Edmonton Oilers: The implications of signing Dominik Kahun

Edmonton Oilers, Dominik Kahun (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Edmonton Oilers, Dominik Kahun (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Decisions will need to be made by the Edmonton Oilers after signing Dominik Kahun

In case you missed it, earlier this week the Edmonton Oilers sent out a press release that said that they have signed Dominik Kahun.  The deal is 1 year, 1 way, $975,000.

I’m half tempted to say “I called it” – considering this just got published less than a week ago.  But, of course, it would be nothing more than conspiracy theory to suggest that Ken Holland actually reads my blog and takes my feedback to heart.  It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Holland reads my blogs but until I see proof I assume he doesn’t.

Actually, in this case, I know he didn’t – the Oilers actually talked to Kahun’s agent when free agency began, and according to one of the tweets today from someone on Twitter, Kahun asked for way too much money from Buffalo, and as the assumption goes, likely asked for the same from the Oilers and Ken Holland wisely balked.  A random user on Twitter is obviously not the best piece of information, but the story sounds valid on the surface.

If this story is true, then Holland subsequently just waited him out and reconnected with him recently, when Kahun wisely accepted his offer of $975K for 1 season. In my first blog, I failed to mention the fact that Kahun had a history with Dr. Drai playing youth hockey together in Germany and having very good chemistry with each other.  I read that elsewhere but failed to mention it in my blog – so props to the diplomatic folks who brought this up in the comments section as I’m only human and I forget things sometimes.

From this article here, it appears I’m not the only one who is a fan of this move. What does it mean for the Oilers going into the season?  Let’s see.

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It changes the top 6, at least to start the season

Training camp notwithstanding, of course, it makes the most sense to give Kahun the chance to re-kindle old chemistry with Draisaitl on the 2nd line.  This means that a very good line last year has a shot at being even better this season.

That then moves Nuge up to the 1st line on Connor McDavid’s left.  Kahun may not fit there, but it’s at least worth a shot.  German youth hockey is a long way from the NHL, but it’s at least worth a look as an experiment.  Here’s how the top 6 shakes out after that:

1st line:  Nuge-Mcdavid-Kassian

2nd line:  Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto

I like the looks of that.  Assuming Kahun works out, for the 1st time in many years, we’ll finally have legitimate top 6 players at every position in the top 6.  I can’t remember the last time we had that.

It changes the bottom 6 again at least to start the season

It changes things 2 fold in the bottom 6, to be honest.  With 2 legit top 6 guys on the port side in the top 6, then that means that neither Tyler Ennis nor Josh Archibald needs to move up to the top 6.  This then makes for better depth as both players can stay on the 3rd and 4th lines, respectively, where they belong.

This then puts the bottom 6 with 10 players signed for this season, for 7, maybe 8 spots if you stretch out your roster.  Also important to bear in mind this doesn’t include guys from the farm who have an outside chance – like Tyler Benson – in camp, or the bubble players – like Alan Quinne – who Keith Gretzky himself has said has a shot at a spot in the bottom 6 even though his most likely landing spot is in Bakersfield.

This means that strictly from a roster spot perspective, now you need to get rid of at least 2 players since there are only so many roster spots to go around, and right now the Oilers are bumped right up against the roster limit of 23.  So this means if the Oilers go into the season with 10 bottom 6 forwards and they want to call somebody up from the farm.

They have to send somebody down first because they just don’t have the roster spot to keep a guy from a callup even for a cup of coffee.  Personally, I can’t see Ken Holland being satisfied to stand pat with that much of a glut in bottom 6 forwards.  There’s only so many games and only so much ice time to go around, you don’t want guys sitting around getting rusty for too long.

So for roster spot reasons, this triggers a trade – or 2 – so we don’t have that hassle of having to send a guy down to the farm when we want to call somebody up to meet the roster spot limit.  We want the flexibility of farm team callups being only 1 transaction instead of 2.

It puts the Oilers over the salary cap

The Oilers now join the dubious ranks of Arizona, Vancouver, St. Louis, Toronto, Washington, Vegas, Anaheim, and Winnipeg of teams over the cap as of now.  As the Oilers only had about $795K in cap space to begin with before signing Kahun, this means the Oilers are now $242, 491 over the cap.  That’s allowed in the CBA until the season starts.

For whatever this is worth, the Oilers are the team in the NHL over the cap by the least amount.  Better to be us than Arizona, who has the real fun task of having to unload almost $4 million in cap space just to meet the cap ceiling and not lose any more draft picks.

After Mike Smith hit his bonuses last year, the Oilers will lose ~ $300K of cap space over the next 2 seasons to pay for it.  If we lose another $242,491 that puts us at almost $550K of lost cap space next offseason.  Not a huge amount, but still something that must be taken into consideration.  Fortunately, the cap situation looks much better next offseason anyway but I’ll get into that after this upcoming season is done.

Now strictly from a paper transaction standpoint, we could just put Klefbom on LTIR right now and his $4.167 million cap hit would free up cap space, but that’s not a good idea as Holland needs that cap space to re-sign Ethan Bear and William Laggesson, and that will take ~ $3 million at least.

The aforementioned glut at bottom 6 forward means trading one of those guys is the way to go, as we don’t have that sort of surplus anywhere else on the roster. Personally, my picks would be to trade Alex Chiasson ($2.15 million cap hit) and Juhjar Khaira ($1.2 million cap hit).  If you trade those guys – in either 1 trade or 2, doesn’t matter – then you save 2 roster spots and $3.35 million of cap space.

Not to mention, if you trade them straight up for draft picks, you’ll have 2 more draft picks and 2 fewer roster spots.  Trade 1 more bottom 6 forward you’ll save more cap space yet, but I have a feeling that Ken Holland likes to keep 8 bottom 6 forwards on the roster. In that scenario by the time the dust settles, you’ll have an extra $3,107,509 of cap space and are now under the cap again.

The best part of that scenario is that both Khaira and Chiasson are eminently trade-able.  Chiasson proved his 22 goal season as a top 6 forward was a fluke, but if you look at his stats from the perspective of a bottom 6 forward, they’re pretty solid.  He put up 11 goals, 24 points, and 42 PIMs with a -3 last season.  That’s pretty solid 3rd line production, and even if he’s not a regular top 6 guy at least he can sub in at a top 6 spot and not be overwhelmed.

He is slightly overpaid at $2.15 million, but not by much.  Any team with the cap space left I’m sure would love his veteran presence on their roster, and if he doesn’t work out then no problem he’s only signed for 1 season so you just let him walk.  It’s worth noting, as well, that Chiasson played on the 2nd unit PP of the Oilers last season and he had 6 of his 11 goals on the PP and 13 of his 24 points on the PP.  He might be worth it just as a 2nd unit PP depth guy if a team is struggling in that area.

Khaira is a tough, physical 4th liner guy who’s crying out for a change of scenery.  His offence and +/- have cratered the last 2 seasons, but he’s still a veteran presence on your 4th line or an extra forward with a negligible cap hit for this season only.  Khaira also spent time at 4th line C last season, and although he was OK IMO Haas has more upside in that spot.

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Chiasson, you might get a 5th round pick, while Khaira might get you 6th round pick, which comes next draft Holland could package with our own or Pittsburgh’s to get another 5th round pick.  Or heck, package all 3 and get a 5th round pick, who cares?  Then the Oilers would go from having no 5th round pick to 2 5th round picks in 2021 if they play their cards right. Personally, I’m very curious to see what trade Holland pulls off to get us back under the cap.  It won’t take much, but it will take at least 1 trade.