Is Ken Holland done for the summer?

It’s the quietest part of the summer, which was exactly what I was saying last week before the Oilers made their big splash, but moves at this point of the offseason are few and far between. The Neal for Lucic swapped really got Oilersnation amped up for next season and has a lot of fans hoping that Ken Holland can make one more big splash before the season that will turn this team into a serious playoff candidate.

Now, some will argue that the Neal for Lucic trade didn’t really change that much for the Oilers, but I don’t agree with that. I think swapping a fourth-liner who likely won’t ever score ten goals again for a middle-six winger with 20 goal potential is massive.

Next up for the Oilers should be a focus on either finding a third-line centre or getting one more legitimate top-six forward, even if it means giving up future assets for the latter.

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The big problem though, even if Ken Holland finds a player he likes and feels is attainable, he needs to find a way to make the money side of things work. Right now, he has about $2.5 million in cap space (if you assume Brandon Manning will be buried). You can also assume that if he acquired a forward then another forward would be sent down to get them back to a 23 man roster. That roster move could free up between 750k and $1 million in cap space. Let’s be generous and say they have $3.5 million after that move.

Another wrinkle in their cap situation is potential bonuses and the biggest one in Mike Smiths. If Holland believes that there’s a chance that Smith is this teams starter, then he might want to keep around $2 million in wiggle room.

Personally, I think Holland should completely ignore Smiths potential bonuses. Teams are allowed to go over the cap with bonuses and then just face a penalty next season. If Holland adds another significant piece and Smith hits all of his bonuses, it will be because the Oilers are a playoff team. I think every Oilers fan will take a cap penalty next season (when they have some cap space to play with) in exchange for a playoff berth. It’s really that simple.

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So the Oilers could go get a player worth around $2.5-$3 million in my opinion and again, considering that a major addition at the trade deadline would require a player being sent to the minors, they could have around $1-2 million to play with at the deadline.

That’s not a lot of money and it also doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for potential entry-level contract bonuses that will be attached to Evan Bouchard or Caleb Jones.

The bottom line is that the current cap situation will make it nearly impossible for Holland to make a significant addition via trade unless the other team retains money or the player he acquires is on an ELC or a pending RFA.

Pavel Buchnevich would have been a perfect fit, but the Rangers have since locked him up, giving him a two-year deal worth $3.25 million a season. They not sit with over the salary cap ceiling and still need to sign Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo. Jeff Gorton is slowly running out of time to clear out some cap space. Names like Chris Kreider, Vlad Namestikov, and even Ryan Strome should really interest the Oilers but they all make over $3 million. 

There are other names out there like Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad and there are also teams like Washington, Vegas, and Dallas who will probably need to clear out money before the summer is over.

If Ken Holland wanted to make a splash, he has the assets to do it. That isn’t the problem. The organization has a plethora of young defensemen (Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, William Laggesson) that they could throw into a deal, Jesse Puljujarvi would still have value and they have their first- and second-round draft picks for the next three years. It’s not a matter of the Oiler’s system being so bare that they can’t afford to make a deal they just simply wouldn’t be able to afford the contract of an impact player.

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Ken Holland might really want to make an upgrade to this teams top six and he might even be willing to part with some significant future assets to do it. But he’s stuck with no cap space so the Oilers roster you see right now very well might be the roster when the season starts in October.

  • OilCan2

    I would be really surprised if Ken mortgages the future by trading a draft pick to acquire a top 6 winger right now. My guess is he will be active at the deadline and next summer when he will have cap and roster space.

    • wiseguy

      There’s significant pressure on the organization and Holland to make the playoffs this season (based on the number of emails and texts from the Oilers I have received selling ticket packs and now single game suite packages). I would expect him to round out the roster if it means a future draft pick or prospect is the price.

