Everyone is eagerly awaiting what happens on the ice between the Edmonton Oilers' Zack Kassian and Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk after their last meeting in the Battle of Alberta resulted in a two-game suspension for the former. But before puck drop, the rugged forward became the benefactor of an off-the-ice decision as he earned assurances that he is a member of the Oilers' long-term plan. Kassian signed a four-year contract extension worth an average annual value of $3.2 million on Wednesday.
Set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, the 29-year-old forward had his future looming with the expectation of hitting free agency. Instead, he will receive a pay raise; he is currently finishing out a three-year deal worth $1.95 million AAV. Kassian was traded to Edmonton on Dec. 28, 2015, by Montreal in return for Ben Scrivens.
With the trade deadline looming, the Oilers are likely to be buyers as they vie for a playoff spot, but now there's no doubt that Kassian will be a part of that run. Oftentimes, players set to become UFAs are viewed as possible rentals for other teams.
Kassian has 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists) in 44 games this season. His biggest impact has been felt as an enforcer, especially in the infamous Dec. 27 meeting against the Flames when he laid a beating on Tkachuk after the Flames forward took two sizable — and confrontational — hits on him.
The nine-year veteran is expected to demolish his career-high 29 points (2013-14) as he is on pace for 49 despite missing five games this season.