to a reasonable extension on Chiasson if they want to keep him around. What does that deal look like? Two years at $2 million per season? Maybe as high as $3 million if he hits 30 goals or 50 points?
For those that think this valuation is out to lunch, consider Edmonton has two good reasons to stick to their guns. First, they can’t afford to overpay anyone anymore. Their cap situation won’t allow it. Second, like Chiasson, a number of players can be plugged into the spot he currently occupies and score. Players around the NHL would salivate at a chance to play alongside the greatest player in the NHL — McDavid guarantees improved numbers.
Will Chiasson remember that when it comes time to talk extension? Unless the Oilers severely under offer, Chiasson might be best served not to let anyone take his place on that line for the next two or three seasons, build a reputation as a consistent offensive threat and then hit it out of the park.
Some might believe the chance to land a big raise in free agency this summer is a golden opportunity for Chiasson. Perhaps, that’s not the opportunity. Perhaps the opportunity is sticking where he is, proving he can repeat this performance and cash in long-term.