Welcome to the OilersNation UFA preview. Over the next 15 days, we’ll be profiling the top 30 players in this year’s UFA class, as listed by TSN. Contract information is from our friends at Puckpedia. Full UFA list via puckpedia here. Analytics provided by hockeyviz.com and naturalstattrick.com. Contract projections are done by evolving-hockey.com with the presumption contracts are signed between Aug. – Oct. 11.
Today, we’re looking at the 14th ranked Mikael Granlund and the 13th ranked Braden Holtby.
The Oilers took a gamble on Markus Granlund last summer, maybe they’ll do the same this year with his older brother, Mikael.
Drafted with the No. 9 pick in the 2010 draft, Granlund became a very good player for the Minnesota Wild. In 2016-17 and 2017-18, Granlund put up 67- and 69-point seasons and also got some love in Selke Trophy voting as one of the league’s better defensive forwards. In 2018-19, Granlund was on the verge of yet another 60-point season when the Wild dealt him to the Nashville Predators.
Since arriving in Nashville, Granlund hasn’t seen the same success he did in Minnesota. Over the course of 79 games with the Predators, Granlund managed just 18 goals and 35 points and he produced just three points across 10 playoff games.
Despite that poor production, Granlund is still a very interesting player. He plays centre and left wing, both of which are needs for the Oilers, and he’s consistently been a very good defensive forward throughout his career. Also, Granlund boasted very good underlying numbers in Nashville (52.37 expected goals-for percentage at even strength) which indicates that his offence could bounce back in a new setting.
Contract Projection: Seven years, $6,525,000 AAV.
Should the Oilers be interested? Yes. As I said, Granlund checks two possible boxes for the Oilers. He could possibly drive a quality third line as a centre or he could be a nice linemate for Connor McDavid with his high-quality skill and good two-way game. The question here is money and whether the Oilers can afford to fit him into their tight salary cap situation. Even though he had a down season, Granlund isn’t far removed from being a 60-point guy in Minnesota, so there’ll surely be a decent market for him.
A few years ago, Braden Holtby was one of the best goaltenders in the game. Between 2014-15 and 2016-17, Holtby appeared in a whopping 202 games for the Capitals, posting a very impressive .923 save percentage. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2015-16 and finished as the runner-up in 2016-17.
In the three years since then, though, Holtby’s performance has declined. Between 2017-18 and 2019-20, Holtby produced a .906 save percentage across 161 games and has lost his gig as the Capitals’ starting goalie to Ilya Samsonov.
Of course, the shining moment of Holtby’s career came in 2018 when he led the Capitals to their first-ever Stanley Cup with a .922 save percentage in the playoffs, but things have gone downhill since then. Holtby is now 31 years old and is testing the open waters of free agency for the first time in his career.
Contract Projection: Two years, $5,000,000 AAV.
Should the Oilers be interested? Probably not. The Oilers need a 1A/1B type goalie to go along with Mikko Koskinen and Holtby will most likely be seeking a place where he can be a team’s No. 1 guy. Even if he is willing to split the net with somebody, Holtby’s numbers indicate a goalie on the downswing, so tossing him a big contract carries a tremendous amount of risk.