In Ken Holland’s first summer at the helm of the Edmonton Oilers, he invested in a bunch of cheap scratch tickets in search of hidden gems to fill up the roster.
Given the fact Holland had very little room financially to work with, he avoided making even a medium-sized splash in free agency, instead opting to raise the floor of the roster with solid depth contributors. Holland added Joakim Nygard, Gaetan Haas, Markus Granlund, Riley Sheahan, Josh Archibald, Tomas Jurco, and Mike Smith on one-year deals, giving the roster some much-needed depth.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION question. With the Oilers still in a fairly tight space financially, which of Holland’s scratch tickets would you bring back next season?
Joakim Nygard has already been given a one-year extension worth $875,000. The Swedish winger didn’t produce much offensively, but he added some much-needed speed to the Oilers’ lineup and was effective in a checking role at even strength.
Gaetan Haas, Holland’s other professional European signing, has also been very quietly effective for the Oilers this season. His five goals and 10 points aren’t eye-popping, but he has a positive shot differential at even strength and is just barely in the red in terms of goal differential. Like Nygard, Haas adds speed to the bottom-six, which is key in the modern NHL.
Markus Granlund has been a major disappointment for the Oilers so far. It wasn’t that long ago Granlund posted 19 goals playing with the Sedin twins, so there was some optimism he could be a fit alongside Connor McDavid. Instead, Granlund has mustered just four points and cleared waivers to be sent to the AHL. If he isn’t producing offence, he isn’t doing much. It’s hard to imagine Granlund will have another NHL gig next year.
Tomas Jurco is a name Holland is familiar with from his time in Detroit. Holland drafted Jurco with the 35th overall pick in the 2011 draft and while the Slovakian winger has been excellent at the AHL level, he’s never been able to translate it to the NHL game. Jurco’s season has been derailed due to injury as he had hip surgery back in December and it’s reasonable to assume he won’t play again this year. I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing Jurco back as AHL depth, but it’s hard to imagine him breaking out as an NHL player at this point.
Riley Sheahan is another one of Holland’s former Red Wings. Drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft, Sheahan has carved out a career as a defensive centre and penalty kill specialist. His penalty killing alone has been a massive boon for the Oilers, as he and Josh Archibald have played a key role in Edmonton going from one of the worst penalty kills in the league last year to one of the best this year.
Josh Archibald was also brought in to help fix Edmonton’s penalty kill. As I said above, he and Sheahan have had a massive impact on improving the Oilers’ penalty kill, but Archibald has also shown the versatility to move up the lineup at even strength. Archibald has filled in for Zack Kassian on the McDavid line in the past and didn’t look out of place at all. He’s scored 10 goals this year, eight at even strength and two shorthanded.
Mike Smith was a controversial signing given his age and his ugly 2018-19 season in Calgary, but it made sense given his familiarity with head coach Dave Tippett. Smith has been on and off this year for the Oilers, putting together some good stretches along with some bad ones. All told, he has a .903 save percentage through 35 games played.
Tyler Ennis was a trade deadline addition that cost Holland virtually nothing. The local Edmonton product scored a goal and an assist in his first game with the club and didn’t look out of place alongside McDavid. He has 35 points in 63 games this year, his best total since his days as a key player in Buffalo.
Mike Green was Holland’s other deadline rental. He was having a miserable season with the tanking Red Wings, but Green has looked revitalized as an Oiler, though its only been a couple of games. He’s nowhere near the elite offensive defenceman he used to be, but Green, who turns 35 in October, can still help as a veteran depth defender.
So, which of these scratch tickets would you want to see back next season? Sheahan and Archibald seem like no-brainers to me because of how effective they’ve been on the penalty kill. Haas, like Nygard, is very solid depth at a cheap price. Granlund is easy to wave goodbye to and Jurco could go either way for me. It’s hard to say how much more Smith has in the tank but none of Edmonton’s AHL goalies seem ready for an opportunity just yet. We’ll have to see more of the deadline additions, but I’ve always viewed Ennis as a nice fit for the Oilers.
Ultimately, what it comes down to with all of these guys is the price. An issue Holland has had in the past is overpaying for depth players. If you look at Detroit’s salary cap picture, you’ll see names like Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm bogging them down. Overpaying a depth guy by $750k might not seem like very much, but it all adds up. If you slightly overpay your entire bottom-six, you slowly lose out on $3 or $4 million to possibly add an impact player.
What say you, Nation? Which scratch tickets would you bring back? How high would you go on contracts? Would you offer any of them multi-year deals? Or should Holland continue with the one-year, show-me deals?