In June 2018, Alex Chiasson achieved the dream of every hockey player when he won the Stanley Cup in Washington. Three months later, he had nowhere to play.
As a bottom-six grinder with limited offensive upside, Chiasson signed a pro tryout offer with the Edmonton Oilers just as training camp was heating up in September. But with the roster spots mostly filled, Chiasson had to put on quite the performance if he wanted to find a spot on his fifth team in seven years. That’s what happened. The Oilers liked Chiasson enough to sign him to one-year deal at $650,000, the league-minimum, prior to opening night.
At 28, there wasn’t much hope of Chiasson having a breakthrough season. He wasn’t expected to be an offensive dynamo despite scoring six goals in seven games to kick off his career in 2013, and the Oilers surely didn’t bring him in to score. Instead, Chiasson was signed for his reliability as a utility forward who can provide bottom-six punch. But Edmonton provided Chiasson with an opportunity to play a bigger role than he had in years, and the Oilers have reaped the rewards.
Chiasson has far exceeded expectations. He was slotted alongside Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl at points this season, and provided with power play minutes, where he’s managed seven goals and 14 points. With a first-period power play tally on Wednesday, Chiasson hit the 20-goal plateau for the first time and now finds himself on pace for 38 points, three more than his previous high. Chiasson has more goals right now than Anze Kopitar, Eric Staal, Evgeni Kuznetsov, Mathew Barzal and Nico Hischier, to name a few, and he’s one of four Oilers – alongside McDavid, Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – to notch 20 goals.
Given his production, Chiasson is having one of the best seasons of any player who started out on a tryout deal, and it’s not all that close. The six other players who signed NHL deals out of PTOs this season have combined for 12 points, and Drew Stafford, a former 50-plus point player, accounts for nine of those. Furthermore, of the 45 players making a minimum salary in the NHL, nobody has had as much impact as Chiasson.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: yes, McDavid is a good sidekick to have on your line, and despite some of the stars he played with, Chiasson did go 22 games without a goal. But if we’re being fair, Chiasson’s inconsistency is far from Edmonton’s biggest concern, and as a popular fixture among Oilers fans and a newly minted 20-goal man, there’s reason for Edmonton to explore a new deal with Chiasson.
The Oilers will need to worry about restricted free agents Ty Rattie and Jujhar Khaira this summer, while also finding a backup goalie behind Mikko Koskinen and a way to squeeze in a defenseman or two to upgrade their group. But Chiasson has never made more than $1.2 million in a season, and if the Oilers can get him on another cheap deal, it could be a bonus for a team that will be looking to make the playoffs for just the second time in the McDavid era. Chiasson has opened doors with his breakthrough season and could have more options next season, but if he’s looking for any stability, he could just stay in Edmonton for a second season and continue to fill spots throughout the lineup.
Chiasson isn’t a game-changer, but you don’t typically find new 20-goal scorers in your bottom six, and that’s exactly what he’s become. Not too shabby for a veteran who nearly missed out on playing this year.