The Penguins, admittedly, would like to make changes to get bigger and stronger, according to recent comments from general manager Ron Hextall.
Could they be interested in Edmonton Oilers winger Zack Kassian? Reports out of Edmonton say they “could” (reads very hopeful!) From David Staples at the Edmonton Journal:
This in from NHL insider Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now, his take on potential interest in Zack Kassian of the Edmonton Oilers.
“Zack Kassian, there will be teams interested in him. I could see Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers, but in fairness to Zack, I didn’t mind what we saw of Zack in the third and fourth game of the (Winnipeg) series.”
Stauffer, an AM radio personality from Alberta, brings the Penguins into the conversation. But...this is probably just going to be the first of many attempted “connect the dots” situations.
Afterall, Hextall also said:
“The standard for a player to be able to play in your top 12 forwards has gone way up. There’s not a lot of guys that have enough skill, skate well enough and that bring that other element. There’s not a lot of it around.”
At 6’3 and 211 pounds, there’s no doubt the 30 year old Kassian has the size. He also threw out 72 hits in 27 games this season. Physical element and big body, check.
Kassian also only scored five points (2G+3A) in those 27 games. He also only recorded just 18 shots on goal in 27 games.
He also has three years left on a $3.2 million extension. It’s not a pretty picture.
Simply being big and strong doesn’t necessarily represent and upgrade, especially for the key moments in the season. Kassian has but five points (4G+1A) in 29 playoff.
As Staples noted, Kassian was also very poor at generating offense or chances in front of the net in 2020-21.
On the Oilers, he ranked just 11th for Oilers forwards on hard plays at the net (screens, jams, tips, hard charges and battles won) on Grade A scoring chances. Not good, not for a player who was a team leader in that category in 2019-20, the year Kassian earned his big contract.
If Hextall holds up to his standards of actually bringing in players who can help the Penguins, Zack Kassian won’t be that intriguing of a target with his current salary and three years of term remaining. Kassian has little to positively offer Pittsburgh right now, based on his last season and the fact he’s turning 31 during next season.
This won’t be the last time this offseason that a big player on an unfavorable contract is mentioned as a possibility for Pittsburgh, but it’s a fun start. Zack Kassian is an easy pass for the Penguins. Even if the Oilers were willing to do something foolish like take the contract of Mike Matheson, Kassian isn’t a good enough skater or hockey player to keep up with the Pens.
Pittsburgh will and should seek upgrades to their lineup, especially when it comes to getting bigger and stronger up front, however they can’t just add a tall, physical player and think that will solve their problems. Zack Kassian isn’t going to solve any problems the Pens have for 2021-22.