Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland open to trading 14th overall, ‘highly unlikely’ Oilers buyout any players

Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland says if there’s a deal to be had, he is open to trading down from the 14th overall draft position and that it’s highly unlikely the team uses a buyout on any player.

Holland made the comments in a Q&A with The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman. 

Would I be open to trading back from the 14th pick? Yeah. I don’t see us leaving the first round. We feel good about pick 14. We think we’re gonna get a really good, young player there. But if somebody wants to move up, I’ve traded back before, and it’s worked out. It depends what’s offered – or if anything’s offered.

Highly unlikely.

I bought out (Andrej) Sekera last year. He’s $2.5 million against the cap. I made a deal with Calgary and I took on $750,000 for (James) Neal versus (Milan) Lucic. Part of that is, when you look at the structure of their contracts, one guy can be bought out and one guy can’t. But you can’t run an NHL team like that. I’ve still got (Benoit) Pouliot on there. You just can’t keep buying people out and have money sitting against your cap that you can’t put on the ice.

I bought out Sekera because we had eight NHL defencemen on one-way contracts. I couldn’t fit them all on the roster. And I was told there were some good, young defencemen in our system whether it was (William) Lagesson, (Evan) Bouchard, (Caleb) Jones and Bear. We wanted to create some type of opportunity for a young defenceman to make the team. It created an opportunity for Ethan Bear to make the team.

I don’t wanna do buyouts. We wanna put people on the ice and make them better. The less buyout money you have, the better it is.

On the draft

The comments are interesting and in a first-round as deep as this year’s he, in theory, could trade back and still get a solid player. Last week I wrote about where the Oilers are picking in the draft and Edmonton has no picks in the second round, may lose their third round this year, and their fourth-round was traded for Mike Green.

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Edmonton might be able to pick up another draft pick in the late second/early third round along with a late first-rounder, but who knows.

Holland’s most recent trade back was at the 2016 draft when he traded Pavel Datsyuk’s contract and 16th overall to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Joe Vitale, 20th overall and a 2016 second-round pick. Detroit drafted defenceman Dennis Cholowski 20th overall.

In 2011, he traded 24th overall to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for two second-round picks that year where he drafted Tomas Jurco and Xavier Oullet.

In 2009, he traded 29th overall to Tampa Bay for 32nd overall and 75 overall.

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In 2006, he acquired two second-round picks for a 1st and a fifth.

Holland did relatively well in each trade in the past, so if there’s a right deal I could see him taking it. Staying in the first round, however, I think is very important as he mentioned given the depth of the first round.

And the buyout

I think Ken Holland is absolutely right in not wanting to buyout any players this offseason. While the cap is tight, the few players who could be bought out are providing the Oilers with some-to-solid value on the ice — James Neal and Alex Chiasson, namely.

I know Neal’s big-ticket is a bit of an issue, but when healthy he played well for the Oilers last year and looked really sharp in the playoffs. I’m a huge fan of Chiasson and think he gives Edmonton tremendous value in a bottom-six role.

While Edmonton could add some cap space over the next three years buying out Neal, that $2-million would stay on the books through 2025-26. That’s not going to help the Oilers in the long-term. I still think their best option is to give the Seattle Kraken asset(s) to take Neal.

In other news…

There were a few other notable items in the Q&A:

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  • Holland said it was “so disappointing” Puljujarvi didn’t sign with Edmonton last year. He remained non-committal on Puljujarvi’s future in Edmonton, despite a Mark Spector report that he would return this year.
  • He said the Oilers will be a cap team and will look to be ~$1.5-2-million below the cap.
  • Holland said he was going to work the phones to “make ourselves a little bit different, a little bit better.”
  • He remained open to bringing back Mike Smith.
  • Holland said people need to get a grasp on what the flat cap means for future negotiations re: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and a future extension.
  • He also was non-committal on if he’d give Calgary a 3rd this year, or 3rd next year in the Neal-Lucic deal.

On Twitter: @zjlaing