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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Is Ken Holland done making moves?

Welcome, friends, to a fresh edition of the Monday Mailbag where our panel of expert bloggers answers all of your Oilers related questions and give you a few minutes of time killing distraction from whatever you have going on today. This week, we’re looking back at Ken Holland’s work at the NHL draft, free agency, and a whole lot more. As always, I need your questions to make this work. If you’ve got one, email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.

1) @oilersjunkey98 asks – How would you grade Ken Holland for his free-agent signings and draft work?

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Jason Gregor:

Hard not to give Holland an A when discussing Kyle Turris and Tyson Barrie. Both signed short-term with very reasonable salaries. If you include Tyler Ennis and Mike Smith who re-signed in Edmonton, but were technically unrestricted free agents, then among the four I’d still say B+ because the only potential risky signing was Smith.

As for the draft I like the Dylan Holloway pick a lot. We won’t really know how good, okay or bad the overall draft was for many years. Edmonton has a shortage of skilled forwards in the system, and Edmonton drafted all forwards, all who had solid offensive numbers in junior, and were a mixture of sizes. I only saw Holloway and Carter Savoie play, and I like both, but I didn’t see the rest enough to give any sort of accurate grade or assessment.

Robin Brownlee:

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The only shortcoming I see is having to circle back to Smith in goal. Even with that, he got him cheaper than last season. It’s a B.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I would give him a B+. I loved the Ennis deal, I think the Barrie deal was great, and I give him a lot of credit for getting Puljujarvi signed to a two-year deal. I like the Turris deal as well. The big area I wanted to see him improve was the goaltending and he didn’t do that. That’s the only reason I’m not giving him an A.

Zach Laing:

I’d give Holland an A-. Every move was shrewd beyond the Mike Smith signing.

The Nation Dan:

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Draft – B I don’t pretend to know a ton about the lower round picks he made, but from everything I read, he drafted some pretty solid, safe bet kind of players starting with his first pick in Holloway.

FA – C+ It would have been a solid A-/B+ but this signing of Mike Smith feels exactly like what I felt when Chia signed Koskinen. “Why now?” and “Why that much?”

Baggedmilk:

I was pretty happy with the draft because I think the Oilers are in desperate need of skilled forwards on their organizational depth chart and Holland tried to address that quite heavily. As for free agency, I’ve got plenty of time for all of the moves he made apart from maybe the Mike Smith signing. As I wrote on Saturday, I think it was a pretty risky bet to make given the importance of the position, and while I’d certainly love to be wrong, at this moment, I think it’s a tough bet to cover.

Jan 8, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie (94) carries the puck against the Winnipeg Jets at Scotiabank Arena. Winnipeg defeated Toronto in an overtime shoot-out. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

2) @NK776 asks – With Barrie and maybe Jones coming into the lineup, what would be your preferred defensive pairings next season?

Jason Gregor:

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I think there will be a surprise on the blueline in Philip Broberg. And I think there is a good chance he plays with Adam Larsson, in similar pairing that we saw in Vancouver with Quinn Hughes and Chris Tanev. Larsson is more of a defensive D-man. Broberg was really impressive in the bubble training camp and his one exhibition game. He was nervous in the first period, but looked much better after. Now he is playing in the SHL and playing very well. So he is my surprise. And that leaves Caleb Jones and Kris Russell to be paired with Tyson Barrie. Darnell Nurse plays with Ethan Bear.

Robin Brownlee:

With Klefbom out, Nurse and Bear, Jones and Larsson, Russell and Barrie.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I would keep running Bear/Nurse and I would expect they’ll have to play a lot of hard minutes. My other pairings would probably be Jones/Larsson and Russell/Barrie. I like having a good puck mover on each pairing.

Zach Laing:

Nurse – Bear
Jones – Barrie
Russell/Lagesson/Broberg – Larsson

The Nation Dan:

I think both Barrie and Jones will pair up and will be given time to gel and play some third-pairing minutes, but I could also see both of them as our second pairing (either Jones with Larsson or Barrie with Jones/Russell) by game ten.

