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Ken Holland should be calling Minnesota

In hockey, you hear about different ways to acquire talent. Build through the draft. Draft the Best Player Available and trade a surplus of talent at one position to fill a position of weakness. Sign elite talent when they become available a la John Tavares in Toronto or Erik Karlsson in this year’s free agency class.

The Oilers should employ another strategy with Ken Holland at the helm: take advantage of teams making bad decisions. TSN’s Travis Yost summed this up nicely in a tweet four years ago.

Unfortunately, the Oilers have been on the wrong end of these transactions since basically 2006. But Peter Chiarelli is gone and Ken Holland is now Oilers general manager. Holland doesn’t have a big history of swindling other teams in trades, but he’s a respected general manager that shouldn’t be the disaster Chiarelli was in Edmonton.

The Oilers presumably hired someone who won’t make the same mistakes Chiarelli did.

Chiarelli did a lot of good work, just not for the Oilers.

One of Chiarelli’s first moves was trading Boyd Gordon for Lauri Korpikoski. This may seem like a nothing move, but Korpikoski had an extra year on his contract and made nearly $500K more than Gordon. Korpikoski was bought out a year after the trade.

The Islanders got Mathew Barzal and a second-round pick, which they packaged to move up to select Anthony Beauvillier, in exchange for draft bust Griffin Reinhart. Chiarelli also gave them Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome a couple of years later. Chiarelli might have done more work for the Islanders than Garth Snow.

Oilers fans know how New Jersey acquired Taylor Hall. The Rangers got rid of Ryan Spooner’s contract for Ryan Strome, who scored 18 goals for New York down the stretch.

Chiarelli acquired what Chicago writers were calling the Blackhawks’ “biggest mistake of the summer” in Brandon Manning and sent a useful depth-guy Drake Caggiula back.

Chiarelli was a disaster in Edmonton, that much is clear. The Oilers have felt the brunt of many poor decisions from their own general managers. It’s time they utilized a poor general manager to improve their team.

Enter Paul Fenton. It might be too early to declare Fenton a poor general manager just yet, but he’s had a couple of questionable moves that I’d be calling him regarding any half decent player on his roster. Besides, general managers that make bad moves usually aren’t employed long. You have to be quick to take advantage of a lesser GM.

Fenton traded Nino Niederreiter to Carolina for Victor Rask mid-season. Rask scored at an 18-point pace over 82 games in Carolina and that only worsened to a 10-point pace in Minnesota. Niederreiter had a 42-point pace in Minnesota and a 68-point pace in Carolina. Rask has three years left on his contract and Carolina not only managed to dump his contract, but acquire a legitimate top-six winger in exchange.

Sure, that’s just one trade that doesn’t look good after 40 games. Plus, Fenton comes from a Nashville organization that often made a bunch of smart decisions and drafted very well.

Fenton also traded Mikael Granlund to Nashville for Kevin Fiala, acquiring a player he was familiar with for a guy a year away from unrestricted free agency. Granlund for Fiala isn’t Niederreiter for Rask, but it’s another trade where Fenton acquires the less-proven and lower-scoring player. Fiala is younger and under team control for longer than Granlund, but Granlund was scoring at a 63-point pace when he was dealt to Nashville. Neither player took off with their new teams, but it’s another move that raises an eyebrow.

Jason Zucker is the third move, or attempted move rather, that should make Holland flood Fenton’s phone with calls. Fenton has been trying to move Zucker since becoming Minnesota’s GM. Zucker was almost traded to Calgary for a package including Michael Frolik and a first-round draft pick. And again to Pittsburgh for Phil Kessel and Jack Johnson, although Rask was rumoured to be involved as well.

Zucker is a good player who had the second-worst shooting percentage of his career and still had 42 points. Zucker’s $5.5-million per year might seem like a lot for 42 points, but he scored 64 points in 2016-17 and is a good bet to score 50-plus points if he shoots closer to his career average.

Kessel obviously is the better scorer, but he might finally be the big scorer who is poor defensively that people thought he was before. Kessel gets points, but 5-on-5 Kessel and Zucker aren’t much different and Kessel is four years older. Johnson is another terrible free-agent contract and trading Rask for him is just a swap of bad contracts.

It’s not just Zucker, although the Oilers could use a guy like him on left wing badly. Jared Spurgeon is an Edmonton native who could significantly help their right side. Maybe Fenton would be interested in Kris Russell or perhaps Milan Lucic with salary coming back to Edmonton?

