Edmonton Oilers: Is Dominik Kahun a long term answer?

Dominik Kahun #21, Edmonton Oilers Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Dominik Kahun #21, Edmonton Oilers Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports /

Dominik Kahun, on the face of it, didn’t have much of a season, putting up 9-6-15 in 48 of 56 games this past season.  In a full 82 game season, that’s 15 goals and 26 points.  Not exactly a candidate for Rocket Richard trophy consideration, but if you look beyond the surface there might be cause for a further look next season and beyond with the Edmonton Oilers.

Kahun spent most of the season as a pretty streaky scorer, bagging an assist in his 1st game and then not producing any offence until the end of January when he had 2 goals and 4 points in 5 games.  Then he produced 2 goals and 3 points in 2 games at the end of February.  He scored 1 goal in the month of March, then had 1 goal and 1 assist in April.

On the surface, this is a guy who disappeared for large stretches of the season, and that means we should cut him loose at the end of the season, right?

Nope, because the best part of the story is still to come.

He had his most productive stretch of the season in the month of May when he produced 3 goals and 4 points in the final 7 games of the season.

It was around this time that he started playing more with Nuge or Mcdavid as his center, and developing chemistry with both of them.  That’s 2/3rds of our top 2 offensive trios, and that’s not something we can ignore.

The great irony of Kahun’s season is he was brought in because he and Leon Draisaitl played hockey on the same team as children and both cleaned up, producing hundreds of points between them in less than a normal NHL season.  And yet, the chemistry we expected to develop between him and Dr. Drai never materialized, at least consistently if you follow his season.

In the early and mid-marks of the season, Kahun was tried in the bottom 6, spent time on the taxi squad, or was a healthy scratch altogether.  Nothing clicked until he played with Nuge or Mcdavid as his center.

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IMO this is worth exploring more in the seasons to come.  Also, despite the fact that Kahun’s never played a single playoff game until now, it’s an undeniable fact that this chemistry couldn’t have come at a better time for the team as they were looking at who could fill that last spot in the top 6, which had featured a rotating cast all season long until the last 7 games of the season.

Anyone who was a top 6 bubble player would likely get killed in the playoffs, or at least easily neutralized by the opposition, bringing down Mcdavid and Puljujarvi with them.  We needed someone who clicked with the rest of their linemates, and as Tippett was line tinkering he had success putting Kahun with Nuge or Mcdavid.

Kahun IMO isn’t being put on trial nearly as much as other Oilers as far as his play in the playoffs because like I said, this is his 1st trip to the playoffs and he needs to learn to elevate his game just like everyone else has to.  Of course, having solid playoff production certainly helps to solidify his case for his next contract……

The Oilers will see a lot of cap space come their way in the off-season, but that doesn’t mean Ken Holland can go out and start spending willy nilly like a drunken sailor.  All new or returning players need to be carefully researched and strategically thought out.  We need to use every cap dollar efficiently if we hope to have sustained success.  The Oilers need guys who will help the team take the next step from playoff contenders to cup contenders.

This is where Kahun will come in handy.  He doesn’t have such a track record as to warrant a huge raise, but he’s shown enough to be back and be a good, solid, inexpensive, complementary option in the top 6.

Right now Kahun is making $975,000 and since he was only signed for 1 year and hasn’t reached the games played or age threshold for Unrestricted Free Agency status yet he’ll be a cost-controlled asset the Oilers can use until one of their farm team wingers – Raphael Lavoie for example – is ready to take his place in the top 6.

You could easily bring back Kahun for $3,217,500 over 3 years – that’s a cap hit of a mere $1,072,500 a year.  That gives him the mandatory 10% raise of an RFA and nothing more, which is exactly what his paygrade is at this point in time.

Kahun has only ever had 1-year contracts to date, so he’ll likely jump at the chance to not have to re-sign every year, especially when it’s not a different team every year.

If it turns out Kahun’s season was just a fluke, you can easily trade him for a low draft pick, or bury him in the minors and only pay him a shade under $200K a year in cap space.  Or you can put him on waivers and somebody could pick him up for free, seeing as how the cap hit isn’t that big.

If – as I suspect – these 7 games weren’t a fluke, now you’ve got a cost-controlled asset for 3 seasons, something that will come in handy seeing as how the cap isn’t going up for at least 2 more seasons.

Even if he increases his production just a bit, he could crack the 20 goal mark for the 1st time in his career in a full NHL season.  I mean, he had half that already in a shortened season as a streaky scorer.  If you put him with the 1 of the 2 guys he’s got chemistry with, then anything can happen.  The sky’s the limit.

Then if he needs a raise after 3 years, you could give him one just as the cap starts going back up again (at least in theory).

Or, if someone else takes his roster spot, you could get maybe get as high as a 2nd or 3rd round pick for him, maybe with a prospect thrown in.  Talk about great asset management – unloading a guy you signed for only cap space for draft picks because you’ve got too much depth.  That’s the high water scenario.

There is a little bit of risk, I mean 7 games is a pretty low sample size.  But again, the risk is low because the cost is low.  These are the types of low-risk bets Ken Holland loves to make – and after all, he was the GM who signed him here in the 1st place.  He’s one of Holland’s guys – and having the GM In your corner is a good thing.  I called this one last off-season, so I’m calling it again for a re-signing.

He’s a guy to watch over the off-season and beyond.