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RFA Profile: Alex Chiasson

For whatever reason, Alex Chiasson was a hot button player during his first season with the Calgary Flames. Whether it be his substantial time on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan or unrealistic expectations, there were some who just couldn’t get on Chiasson’s side. It’s too bad, because Chiasson provided the team with great value last season and I can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t bring him back for another couple years… if they have that choice.We’ve already rattled off a pair of our offseason free agent profiles with a bunch more to come. Here’s what we have so far:

Now, if you’re not a big Chiasson fan, I’ll start to convince you why you should be.

Evidence

I’m not lying when I say Chiasson was one of Calgary’s best value players last season. With an easily affordable cap hit of $800,000, Chiasson put up 12 goals and 24 points in 81 games in a year that saw him used in a variety of different ways. In terms of even strength possession and scoring metrics, Chiasson was one of the team’s most effective and consistent players all season long. All scoring rates courtesy Corsica.

Inflating things a little is Chiasson’s high offensive start ratio; only Gaudreau and Monahan saw more offensive faceoffs at five-on-five last season. However, Chiasson was productive with his high ground and did a passable job helping keep the puck at the right end of the ice. Even with his zone starts up over 57%, though, Chiasson was plenty effective in the bottom six role he was intended to fill.

I will certainly concede that Chiasson was not an ideal fit on the right side with Gaudreau and Monahan. But, other than finding lighting in a bottle with Micheal Ferland late in the season, who was a great fit with those two last season? Going forward, Chiasson is definitely best suited as a third or fourth line winger, but he can bump up the depth chart and not hurt the team if need be.

Chiasson is also a decent penalty killer and averaged 0:55 of shorthanded ice time per game last season. Ranking seventh among forwards in that category, Chiasson was typically used as part of a third forward pairing when killing penalties. Depending on what happens in the coming seasons with players like Lance Bouma, Matt Stajan, and Troy Brouwer, though, we could see Chiasson seeing an enhanced shorthanded role.

Finally, let’s not forget what Chiasson cost the Flames. You can be the most ardent Chiasson hater out there, but you can’t deny he cost the team almost nothing. Chiasson was acquired last summer from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for defenceman Patrick Sieloff. So, not only was his his cap hit very low, but Chiasson was acquired for a player that was extremely unlikely to ever crack Calgary’s roster. To get a viable, bona fide NHLer for that price is pretty solid.

Deliberation

Chiasson’s NHL career to this point has been pretty consistent, save his 2015-16 campaign with the Sens. Overall, his first year with the Flames falls in line with the type of production we’ve seen from him in prior stops. Turning 27 in October, another season in the 25-30 point range seems likely.

To go a little further on how consistent Chiasson has been, you have to take a look at some of his underlying outputs. Other than his final year in Ottawa, Chiasson’s even strength possession and scoring metrics have fallen right in line with his counting numbers. And, as you can see below, usage was a big reason for his offensive drop-off in 15-16.

The numbers above speak volumes for me, because they show a fairly solid trend. If the Flames use Chiasson in a bottom six role with offensive high ground, he’s very likely to give them good production without being underwater on the possession side. That’s really all you can ask for from a bottom six forward.

That 15-16 season with the Sens is interesting to me, though. Under current Flames assistant coach Dave Cameron, Chiasson saw a much more defensive role than he was used to and did a nice job with those minutes. Sure, his offensive numbers dropped a bit, but that’s to be expected in that situation.

Chiasson’s shooting percentage is a positive, too. Yes, Chiasson has converted at an above average rate to this point, but he’s done so consistently in four NHL seasons. That shows me sustainability and points to him being slightly more accurate than most of his counterparts. Even with 11.5% last season being his high mark, history suggests he’s not going to come crashing down.

Verdict

On the surface, re-signing Chiasson seems like an easy decision for the Flames, even if he gets a slight bump in pay. In a bubble, I’m locking him up for another year or two and seeing if I can keep his cap hit under $1 million, which isn’t unrealistic at all. However, it may not be that easy for Calgary for a couple different reasons.

