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

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

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 9: Dominik Kahun #95 of the Buffalo Sabres skates during warmups before an NHL game against the Washington Capitals on March 9, 2020 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

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 or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.