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.
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.
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.
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.