The Oilers got taken to the cleaners on many trades Chiarelli made as Oilers GM. Find the next Chiarelli and finally be on the right side of a lopsided trade.

  • Serious Gord

    There’s an old adage in poker – Every game has a mark. If you can’t tell which player is the mark – you are the mark.”

    I bet the happened lots with egos like klowe, MacT and chia.

  • Hemmercules

    Man would that be great to see an Oilers Gm fleece another GM. Holland has been good so far but we are yet to see what he can do with the roster. At least I don’t feel that sense of dread like in the Chia era.

    I love how Lucic gets mentioned in every trade possibility. Probably the most untradeable guy in the league right now even with retaining some salary. That contract was a lesson in what not to do on free agency day. I guess stranger things have happened but I think Lucic is an Oiler at least another year.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Look on the bright side,… we could be LA?
      Their entire team is “un-tradeable”.
      Don’t you think that maybe Lucic has more value than say, Phaneuf?
      Whenever I feel bad being an Oiler fan, instead of feeling worse looking at the Boston’s & Winnipeg’s, I always feel better when I think of the LA Kings.
      Now if we could only pry away Drew???

        • Glencontrolurstik

          That was years ago,… Where are they now, and I can count on one hand the current King players that were on that Cup winning team…
          That last cup was won by a light’s out goalie in Quick, do you think the Oilers should target him then?… Exactly my point.

        • Hemmercules

          If the oilers could have had 2 cups instead of the DOD and not have Mcdavid today I would take that in a heart beat. They may never even win a cup with McDavid.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            Yeah they will,… have some faith for Gord’s sake…
            What are you doing on here then if you don’t believe they will win the Championship? It’s summer man,… go fishing or something?

          • Hemmercules

            Have some faith haha. Have we been watching the same team? This team can barely even make the playoffs with Mcdavid let alone win a cup. My faith in this team has been beaten into submission by the OBC. Maybe Holland can pull us out of the basement but we are yet to see anything other than changes to the front office.

            Only 1 team can win it every year. McDavid is here for 7 more years and the league has become way more competitive. We need a lot of things to go right to get that cup in the next 7 years.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            Look ahead young man, we are in much better shape than LA & many other teams as of right now. A couple of tweaks & we’re in post season next year. As you have learned this season, anything can happen. As in 06, we just squeaked in & made it to the final…
            Sure we have had a bad decade plus, but things are looking up my friend… As of now, we are better off than LA, with all their aging expensive superstars, that just can get it going anymore…
            You’re right, things were so bad on the Oil, they had no where to go but up… Get used to the ride baby… it’s what you have waited for.

          • Hemmercules

            Not saying we aren’t in better shape than LA, just that winning a cup is crazy hard. Some teams have zero cups and have been in the league a long time.

            I hate the “anything can happen” idea about the playoffs. The team that ends up winning has stellar defence and goaltending almost 100% of the time. Two of the hardest things to find in the NHL and the Oilers have neither of them.

            “Get used to the ride baby… it’s what you have waited for”……..didn’t we say that after the 2006 cup run? and again when Katz bought the team? and again when we drafted Hall? and again when Chia was hired?……..still waiting……..

            I am unable to get overly excited about the Oilers until they prove they are playoff worthy.

    • Derzie

      Lucic has company at the bottom of the tradeable list. Based on performance relative to cap hit, Zaitsev, Callahan and Rask are right there with him.

      If you look at 4 years of Lucic, you can expect Shattenkirk, Frolik, Kessel & Subban to be just as painful for that period. The cliff is close and steep in today’s NHL.

  • OilCan2

    What a great way to stir the pot. Mention EVERY lousy trade PC ever made for the Oilers. All Ken H has to do is stand pat and he is light years ahead of our last GM.

  • OilCan2

    What a great way to stir the pot. Mention EVERY lousy trade PC ever made for the Oilers. All Ken H has to do is stand pat and he is light years ahead of our last GM.

  • billsbills

    No argument here. Definitely beat that drum and see what shakes loose out of Minny. I would asking be calling on Tampa. They desperately need to shed salary and may even move a decent contract to do it.

      • billsbills

        I would say cap wise, the Oilers are in better shape than
        Tampa
        Vegas
        Pittsburgh
        Arizona

        For this off season. Of course all of those teams except for Phoenix made the playoffs last year and are pretty much a lock for next year too.

