The Vancouver Canucks kept up their torrid pace of transactions by announcing Friday that restricted free agents Zack Kassian and Yannick Weber have signed.
Kassian got a two-year, $3.5-million deal and depth defenceman Weber got himself a one-year, one-way, $850,000 contract.
The Kassian contract is about $1 million more, in total, than the Canucks had set out to pay. But he made that money in the last six weeks of the season when he led the team in scoring while playing on the Canucks’ third line with Brad Richardson and David Booth.
“I thought as a line, right before the Olympic break we were playing well, but after it we seemed to get the bounces,” Kassian said.
“I was playing with more confidence. I definitely felt like I started to come into my own.
“To be successful in this league, you need people you can read off of and feed off of.
“I think our line complemented each other very nicely.”
Booth is gone now after his buyout, and Vancouver general manager Jim Benning said he’s expecting Kassian to take the next step in his development, which essentially means he’s looking to him to earn a top-six role.
Kassian deserves that opportunity after putting up 12 points in the Canucks’ final 17 games, driving even-strength offence.
His 14 goals on the season were fourth on the team, and 13 of those were scored at even strength.
He only saw 51 minutes of power-play time the entire year. Even Jannik Hansen saw more ice time with the man advantage.
For his development, Kassian needs to be used on the power play -- something that would help him significantly as he looks to improve his goal totals and hit 20 for the first time as a pro.
Kassian was not put in a lot offensive situations last year, as only 43 per cent of his zone starts came in the the opponent’s end. Obviously, that would change if he’s slotted into a top six role.
Benning said he thinks the Canucks’ second line will include Alex Burrows and Nick Bonino, while both Hansen and Kassian will have to fight over the third slot.
A Burrows-Kassian combo is intriguing, as Kassian has some playmaking abilities that could work nicely with Burrows, a former 30-goal guy.
The target for Kassian should be 20 goals, which may not be as easy as it sounds. His shooting percentage last season was 15.4 per cent, a number that isn’t likely sustainable and suggests he was rather fortunate to score 14.
But Kassian can help himself if he’s more aggressive in shooting the puck. His 91 shots last year were 12th on the team, tied with Mike Santorelli. But Kassian played 73 games and Santorelli just 49.
This is the No. 1 area where Kassian has to improve, even if it’s not something he picked out when asked where he wants to get better.
“I want to improve everything,” Kassian said.
“I wanted to come home and work on my strength. I wanted to be stronger. And the game is so quick.
“You want to be quick to be able to jump through holes and battle along the boards.”
Weber played 49 games last year and put up 10 points. He is seen by the team as an ideal 7th or 8th defenceman who can fill in on the power play or the penalty kill when needed.
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