Baby steps to a leap? Oilers add Dominik Kahun, another smart bargain

Baby steps to a leap? Oilers add Dominik Kahun, another smart bargain
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One savvy offseason doesn’t totally change the Edmonton Oilers’ outlook. It doesn’t excuse their many blunders while employing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Even so, the Oilers deserve credit for finding nice bargains on the fringes of NHL free agency, and signing Dominik Kahun ranks as maybe their best get yet.

At least, the move looks great being that it’s basically no risk, and some measure of reward. The Oilers signed Kahun, 25, to a dirt-cheap one-year, $975K contract on Monday.

The contract is so cheap, Jonathan Willis notes that it might save the Oilers some cap space (in a roundabout way).

Kahun another smart, low-risk signing by Oilers

Will the Oilers signing Kahun be a big reward, medium, or possibly small? That’s probably the biggest area of debate, but that really just highlights how much of a no-brainer this was. (It remains puzzling that the Sabres didn’t qualify Kahun, even if it could have cost them more than this $975K for the Oilers.)

If you want a deep dive on Kahun’s value, and the number of ways he might fit with the Oilers, check out this article from Allan “Lowetide” Mitchell at The Athletic (sub required).

The gist is that, by just about any measure, Kahun brought value to the table in his young career. Even though he’s bounced around quite a bit, moving from the Blackhawks to the Penguins and then the Sabres.

Now, you could quibble with Kahun’s game if you want to. While he’s scored at an admirable pace during his career, it’s true that he hasn’t always been a great playdriver.

Yet, at the minimal cost to the Oilers, those concerns wash away. And there’s some evidence that this could bring great value for Edmonton.

Beyond his work in 2020-21, Kahun remains an RFA after this season, too. It’s possible that Edmonton could really get some nice value out of this decision; not just now, but in the future.

Oilers piling up small victories

As Adam Gretz explored for PHT after the Kris Russell extension, the Oilers haven’t been making too many overly splashy moves.

Even their biggest headline-grabber (signing Tyson Barrie for a nice little bargain) is less exciting when you realize that the Oilers were trying to account for the injury loss of Oscar Klefbom, rather than adding more punch to their defense.

On paper, the Oilers still look like the sort of limited team that could leave McDavid muttering to himself, and maybe even to the media.

Between blunders by former GM Peter Chiarelli and dicey decisions early on by Ken Holland, the Oilers didn’t have much cap space to work with in NHL free agency. Again, quite a bit of that is on Holland. Signing Zack Kassian at a $3.2 million clip looked questionable at the moment, and only seems more limiting now. Paying so much for depth tends to catch up with you. (See: Canucks, Vancouver.)

But looking only at this offseason, Holland’s done well.

  • Whether you have issues with Tyson Barrie or not, he fits a need at a very reasonable price.
  • This Kahun signing is basically zero risk, some level of reward.
  • Keeping Tyler Ennis around, also at a cheap price, helps Edmonton boost its supporting cast. Their forward group suddenly looks more versatile, too.
  • If Kyle Turris has anything left in the tank, then that $1.65M cap hit could be a steal.
  • Speaking of steals, the Jesse Puljujarvi saga could have a happy twist starting this season at $1.175M.
  • Russell’s positive impact is marginal, but so is his price starting in 2021-22. And he could help the Oilers fit expansion draft parameters, to boot.

Baby steps to a leap for Edmonton? Maybe not, but …

Granted, not every element of this offseason’s been great. Bringing back Mike Smith at $2M in an offseason with such a robust goalie market is a groan-worthy decision. (Honestly, would Ryan Miller bring equal or greater value at maybe half the price? Possibly.)

Overall, though, this is quite good. Maybe all of these baby steps won’t make the Oilers a true juggernaut befitting their top scorers McDavid and Draisaitl. But this team could be a lot more formidable if the Oilers can at least occasionally keep their heads above water when those top stars are off the ice.

If nothing else, their forward group looks deeper heading into 2020-21. And, hey, if these moves don’t work out, the Oilers didn’t tie themselves up with problematic term.

We don’t get to say this often, so: nice job in free agency, Edmonton Oilers.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.