  • Gravis82

    42 points for zucker at 5.5 million a bit overpaid. Yet Hall was a ‘6 million dollar man’ scoring 70pts who just had to go. And before we talk about Hall like we are his collective Dad’s and we dont like his attituide, lets all remind ourselves that we are not. All that matters is points scored per dollar invested.

    • hagar

      You still worry about 20 bucks you lost ten years ago? Hall is gone, so are lots of players. How long is it worth mootly talking about hall? Maybe try looking forward, it’s a lot healthier.

    • Hemmercules

      What’s your point? The vast majority of Oiler fans didn’t want to see Hall go when he did. That was all Chia. 40-60 point guys are absolutely with 5.5 mil at this point and time. Hall will probably get close to 10 on his new deal.

    • Cowbell_Feva

      Taylor Hall is made of glass. How he was nominated for the Hart over Claude Giroux is insane, let alone win the MVP shows how dumb that trophy is.

      Hall is a prima Donna. His lack of hockey IQ was alarming. Never seen a #1 overall pick get blown up more in my life than him.

      I thought they could have got more for him, but I for one was happy to see him go!

  • TKB2677

    If the Oilers could get Zucker assuming they are sending salary back, the sure go for it.

    I would be OK getting Spurgeon but I wouldn’t be giving up a ton of assets to get a going to be 30 in November, soon to be UFA.

    The guy I would be targeting is Dumba. If Fenton is trying to be Chia dumb, maybe you can get him out of Minnie. He’s a 24 yr old, right shooting, PP running, good skating, good puck moving, offensive top 4 dman who is signed long term to a good contract at 6 mill.

  • >Jared Spurgeon is an Edmonton native who could significantly help their right side. Maybe Fenton would be interested in Kris Russell or perhaps Milan Lucic with salary coming back to Edmonton?

    Ohh wow if that happens then we should be dancing on the streets. We get that 2nd 40pt defensemen to help on the backend and we get to unlock the cap situation. I totally expect Fenton to actually consider it too

  • TKB2677

    A team that I would be targeting just to get rid of some dmen for cap reasons is Ottawa. Ottawa as a TON of cap space and need to bring on salary just to get to the floor and if you look at their defense, the most expensive guy right now is Borowiecki who’s a #6 dman at 1.2 mill. Ceci needs a new deal but they have a ton of young guys. A guy like Russell is a decent vet dman who has a 4 mill cap hit for the next 2 years but is only 6.5 in actual money paid. You won’t get much but oh well.

        • hagar

          For sure. Wise, and boring, but actually make sense. The Oilers until now (hopefully) made moves that made no sense constantly. You could be forgiven for thinking they were made to purposefully make the team worse.

        • hagar

          Spydyr, I think the majority of the optimism this year is from what hopefully is going to be a culture change. As much as I hate that word, still can’t think of a better one.

          I can’t speak for anyone else, but I personally dont care that its Holland and tippett, i care that it appears the organization is finally trying to distance itself from the old guard that has caused all this mess over the years.

  • RJ

    Absent from this discussion is cap hits.

    Niederreiter for Rask saves the Wild $1.75m/season.

    Granlund for Fiala – Granlund was 5.75m, Fiala was on his ELC. Based on current stats, he’ll come in well below Granlund’s $AAV.

    Trading Zucker would remove $5.5m.

    It seems clear Fenton is reducing costs by getting younger, cheaper players who still have some upside.

    Do people think that you can simply call Fenton and he’ll give away good players and take on bad contracts?

    • RJ

      Niederreiter and Rask are the same age. But there are differences in cap hits and one is a centre while the other was a winger. The trade makes sense in terms of reducing salaries, but not much else.

  • Ben918

    Soooo much wrong with this article. Yes, the Oilers deserve to be the ones winning on a few trades. Zucker is not bad. I think there are better options in the 5-6 mil range on the FA market though. Lots of good players at every level. I would love to see the Oilers pick someone and trade for their rights. Maybe ship some of their extra players for a long shot prospect and the rights to a guy like Nyquist (just an example). Oilers basically need to trade all their blue line other than Nurse, Bouchard and Sammy. The rest can go as they are either over paid, injury prone or both. I would see if someone would take Benning, Russell or Manning if the Oilers keep part of their salaries. Trade them now for the rights to someone and address their three big needs. Top 6 winger, 1B tender and a legitimate top defender to quarterback their brutal power play (plus it would be awesome to see Draisaitl and McDavid out with someone great in OT – It would look like a father son game if they got someone talented).

