Why the Vancouver Canucks might reunite with Zack Kassian

Zack Kassian will be an unrestricted free agent next year, but the Vancouver Canucks may consider making a trade for him. Here’s why.

The Edmonton Oilers are looking to make some changes after missing the playoffs last season. Essentially everyone not named Connor McDavid or Leon Draisatl is someone the Oilers should be taking calls on. The Vancouver Canucks, as a result, should check in on the asking price for Zack Kassian.

Lower your pitchforks and hear me out. I understand that Kassian’s Canucks career had a bit of an ugly finish to it, with him being frustrated by a lack of ice time and being an apparent party animal, among other things. But Kassian put up some of the best numbers of his career when he was with the Canucks, and after last season, where he potted 15 goals, wouldn’t a reunion with Kassian be a fairly low-risk move that could pay dividends?

After this season, Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning said that making the playoffs is the next step that he wants his young team to make. According to Benning, you need a crucial roster combination of being good enough, big enough and tough enough come playoff time. Jim Benning said the following to The Province’s Ben Kuzma:

“The playoffs are fast, physical and hard. We’ve had those conversations (this week) because some of our skilled players aren’t the biggest guys. Do we need to make sure we surround them with players who can supply that physicality as well as being good enough players to help our younger guys develop?”

The easy answer to this literal question from Benning is to throw big money at a free agent who brings that physicality and skill to the table, such as Micheal Ferland. But if Benning wants to make a low-risk move that isn’t likely to have any future complications, then he should look into acquiring Kassian for cheap.

If you want to complain about Benning throwing too much money at free agents July 1st, then this is the move for you. Look at what Benning has done on the trade front as of late. Throughout the season, Benning acquired Luke Schenn, Tanner Pearson, Josh Leivo, and Ryan Spooner in exchange for Michael Del Zotto, Erik Gudbranson, Michael Carcone and Sam Gagner. That’s what you call addition by subtraction, my friends.

What would the reception be on these players if Benning had gone out and signed them in free agency? A whole lot different, in my opinion. That’s why, with just a year left on his deal, at a cheap price, acquiring Kassian via a trade makes sense. Not Milan Lucic for four more years at six million dollars, but Kassian.

Kassian riding shotgun with Bo Horvat or Elias Pettersson is a possibility, and with the latter, it would provide the Canucks young superstar with some protection in his sophomore year. Protection that fans have been calling for ever since Mike Matheson bodyslammed him to the ice in just the first month of his career in the NHL.

Here’s the thing, if the Canucks don’t want to bring in Kassian, they’ll have Zack MacEwen who can play a similar role for them. MacEwen put up 22 goals and 30 assists in 69 games last season with the Utica Comets, and in one of the four games he played with the Canucks, he got into a spirited tilt with San Jose Sharks forward Barclay Goodrow.

Kassian, however, has the potential to play in the Canucks top six this season, while MacEwen will likely need some more NHL games under his belt before he’s completely comfortable in that role. If Kassian in a top-six role doesn’t work out — which is a very reasonable possibility — he can still slot into the bottom six and provide a little offence along with the grit that he brings to the table.

Adam Gaudette, Kassian, and Leivo or Jake Virtanen on a line? I think that would work out just fine as a solid third line.

Finally, if the team acquires Kassian and it really doesn’t work out at all with him on the team again, they can either trade him at the deadline or lose him in free agency. It could pay dividends for the Canucks if it works, though. As Botch would say, “WE NEED AN ARMY” in order to make the Canucks great again. Who knows? Maybe Kassian could be a bigger part of that army than we think.

With just $1.9 million being owed to him from his three-year contract with the Oilers, Kassian is a cheap, low-risk move that could pay off greatly for Jim Benning and the Canucks if they were to reach the playoffs next year. That being said, the Canucks obviously can’t overpay for a guy like Kassian, but if the price tag is cheap or he can be part of a package deal, then the Canucks should consider reuniting with the man his former Canucks teammates once called Bure.