Earlier this week the Oilers announced the signing of Riley Sheahan. It was a move that myself and many others had speculated would happen for a while now. The two sides appeared to be a perfect match and quite frankly, it made too much sense to not happen.
Peter Chiarelli [texting Ken Holland]: So you DON'T have to trade someone for basically anything just because they ask?
— Baggedmilk – Offseason Beet writer (@jsbmbaggedmilk) August 27, 2019
That move brings the Oilers down to just $1.6 million in cap space and puts them dangerously close to 50 contract maximum. Even when Kyle Brodziak goes on LTIR, they’ll likely need to save all of that money in case Mike Smith or one of their rookies start to hit bonuses throughout the year.
All things considered, Ken Holland and the Oiler’s front office are likely done for the offseason and that they started their first summer with the organization strapped by poor contracts handed out by the previous regime, it’s hard to be discouraged with what Holland did.
Would Oilers fans of loved to see a bonafide top-six winger or a stud top-four defenseman added to the roster? Absolutely. But the inability to get that done is hardly Ken Holland’s fault.
You could sit there and say “well if he didn’t sign Alex Chiasson and Markus Granlund, he might have had enough money to go out and get Jake Gardiner” but I highly doubt Gardiner would have signed that exact deal if it was offered by the Oilers and on July 1st, nobody predicted Gardiner would be had for under $5 million.
The Edmonton Oilers’ biggest problems last season were a lack of depth scoring, their defences inability to stay healthy, and inconsistent goaltending. Did Holland fix those issues? I think he made some moves that definitely helped the problem.
The signings of Granlund, Chiasson, Archibald, and Nygard could go a long way in giving the bottom six and offensive boost. None of them are going to be counted on for 20 goals, but I think they’re all pretty safe bets to get more than ten goals, which is something just five Oilers forwards accomplished last season.
Apart from Chiassons moves, the Oilers will hopefully get a full 82 games out of a rejuvenated Sam Gagner, who scored at a 33 point pace after being acquired mid-season, and a healthy Jujhar Khaira who battled injuries and inconsistency last season. There’s also James Neal, who should be nearly a lock to produce more than Milan Lucic did last season.
Young players like Tyler Benson, Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan McLeod, and Cooper Marody provide a little bit of hope as well and while they might surprise this season, they’ll have to beat out established veterans for jobs, which is a major positive.
The forward group looks a lot better than it did when the 2018/19 season came to a close. Holland went out and made the depth better. It’s simple as that.
Looking at the goaltending, it’s hard to be optimistic. Mike Smith has been streaky over the last few seasons and as he creeps closer to 40-years-old it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he has an unexpectedly great year. As for Koskinen, it’s a matter of consistency. There were moments last year where he had a healthy defence in front of him and he managed to string together some really nice runs. After a full offseason of training, the Oilers will need Koskinen to turn those 6-8 game hot stretches into 15 game stretches if they want to compete for a playoff spot.
In a league where goaltending will make or break you, the Oiler’s current tandem leaves me feeling uneasy. Not saying they can’t get the job done, but there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical.
As for the defence, I actually didn’t mind it at points last year, they just couldn’t stay healthy. Anticipating 82 games out of Oscar Klefbom and even Kris Russell seems like wishful thinking but if it happens, I believe this d-core is good enough to keep them in playoff contention. Klefbom, Larson, and Nurse and legitimate top-four options and players like Matt Benning, Caleb Jones, Evan Bouchard or even Ethan Bear could be ready to take a step forward from what they were last season.
I know it’s aggravating to sit here a week before training camp and hear about how the Oilers need young players to step up if they want to contend but it’s the reality of the situation. That isn’t Ken Hollands fault though. If we’re sitting here in September 2020 and once again wondering which kids could have breakout seasons in order for the Oilers to push for the playoffs, then I’ll have an issue with the Oilers GM.
I don’t want to sound like someone who is just drinking the Oilers kool-aid, I’m not doing that, but to say that Ken Holland didn’t have an effective offseason just simply isn’t fair in my opinion. When I look at the moves he made and the gambles he took, Holland gave the Oilers a better chance to compete for a playoff spot in 2019/20 while also keeping an eye on next summer, which is when he will really be to put his stamp on this team.