  • GK1980

    Sounds like he club is having issues sell seats this season. Best news I have heard in months. I persolly won be stepping into Rogers Place until they show they can win and be competitive. I’m done spending money on this useless club.
    someone toted how Holland has made some good moves already. Really? Non have been tangable yet. He didn’t sign Starrett to a 5 year NHL contract so I suppose that is progress…..

  • madjam

    I think it will be smart to have a frugal GM at the helm over next few years to take advantage of those that do not . Example : Buffalo looks like they will pay $9 M for next 8 seasons to retain J.Skinner . He is already 27 . I guess we got quite the bargain for young Draisaitl . Even makes Lucic ‘s 6M contract maybe not so bad after all . Some of new contracts are scary for GM’s , and tough for fans to fathom such big amounts .

  • Oiler Al

    The sooner Jock Chaser from Malibu Beach, stops playing GM, the better off this team will be.Why was Burger Bob not sent packing with Pistol Pete? Because me thinks the hire of Charaili was steam rolled by the owner.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      Your post reads like rubbish. No one is playing GM. Holland is the man now and that is 100% clear. Why are you even talking about Chiarelli (if that’s who “Charaili” is)?

  • toprightcorner

    I don’t even think Holland has to call Fenton in hopes of fleecing him on a deal, I think he needs to call Fenton because he seems willing to consider trading anyone and you could get the type of player that doesn’t become available very often. YOu break even on that trade and it will still be a win.

    Ther have been 2 players I have had my eyes on in MIN for the past 2 years. The first is Coyle, and he was traded to BOS for peanuts, he would have been a huge addition to the Oilers. The second is Dumba.

    Dumba is the perfect target for the Oilers, who desperately need an elite puck mover and someone on the right side.

    We are overloaded with left shot dman, so I would easily trade Nurse for Dumba. Dumba is a much better puck mover, better offense and just as good defensively. Nurse is tougher and grittier and a bit better skater, though Dumba does skate well.

    Dumba is locked in at $6 mill and Nurses next contract will be much higher than that. Dumba is a 65 pt dman on the Oilers without a problem as he is behind Suter and Spurgeon and is still a 50 pt guy.

    You are basically trading fro an oer crowded left side and filling in a weaker right side. I personally think Dumba is the superior dman, but even if you think they are equal in ability, Dumba will have a cheaper cap hit and strengthens a huge weakness for the Oilers.

    Fenton is not afraid to change things up and he will try to make some big changes to get his team back in the playoffs. Dumba is my target and Holland shoud definitely be working Fentn over to get him

  • Dr.Drai29

    I’ve read some sources saying oilers are in on James Neal. Possible swap Lucic for Neal, surely oilers would have to give up a prospect and or a pick too. How true could this be? Sounds better than loui Eriksson as Neal and McDavid are pretty close, so it does make sense

    • #97TRAIN

      I don’t think that will happen. Calgary doesn’t have a whole lot of contract problems so why take on Lucic and why would Edmonton take a guyvthat can’t skate well enough?

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    OMG. Did Buffalo REALLY sign Skinner for 9mil x 8yrs? Ridiculous. Good luck with that contract in 3 years when he’s 30y/o and only getting 30pts a year. (his best was 63 points and he hit it 3 times)

        • Beer_League_Ringer

          Salaries (and terms) are bananas again. I don’t begrudge guys getting paid, but this inflation is unsustainable. It will won’t happen, but I would love to see some high-profile guys take (a little) less like Connor did. Connor knew what 15mil x 8y would’ve meant for the team (and him). The NHL is going to end up with 4-5 good players on each team and 18-19 AHL-quality players (or guys right out of Junior) if this continues. Quite frankly, it could ruin NHL hockey.

          Any financial-minded ON people with a feasible solution? Most of my ideas aren’t feasible: like 5-year rookie contracts with the last two years being “capped” RFA years, or contracts being subject to players making the team every year like in the NFL. I don’t want to see players screwed over, but teams (ergo, fans) have no recourse for under-performing athletes on huge contracts. I guess I just don’t believe anyone has a right to guaranteed wages regardless of performance.