    • Next year I wouldn’t mind doing a little future mortgage if he can find a way to peel some players already signed at decent money away as there will be room to do that and some free agent shopping. Plus we will know a little better what these kids look like on defence. I’m cozy rolling the dice this year and doing the ante up next year

      • BR

        I disagree – I think anytime you make that many sweeping changes to organisational structure and the coaching staff you have to give them a season to bed in. I mean don’t give them free reign to come in as a bottom three team, but they do get a bit more slack. Especially with the cap hell this team was left with, thats why we’re seeing one year cheaper deals and some moving of salary out. Expect to see Russell and Gagner on the way out over the next 12 months as well. A Russel deadline move could open up enough space for another player.

        • Ken Holland

          Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
          Player X – Nuge – Neal
          Granlund – Haas – Chiasson
          Nygard – Khaira – Archibald

          Klefbom – Larsson
          Nurse – Russell
          Jones – Benning

          If we send Gagner(3.15), Manning(2.25), Brodziak(1.15) and Cave (700k) down, we save 3.9 million in cap room, putting us with just over 6 mil in space.

          Trading Gagner is an option if we need to free up even more.

          This cap space could be extremely valuable when it’s time for some teams to sign their RFAs (Ehlers, Kreider etc).

          The summer may not be done.

  • Spydyr

    The need a top six winger be it Puljujarvi or the return for Puljujarvi.

    The best case scenario in my mind is Puljujarvi dumps his agent and says he wants to come back and give it a go with the new regime in place.

    • ed from edmonton

      The problem is JP has shown no ability to play top 6 minutes. Some may say he has shown no NHL ability at all and should have been in the AHL at best for the past 3 years.

      • Spydyr

        For sure he should have spent more time in the AHL. I have been vocal on that myself for years. The thing is the team pooched his development and as it sits today he cannot go down unless he clears waivers and that is not going to happen. The next best thing is give him a chance, post surgery, to play top six minutes not for a game or two but for at least twenty-five games. Good teams don’t give up on twenty-one year old fourth overall picks with size and speed because they were not developed properly.

        • ed from edmonton

          Talk about “gifting” a player something. Great way to alienate every other player on the team. The only way JP plays again in the NHL to show better than the next guy. Many also said this about Yak. Fortunately the Oil managed to get a 3rd rounder for him rather than ruin the only playoff season in the last 13 by playing Yak next to McD for 25 games just because.

          • Spydyr

            What are they gifting him? Besides Neal he was the most offensive upside of any right winger in the organization. How about seeing what he can do after the surgery to fix his hip is instead of writing him off for the year and sending him to Europe.

    • CactusJr

      Puljujarvi’s development, with the exception of last season, hasn’t been as off course as everybody is saying. Draft +1 split between AHL/NHL with modest success in the A. Draft year +2, 12 NHL goals in mostly a limited, 3rd line role. Last season was a gongshow but if the hip injury was significant enough to require surgery then that would explain a lot. He’s young, and a big body player. They normally take longer to develop anyway so i’m hopeful with dedicated rehabbing after surgery and a good attitude (?) he can get back on track.

    • Canoe Ride 27

      At this point it doesn’t matter who’s to blame for JPs development. If he is at camp, it’s 100% on JP to earn a spot. I honestly don’t think the kid has the heart but I hope he proves me wrong.

  • Generic Oiler Fan

    I hope we can get another PTO signing who is good enough to play 3C. Also need another defenceman for the NHL squad. If we had the following holes filled, I think we’d have most of our players playing where they’re supposed to be in the lineup which looks good on paper. Adding some depth and actual NHL players to those holes would be nice though.

    Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
    Neal – Nuge – Chiasson
    Granlund – ???? – Archibald
    Nygard – Khaira – Gagner

    Extras: Brodziak – Cave – Haas

    Klefbom – Larsson
    Nurse – ????
    Russell – Benning

  • ed from edmonton

    The best thing that can happen with JP, from the Oil perspective , is that he finds a gig in Europe and excels. If he show up at camp what do the Oil do with him. If Neal play right wing, right wingers Neal, Kassian, Chaisson, Archibald and Gagner all had better numbers last year than JP.

    • Spydyr

      “If he show up at camp what do the Oil do with him.”