First, Chiasson almost certainly won’t be protected ahead of next month’s expansion draft. No one knows how Las Vegas is going to approach their roster, but bringing in an affordable, effective, consistent player like Chiasson certainly would make sense. Sure, Vegas could have different ideas, but there’s a feasible chance Chiasson plays with the Golden Knights next season.

Then there’s his arbitration eligibility. Unlike Ferland, who is also arb eligible, I don’t see Chiasson having as much leverage to push for a big raise. But it is an option available to him and we’ll see if he goes down that road.

Now, if Chiasson goes unclaimed in the expansion draft, then this is a no-brainer for me. Sign him for another year or two, play him much like last season, and expect similar results. Regardless if you like him or not, those results were pretty solid for Chiasson in his first year with the Flames.

  • Just.Visiting

    I thought that he looked a lot better toward the end of the season once he moved down the lineup into a position that is more appropriate for what he has to offer. If we had three openings on the fourth line, I’d have no difficulty in bringing him back, as he can kill penalties and play higher in the lineup if injuries hit. Unfortunately, that is not where we find ourselves. To me this turns the question into one of examining the opportunity cost of bringing him back. What can’t the Flames do because he’s on the third line? That’s where I struggle with both Alex and Versteeg. We have a good sense of what we’re going to get from each of them. However, they effectively block roster spots that let us understand whether there’s a UFA out there who can offer more and whether Janko, etc. can offer something similar in the near term and more for the future as we move to trying to be a serious contender. If you look at teams like Chicago, Pittsburgh and Detroit, you’ll see that they ensure that they cycle some of their prospects through the roster and add whatever pieces are missing as required to compete. While I understand fully why we haven’t done that in the past, we are now at the stage at which we can do it. And the market has changed sufficiently that there are capable older PTO alternatives as camp approaches.

    • Nick24

      That’s partially true, but another thing those teams did well was identify players that were had low cap hits but gave you pretty good returns. Chaisson is an incredibly useful bottom six forward, and there are three or four other players the Flames would be smart to move on from before the let Chaisson walk. That goes doubly so for Versteeg. If a young player can prove to be more effective in their role than Chaisson or Versteeg, sure, but make sure that guys like Bouma, Brouwer, Engellend, Stone, Bartkowski, or even Stajan are gone before you start removing pieces that are effective in their roles

  • PrairieStew

    You can only protect one of these 4 forwards: Chiasson, Ferland, Lazar, Stajan: There are 3 defensemen available: Kulak, Bartkowski, Wotherspoon. Does anyone think that Vegas takes one of the defensemen over the forwards ? Maybe Kulak. The Flames obviously better off if Brouwer is taken, but next in line for Calgary is Stajan for purposes of cap relief. Would Vegas settle for Stajan and Bartkowski instead of Kulak or Chiasson or Lazar (assuming Ferland protected) ? Would you move Chiasson with Ferland and Bartkowski for Niderreiter, and assume you lose Lazar to Vegas ?

  • Derzie

    GG’s love-in with Chiasson was the problem. Played him above his head for a LONG time. I’m good with the signing if GG remembers that Chiasson is a PK & 4th liner only. All the time.

    • Puckhead

      GG’s stubbornness was maddening at times – Chiasson and Brouwer getting top line minutes for what felt like painful eternity, Brouwer on the PP, Hamilton not on the PP….

      • cjc

        The problem was that there really was nobody to play alongside JG and SM. Brouwer was supposed to fit, didn’t, so that left Chiasson, Versteeg and Ferland. Ferland didn’t produce much during an extended look with those two in ’15-16 and IIRC Versteeg had an extended stay on the IR, so Gulutzan went with Chiasson. When that went cold, in slotted Ferland again. Ferland may have worked there this time around, but the truth is probably somewhere between his ’15-16 and ’16-17 performances.

        It’s clear that Calgary needs to upgrade the right side, but in this case Gulutzan didn’t have many options. Hamilton’s usage on the other hand, Gulutzan could be doing better.

    • Cheeky

      Mind you I kinda liked him parked in front of net on pp (couple games) until Brouwer bumped him out. Used size and seemed to be able to tip puck well but was never used again in that role (because of Brouwer love affair)…