Rumours had been cropping up since Wednesday that the Canucks and Zack Kassian were close to agreeing on a deal, but when Thursday afternoon passed without a contract signed, it looked like the deal wouldn’t get done until Friday.
Instead, as the regular 9-to-5 stiffs headed home from work, Benning and Linden powered through, blowing through naptime, and getting a deal done by the early evening. If it wasn’t for the always alert Elliott Pap, who scoffs at the idea of going home at 5 PM, we wouldn’t have had to wait upwards of 12 hours to find out about Kassian’s new contract.
BREAKING: Canucks reach agreement with RW Zack Kassian on 2-year deal worth $3.5 million. Cap hit of $1.75 million. #canucks
— Elliott Pap (@ElliottPap) July 4, 2014
Kassian is just coming off his entry-level contract and a two-year deal means he will still be a restricted free agent when it ends. The short-term contract gives him an opportunity to prove to the Canucks that he’s worth a great deal more money for more years when it’s time to sign his next contract.
He’ll likely have plenty of chances to do so in the coming season, as he’ll be playing under a new head coach who has worked well with young players for over a decade and under the watchful eye of a new GM who, judging by his first entry draft, loves players with size.
With the signing of Radim Vrbata, the chances of Kassian skating with the Sedins next season have grown a little slimmer, if you’ll forgive the oxymoron. The cagey, skilled Vrbata has the finishing touch around the net necessary to play with the twins, while Kassian is more of a playmaker than goalscorer. It seems likely that Vrbata will also get first dibs on the top power play unit, given his effectiveness with the man advantage in the past.
Kassian’s real opportunity will come on the second line, which lacks both an identity and, to be honest, bona fide second line players after the Ryan Kesler trade. For all Benning’s talk of Nick Bonino being a second line centre, there’s a reason the Anaheim Ducks felt the need to acquire an actual second line centre in Kesler.
Over the last two seasons, Kassian didn’t get long looks on the second line, despite the possibility of him being the playmaking winger that a shoot-first centre like Kesler needed. There were a couple barriers, one of which was his defensive play, which wasn’t up the quality needed to face tough competition like Kesler did on a regular basis.
The other was that both Kesler and Kassian liked to carry the puck on zone exits and entries and, until the NHL finally breaks down and introduces Multi-Puck™ in 2064, only one player can have the puck at any given time.
With Kesler gone, the opportunity is there for Kassian to give the second line a bit of his own personality and step up into a more permanent role in the top-six. That may be a lot to ask someone coming off a career year where they scored just 14 goals and 29 points, but the way he ended the season — scoring 10 points in 10 games — indicated he might be ready for a breakout season.
Reaction from fans on Twitter suggested that this was a steal of a deal for the Canucks, but that seems reflective more of misplaced expectations, with many seeming to think that Kassian would get well over $2 million with this contract. When I looked at comparable players over the last 10 years, the general range of contracts was between $1.0 and $1.2 million, suggesting that his new $1.75 million contract may actually be an overpayment.
When you take into account the rising salary cap, however, the new deal is easier to swallow as it takes up an equivalent percentage of the cap as a $1.4 million in 2008-09, as pointed out by regular commenter and part-time troll, mb13. That makes this contract equal to the contract Clarke MacArthur received as a 23-year-old in 2009, though MacArthur’s was for just one year. MacArthur’s 17 goals and 31 points in the previous season are not far off from Kassian’s 14 goals and 29 points.
All told, this seems to be fair value for Kassian and gives the Canucks a potential second-line winger on a very cheap contract for the next two seasons. Even if he remains a third-liner, this is still very good value.
RFAs Chris Tanev, Yannick Weber, and Linden Vey have yet to sign.Tags: Zack Kassian