FEATURE: Chiasson renewing contract, optimism with Oilers
After moving around the NHL on one-year deals for most of his career, the 28-year-old forward is excited to sign his first multi-year contract and play a multifaceted role for the Oilers in 2019-20
EDMONTON, AB - It's where Alex Chiasson had his sights set all along.
After leveraging another professional tryout at the onset of last season to sign a one-year deal with the Oilers, the winger never hesitated on the first day of NHL Free Agency when offered the first multi-year contract of his career and the opportunity to remain in Edmonton.
"I think for me if you look over my career, the last three or four years have kind of been crazy," Chiasson said. "Moving around on one-year deals, two tryouts, and last year coming to Edmonton on a tryout and doing well after earning a contract, I think that was kind of eye-opening for me."
Chiasson had tasted success, winning a Stanley Cup in 2018 with the Washington Capitals, but never the kind of individual success and sense of belonging he'd experience in his first year as a member of the Oilers.
The 28-year-old winger set new career highs in goals (22) and points (38), but off the ice extended his influence to the locker room as a member of the Oilers leadership group. Additionally, he played an elevated role on special teams registering 15 points on the powerplay and playing his fair share of time shorthanded.
For someone as well-travelled around the NHL as Chiasson, that Oilers consistency became infectious as July 1 approached.
"I'm glad that everything worked out as it did because I'm in a place where I've kind of given a second wind to my career and I have a chance to play a certain role with a team that for me can be successful, which means a lot to me," he said.
"I wasn't really looking at anywhere else."
With new management and a new coaching staff coming into the fold, Chiasson was honest in his exit interview last season about his hope to remain with the Oilers and be a part of the solution.
He and Oilers President of Hockey Operations & General Manager Ken Holland had open discussions in the lead up to the start of free agency, with some added insight on the Montreal, QC, product's impact on and off the ice delivered by teammates Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
"He was super honest with me. We had different conversations as June went on," Chiasson said. "I could've been the guy that he thought wasn't part of the future, and that would've been his decision. But I think that speaks a lot about some of the guys on the team like Connor and Leon. Those guys want me to be a part of the next couple of years, and it was kind of how I felt with the organization, so the rest was negotiations."
Chiasson has evolved his game in stints with the Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames and Capitals before putting it all together in a career year last campaign in Edmonton. The 6-foot-4, 207-pound forward with a knack for scoring goals in and around the crease relies on his strong hockey mind to put him in the best positions possible, and it will be an ongoing process this offseason to improve his output even further.
"Going back to the last couple of years being on tryouts and all that, I've had to retool my game a little bit and adapt to certain things," he said. "I'll probably never be as fast as Connor is, but for me I have to find ways for my hockey sense to put me in the right position at the right moments. Those are all things that I keep working at, and then it's playing with confidence."
The forward had registered 16 goals by the time the calendar flipped to 2019, only to run into a lull that included only six more tallies the rest of the way. But Chiasson is relying on his ability to contribute in all areas during the dry spells, so when the goals return he's able to put together the complete package.
"Obviously the season has ups and downs," he said. "The majority of players go through that, and I think for me as a player one thing you're looking at when you're playing well is consistency. There are nights where you won't be able to produce offensively, but at the same time you've got to do other things to help the team win."
"I've always been a guy that when the season ends, I think of things that I can spend time on in the summer to try and get better."
It's been an ongoing evolution for Chiasson, who enters his second season with the Oilers bolstered by his first multi-year contract, the drive to improve on what was a career year, and the support of coaches, management and his teammates.
"I think I'm a perfect example of a player in the past few years that's moved around and then found his perfect place," he said. "With those guys, that's what I'm looking forward to next year. I'm challenging myself to repeat, do more of the same, but adapt my game to be more consistent throughout the 82 games."