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Holland talks return to play, roster, and Edmonton as a hub city

On Wednesday afternoon, Edmonton Oilers GM, Ken Holland, jumped on a conference call with reporters to talk a little bit about the NHL’s return to play plan, the 24-team playoff format, roster decisions, and more.

Since Ken Holland spoke to the media today (he didn’t really say too much tbh), I figured that I would quickly touch on a few of the items he spoke about to make sure that everyone is up to date. Cool? Cool. Ready? Of course you are.

On the Format

As we all know, the NHL announced that it had reached an agreement with the players on a 24-team playoff tournament provided that the league is able to get back underway. When asked about it, Ken Holland admitted that he was excited about the opportunity and that we should have the makings of a fun series.

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“My focus is about still a couple of months away… six, seven, eight, nine weeks away from the start of a best of 5, having our team ready to rock and roll when we get to game 1 and find a way to beat the Chicago Black Hawks. (You) have to deal with the decisions made, we needed to win an extra game along the way and we didn’t.”

Obviously, there was never going to be an idea or plan that appeased everyone, a lot of us think the Oilers are getting screwed by the need to do a play-in series, but Holland did admit that he was happy about it being a five-game series rather than three.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to go into a best-of-five… a lot has to happen between now and then but it has the makings of a tremendous series.”

The Roster

In terms of players that may have left town during this quarantine period, Holland advised that he has not directed the players that are currently out of town to return to the city for the optional skates permitted in Phase 2 before training camp kicks off.

Looking at a few of the players specifically, Holland expects that both Joakim Nygard and Mike Green would both be available to play provided that the league is able to get back on the ice. Both guys were set to return in April and the extra recovery time means that both would be healthy and ready to go.

“If the pandemic had never happened our expectation was that Mike Green would have been back before the end of the regular season and that was early April. Those two will for sure will healthy and ready to roll for training camp.”

As for roster size, Holland said that the Oilers would likely carry 10 defencemen and go with 16-17 forwards but that he’s still waiting on the official word from the NHL about how many they’d be able to bring. Holland also said that Philip Broberg would be eligible for a camp invite, though he didn’t know if he’d be able to bring him as a result of the maximum players allowed.

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On Neal/Lucic Pick

Yesterday, we were all having some fun with the idea of the Flames not getting the conditional third-round pick that was included in the Neal/Lucic trade, but whether or not that’s actually true remains to be seen. Holland says that he sent some questions to the league to clarify what will happen with that conditional pick as well as bonuses that are due on contracts like Mike Smith’s where he was to get $250K had he played one more game.

“I’m waiting for the league to officially give Calgary and us their official position, my position is that it’s black and white — James has 19 goals — but we’ll wait for their final interpretation.”

In the case of the conditional draft pick as well as the bonuses on Mike Smith’s contract, it’s going to be very interesting to see how the league rules on this because someone is going to be upset either way.

Edmonton as a Hub City

Regarding Edmonton’s bid to be a hub city, Holland advised that he is not directly responsible for what’s going on with this pitch, but he did credit Bob Nicholson and OEG for the work they’ve done so far.

“We’ve got an incredible bid, and I know how important it would be to our city. They’ve gone above and beyond to let the NHL know that the city of Edmonton would be a fabulous host.”

As shown above, Dr. Deena Hinshaw wrote a letter to Gary Bettman to endorse Edmonton as a possible destination city and cited several key reasons why she thinks we’d be able to make it work. Premier, Jason Kenney, also wrote a letter to the Prime Minister requesting help with regulations in order to make this happen. Again, whether or not Edmonton will qualify remains to be seen.

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