As per a report by the team on Monday, the Edmonton Oilers have agreed to terms with forward Dominik Kahun on a one-year contract with an AAV of $975,000. A signing that is widely being praised by Oilers fans and Edmonton-based media, this is another deal in a long line of low-cost deals Oilers GM Ken Holland has signed since the UFA market opened.
Kahun, 25, has scored 25 goals and 43 assists in 138 NHL games with Chicago, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. There’s some speculation he’ll slot in right beside a good friend and former teammate in Leon Draisaitl. Understanding the temptation to try and rekindle some of their former chemistry, is that the best decision?
Let’s take a look at why that may not be a slam dunk choice.
Does Kahun Give Edmonton Two Elite Lines?
In respect to how excited some in Oilers Nation are since the announcement, on the far end of the spectrum are fans suggesting Holland just went out and added a piece that will give Edmonton two elite top lines. The argument is that placing Kahun and Draisaitl together makes the most sense, citing their years of experience playing together in the past and that Draisaitl has lobbied for the Oilers to sign Kahun in the past.
They’ll add this move frees up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to play with Connor McDavid.
In 5v5 P/60 this year, Kahun’s 2.43 outranks players like Johnny Gaudreau (1.76), Taylor Hall (1.95), Mike Hoffman (1.99), Alex Ovechkin (2.27) and Auston Matthews (2.34). There’s certainly a reason to be optimistic. That said, he’s not the easiest player to assess because he had outrageous on-ice and individual shooting numbers this past season. Some of that could be luck, or at the very least, hard to repeat.
He’s also a player that has moved around a lot. The jury is out as to why and it’s not clear why the Buffalo Sabres elected not to qualify him, but it could suggest the Oilers and the fan base shouldn’t put the cart before the horse.
There’s reason assume Kahun will out-perform this contract, perhaps by a lot. You’ll get no argument from this writer in that respect. I like the signing. But, there’s also a reason to be cautiously optimistic that this deal doesn’t add a left-winger to the Oilers roster who is about to knock it out of the park as a top-six forward.
Splitting Up Nugent-Hopkins, Yamamoto, and Draisaitl
There’s also that not-so-small issue of what happens when the Oilers split up the Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto line. As was clearly evident during the play-in rounds this past postseason, that’s not exactly a winning strategy.
One would assume that head coach Dave Tippett has realized the balance he was searching for during the Oilers embarrassing loss to the Chicago Blackhawks came at the expense of that line’s success. He’s not going to be quick to repeat that mistake because a player who once played with Draisaitl will, all of a sudden, naturally be a better fit and has rejoined Draisaitl’s team. It was some time ago those two players played together and, to say the least, they are different hockey players now.
This is not to say the Oilers shouldn’t try reuniting the German duo if the opportunity presents itself. It just probably shouldn’t be Tippett’s default go-to move.
Why Not Try Him With McDavid?
If fans are really convinced Kahun has solved a lot of the Oilers issues in their top six, why not test drive Kahun with the best player in the world?
Clearly, the Oilers want to finally find that player who can light it up with McDavid as his center. If the thought is Kahun is a hidden gem the NHL has yet to really see show his true colors, why not give him his best shot out of the gate?
This allows the Oilers to keep one of their most productive lines together, puts some pressure on other left-wingers to produce and earn opportunities with McDavid and give Kahun an unreal opportunity from the get-go.
If it doesn’t work, there’s no reason a switch can’t be made later.