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The Best of Ken Holland in Detroit

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.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Carolina Hurricanes

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.

  • Oscar

    Let’s not get too carried away here, sports fans … a lot of what you read in this article is superseded by Holland’s many failures …

    “I am bitter”, Jim Costa of ESPN 96.1 in Michigan said. “This man destroyed my hockey team for a decade. Do I have a right to be bitter?

    “I never bought the idea that Ken Holland was on board with Yzerman showing up. I think he was pushed out. And good for (owner) Chris Illitch, (new GM) Steve Yzerman and company, whoever made that final call to get Ken Holland out of the GM chair. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    “This was coming. Ken Holland was forced up and eventually forced out and it’s probably a decade too late. But this is a great day for the Detroit Red Wings… Ken Holland drove this franchise into the ground. After 2009 when they appeared in the Stanley Cup Final and lost, we have stared at a decade of incompetence. Three playoff series wins in ten years when they’ve been trying to win. Resisting a rebuild and still putting out that subpar performance, signing mediocre players to five, six and seven year deals, giving them no-trade clauses on top of it. Bought at every single deadline up until about 18 months ago, when he had no choice (but to be a seller).”

    • billsbills

      No matter what city you’re in or how long you have been there, there will always be critics. If you haven’t noticed that, it’s likely that you are pribably not that smart.

      Anyway those same people that were bashing Holland and are so happy Yzerman is coming on board to replace him, likely aren’t too bright either. Tampa has $5 million in Cap space in 19/20 to sign Braydon Point. Plus they have 4 UFAs on defence and 3 other forwards with arbitration rights.

      They are screwed. Oh did you know they got swept in the first round of the playoffs?

      That’s Yzerman, who bailed on Tampa after putting them in cap prison.

    • Loil

      That sounds so loom and doom compared to what Oilers fans have been through in the last 13-14 seasons. We’ve seen the play-offs twice, one of those times we made it to the Stanley Cup Final and the other we got ousted by the refs in the second round against the Ducks. I’d be very content if that was what the Oilers saw, only missing the play-offs 3 times in the last 13-14 seasons.
      Suck it up buttercup!

  • Arfguy

    Good breakdown of what Holland has done. One of the biggest challenge will be: Detroit has a history of drafting pretty good players that they’ve been able to trade. Even though Tatar was under-performing, he was still quite valuable because he could skate, pass and shoot. Despite what his cap hit was, he was young and capable of producing quality points (as proven in Montreal). Holland does not have a lot of that in Edmonton. Someone like Lucic, Manning and Brodziak are basically roster plugs at this point.

  • Heschultzhescores

    What he did before doesn’t matter now. What he does now, matters now. Let’s see what he can do before giving him a label. New team, new game, mean new challenges.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      This. It’s ridiculous that the writer put Leon’s contract in the “bad” column, I honestly couldn’t finish the article after that. 50 goals/100 plus points at $8.5 mil, what else does he need to do for you people? Come to your house and do your laundry? Or does he not smile and jump around enough?

  • OilCan2

    I like his first move to drop Hitchcock from the head coach position. T Nelson is my vote as coach. I hope Holland can swing it. I also like that he is watching the Condors playoffs live.

  • Wadentheshade

    The fact that Holland is watching the Condors live tells me is on board and fully committed. Hard working dude which is good to see as he prepares for the draft and July 1. Short period of time to get up to speed buts he putting the time in. I think he is going to put us in a much better position 2 years from now than we have been in the last 15.