Ken Holland is the new President of Hockey Operations and general manager of the Edmonton Oilers. Holland was with the Detroit Red Wings since 1985 and assumed the GM role in 1997. Holland’s wealth of experience in the NHL should help predict what he might do in Edmonton. I’m only including moves in the salary-cap era because Holland won’t have the same luxury as Oilers GM.
Signing impact free agents
Holland signed two key unrestricted free agents: right wing Marian Hossa and defenceman Brian Rafalski. Rafalski was pivotal in their 2008 Stanley Cup win and played over 20 minutes a game in each of his fours seasons with the Red Wings. Hossa helped them get back to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2009, scoring 40 goals and 71 points.
Defenceman Mike Green helped keep the streak alive in 2015 and has filled a hole on defence on a couple of short-term contracts. Holland signed left wing Thomas Vanek and received a third-round pick for him at the deadline in 2017. Vanek returned to Detroit as a free agent in 2018.
Dumping the Datsyuk contract
Holland traded down four spots in the 2016 draft, dumped the last year of Datsyuk’s $7.5-million contract to Arizona, and got a second-round pick in the process. Sure, Arizona drafted Jakob Chychrun, who looks solid when healthy, but Holland picked up Dennis Cholowski at 20 and Filip Hronek at 53. Both players made their NHL debuts in 2018-19 and look like promising young defencemen.
Recent RFA contracts
Oilers fans have seen their fair share of restricted free-agent contracts. Some good (Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse) and some less so (Justin Schultz, Leon Draisaitl, Sam Gagner, Jeff Petry). Holland’s recent work with Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi is outstanding. All four players are signed to fantastic contracts and the latter three are on bargain deals. Athanasiou, Mantha, and Bertuzzi all scored over 45 points last season and Mantha had the highest cap hit at $3.3 million. Bertuzzi had 47 points and makes just $1.4 million next season. Athanasiou scored 30 goals and has another year left at $3 million. Holland used his leverage during Athanasiou’s contract stalemate and signed him to a reasonable two-year deal, something the Oilers have rarely done.
Larkin was a phenomenal pick at 15 in the 2014 draft. Larkin would easily go top-five in a redraft and he’s signed to a very reasonable $6.1 million cap hit till 2023. Larkin scored 73 points last season.
Acquiring draft picks to rebuild
Holland might have waited too long to rebuild, but that’s not a surprise when you have a historic playoff streak and an ownership group pushing to continue it.
Tearing it down isn’t difficult, but Holland’s accumulated a haul of draft picks to set the Red Wings up for the future.
Holland traded Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, Steve Ott, Thomas Vanek, Riley Sheahan, Scott Wilson, Petr Mrazek, Tomas Tatar, Nick Jensen, and Gustav Nyquist for draft picks from 2016-2019.
The Tatar trade is one of Holland’s best. Tatar was scoring at a 37-point pace and made $5.3 million with three years left on his contract when he was moved to Vegas for first, second, and third-round draft picks. Tatar flopped in Vegas and the Golden Knights flipped him to Montreal in the Max Pacioretty trade. Tatar’s rebounded with the Canadiens, scoring a career-high 58 points this past season, but the draft picks are more valuable to Detroit going forward. The Red Wings used the first round pick on center Joe Veleno, one of their top prospects.