What have we here? A brand new mailbag for a brand new week! I hope all of you had an excellent practice retirement and you’re coming into a new week refreshed and feeling at your best. With everyone back at work for another week, I wanted to put together something to read and help you kill off a few minutes of company time and ease yourselves into another Monday. As always, I’ve sent your wonderings out to the writers and waited for all of their worldly wisdom to come back to me. I still need questions for next week, so if there is something Oilers related (or not) that you want to ask, feel free to hit me up by email or on Twitter. Enjoy.
1) Brent asks – A lot of people have been talking about Zack Kassian’s next contract this past week and I’d like to know what everyone thinks it might look like?
There’s a long way to go, but he’s playing himself into a contract somewhere in the range of $3M to $3.5. If he’s a 20-goal, 50-point player then it will be more. I’d like to keep the term to three years or less, but if this season continues the way it has started, he’ll have the chance to get more term.
This is tough. On one hand, he might be a 28-year-old UFA coming off a 25 goal season. That usually means you get $4 million a season. But Kassian gets to play with McDavid and Draisaitl. He wouldn’t be close to 20 goals if he played on any other line on this team. So how do we balance that? How interested will other teams be considering he plays on the best line in the league? There are so many variables at play here. My answer: two years at a cap hit of $3 million.
I’m just hoping for something that starts with a $2 at the front of it. Anybody else? Love Kass, I really do, but let’s not get crazy — the dude has some excellent linemates, ya know?
2) Brayden asks – The Oilers power play has been deadly this year and I’m wondering what the biggest difference is between this season and last? Why is are they so deadly on the PP?
James Neal’s ability to tip and get his stick on pucks around the net is significant. How many plays like that died on Milan Lucic’s stick in the previous two years? Also, Tippett is giving his first unit the vast majority of the time on the PP.
Having James Neal in front of the net has definitely helped. He’s a natural goal scorer who converts on a lot of chances. But really, it’s just having McDavid and Draisaitl. Those two should allow the Oilers to have a top ten powerplay every single year.
One big reason is because Milan Lucic is 300+ KMs away from it. Anybody? HEYOOOOOO! Answer: James Neal.
3) Hayley asks – A few weeks back, we were talking about Jujhar Khaira’s struggles but he has really turned things around over the past handful of games. What is he doing differently than he was earlier in the season?
Jujhar has to move his feet and use his size. When he doesn’t do that consistently he struggles. He’s got to put together longer stretches of what we’ve seen lately before we can say he’s turned the corner. He has it in him, but he can’t get comfortable.
He has a bit of confidence with the puck on his stick and he’s no longer just looking to make the safe play. He’s moving his feet more as well and that’s resulting in a better physical game and that’s allowing him to force more turnovers. I like that he’s taking some chances and not playing like he’s afraid of making a mistake anymore. I still think he can get 12-15 goals this season.
I thought Jujhar had some good games early in the season but he just couldn’t score, and now that he’s got a little bit of swagger he’s able to convert on some of the prime chances he had been missing.
4) @samakehurst91 asks – Mikko Koskinen is playing pretty damn good hockey lately. What is it going to take for everyone to say, “Maybe that Koskinen contract wasn’t so bad after all?” I mean he’s had really strong numbers and has played amazing so far to start the season. Will there be a time when we all eat our own words from last season? I think he’s earning the money so far.
There was no need to sign Koskinen to that contract when Chiarelli did. How Koskinen is playing now doesn’t change that fact. It was a shot in the dark that looks like it might work out, but that doesn’t mean it was a good bet. What would Koskinen have signed for at the end of last season?
At the time of the signing, it was awful and that needs to be remembered. If they would have given him three years by $3 million, as they should have at the time, then they would have been in a great spot right now. Robin Lehner won the Jennings Award last season and signed for 1 year/$5 million. The Oilers misread the goaltending market and while Koskinen looks good and I think he will continue to play good, they could have had him for cheaper.
I’m getting close to an apology letter for all the bad stuff I said. I’ll admit it. Still doesn’t change the fact that no one else would have given him this contract in the offseason, though.
Has Caleb Jones done enough to stay with the big club when all the d-men are healthy?
It was discussed in today's episode of ONR! @OilersnationHQ
— Oilersnation Radio (@ONradiopodcast) November 23, 2019
5) Trent asks – What does the panel think about moving Kris Russell and Adam Larsson (if things go as planned) between the draft and trade deadline next year?
What do you mean “if things go as planned?” I’m not stripping that much experience from the back end until I know — as opposed to hoping — unproven youngsters can fill the void. I’d part with one of them, but not both until we are certain kids like Bear and Jones are ready to step in and stay in while the next prospects in line continue to develop.
I wouldn’t move Larsson because I still like his deal and I want at least one veteran on the right side. I would move Russell in a heartbeat this summer because they have Klefbom and Nurse on the left side and Caleb Jones should be ready for full-time work next season. If they move Russell, his contract and 15-team, no-trade list will be an issue. It won’t be an easy deal to make and I wonder if they’ll have to retain some money.
Let’s pump the brakes here, everybody. No need to trade veteran defenceman right now. Let’s give the kids time to work into their roles and learn a few lessons before tossing them the keys to the castle and Kris Russell and Adam Larsson into the moat.
THE 2019 BLACKOUT COLLECTION
We’ve upgraded every aspect of this year’s gear and we cannot wait for you guys to check it out! The 2019 Blackout collection is coming soon and available only at NationGear.ca.