      Play him in the top six?

      If the team wants to make a run at the playoffs this year they need Puljujarvi or someone in return for him. Letting him play a year in Europe might help Puljujarvi but it does not help the team this upcoming season.

      • Moneyball

        There is no market for puljujarvi other than a 3rd round pick. Better to have him spend time in Europe and maybe develop into something rather than come here and have to play nhl minutes that he is not ready for.

  • percy

    A third line center with a high % in the circle is the most needed right now. I think we might have hit a home run having Neal on the wing, Just a good feeling about it.

    • Spydyr

      IMO Larsson right now is not a top four defenceman. Hopefully he can regain the form he displayed before his father’s untimely demise. He has not been the same player since. I’m firmly on Larsson side and hope he can bounce back this season.


    Spydyr Is 100 % correct, we need JP to be given a chance to play and hopefully after surgery can pick up his game to where it should have been. The coaches will play a big part in his confidence and should be doing everything to make this player succeed. How many times has a player struggled here and gone on and excelled elsewhere … too many times which to me is coaching and development.
    Holland has gone out and brought in more depth and we now need a 3rd line Centre to complete this roster, adding in a healed JP this could really be big for the team.

  • ed from edmonton

    I am all for JP “being given a chance”. Much like Chaisson was given a chance last year. Chaisson took a PTO and earned a top 6 spot. It would be great if JP could do the same. Of course JP would not be on a PTO.

  • percy

    JP has to be put into a position to succeeded not fail. If the KHL is that position then so be it. If JP finds his game in the KHL it gives us different options. A win win situation for both parties. The next move has to be the right move, no regrets.

  • My Water Tastes Funny

    The Oilers are stuck in a bad cap space area. It seems the cost for a legitimate NHL player is $3 million + per season. Bottom end players trying to prove they belong get league minimum or slightly above that. The area missing is the competent 1.5 to 2.5 million per season player. That doesn’t exist anymore and I think is creating the cap problems that so many teams have.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I think Holland will wait and see what other teams are going to do and who they may have to let walk because of cap and contract numbers, teams are still figuring out there rosters still trying to see gauge interests in players and trying to figure out where they go to get contract and cap compliant. Right now the GM’s have the hammer and the players are having to wait and see if someone picks them up or if they are going to get their walking papers, GM’s still have time but as each day passes some guys are going to be on the outside looking in.

    Teams are going to try and move pieces and contracts around and exchange guys for guys on a deal that is better for them. Will Holland do a deal, if he can move a couple bodies out he may, if he waits till in season I think he is okay with that, the one thing I dont see Holland doing is having the Oilers to the cap to begin the season Holland has said he wants a couple mil in cap space so I dont think that will change, but if there is a deal to be had that makes sense , Holland may do that, but if there isn’t I hope he stands fast, no sense in making a deal when there isnt one to be had

  • I don’t think Holland is done. He said at a presser a few weeks ago that he’s always searching for wingers and the Neal and Lucic trade shows that he’s still looking to make moves. He has no ties to the group from last year either. There’s gonna be PTOs and whatever happens with the Puljujarvi situation too. Im sure he’s not going to do the Chiarelli thing where he signs 2 bottom-6 players and calls it a summer(he’s already done more then that)

  • toprightcorner

    I think it would be STUPID not to take some of Smiths bonuses into consideration and NO, if he hits most of them, that does NOT mean the Oilers are in the playoffs. Smith can make $1 mill in bonuses if he plays in more than 45 games. If Koskinen gets hurt, Smith will easily play 45 games. What the fans DON”T want is to lose an extra $1 mill in cap space next year, when they are already tight to the cap and Nurse’s contract is up.

    Th Oilers should be better next year than this year, so why risk penalizing the team. Sure some contracts come off, but not taking bonuses into consideration is poor management and not worth it

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Or, or, or, hear me out.

    We go with McDavid, Draisitl, and Nuge each centering their own lines. We hve enough players to fill out the wings. Easy solution, problem solved