Baggedmilk:

Barrie should be on the third pairing because that’s where he’ll have the most success at even strength. We all know he can put up points, and I really believe he’s going to, but we also have to recognize that he can be an adventure in his own zone at times. My guess would be Nurse-Bear, Russell-Larsson, Jones-Barrie unless someone else gets brought in or Broberg/Bouchard push their way into the lineup.

3) @Devin4444 asks – Do you foresee Ken Holland making any more moves this offseason? If yes, what would be your best guess?

Jason Gregor:

He might add another forward closer to the start of the season in free agency. The Oilers did make Dominik Kahun an offer, but he was looking for more money, so Edmonton moved on and re-signed Tyler Ennis. Maybe they circle back and see if his contract ask has dropped.

But it is more likely he adds a Dman. They need more blueline depth, and he will want someone with some NHL experience.

 

 

Robin Brownlee:

Always possible, but I’d say no at this point. Long-term prognosis for Klefbom could change that.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think he will sign a left-winger who can play in the top-nine and has the potential to score more than 15 goals for around $1.5 million. Someone like Dominik Kahun. And I could see them signing a cheap LHD to have around in case of injuries.

Zach Laing:

Beyond Ethan Bear re-signing, I could see more moves happening in terms of depth signings but I don’t reckon we’ll see those until Oscar Klefbom gets put on LTIR.

The Nation Dan:

We were talking about this on Oilersnation Radio this past week and I will echo what I felt there (fun episode to listen to as well though) that he will be making some small type of moves. A veteran D-man that can come in and play NHL minutes for short stints. We are looking at every other pro league that isn’t playing in a bubble, dealing with multiple players missing time with positive COVID results. So the Oilers are going to need to be ready to have players to step in for two-week stints at a time.

Baggedmilk:

I hope so. Depth always matters, but I have no idea how he’d make the math work. There are still plenty of guys out there that are waiting for contracts so maybe he can grab another deal or two?

Mar 5, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Tyler Ennis (63) keeps the puck away from Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) during the third period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

4) Trevor asks – Despite not having much cap space, Ken Holland was able to get a few things done in free agency and I’m wondering what is everyone’s favourite and least favourite deal that the Oilers gave out? I’d also consider Puljujarvi a free agent signing as well.

Jason Gregor:

I like Barrie at $3.75m the best. He will play a lot, will make a dangerous PP even more dangerous. Puljujarvi at two years at $1.175 is very good as well. The risk is if he plays well the Oilers could lose him in the expansion draft. Least favourite would be Smith’s base salary.

Robin Brownlee:

Barrie at $3.75 million for one year was Holland’s best move. Both sides get a season to see if there’s a fit. Wanted an upgrade on Smith.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

My favourite move was the Barrie signings with the Ennis deal being a close second. My least favourite deal was the Smith contract. That one was really the only bad deal Holland gave out this offseason.

Zach Laing:

My favourite is Barrie. Holland brought in an elite offensive defenceman and a guy who turned down money and term to sign in Edmonton. I can’t recall the last time that happened. Least favourite is Smith for… obvious reasons. I expected the Oilers to go a different route, but they appeared to have no fallback option planned, beyond Smith, after losing out on Markstrom.

The Nation Dan:

It’s plain and simply, Tyler Ennis. He was by all rights, going to be a big free agent signing for someone, and he took a huge pay cut to finish what he started here. You love to see it. The only answer that you’re going to see for disliked is the Mike Smith deal. Too much, too soon, too safe?

Baggedmilk:

I really liked seeing Ennis come back for $1 million. That’s a smart signing on a guy that has consistently put up offence in the NHL. I also like the bet on Tyson Barrie. Despite questioning the Smith deal, I would love to be wrong.

Photo: Hockey Canada

5) Jeremy asks – If you take his international record into account, does Ryan Smyth get into the HHOF at some point?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t think so. Look at the following players who were somewhat close in games played and points.

Smyth… In 1270 games…386-456-842
Ray Whitney… 1330 games…385-674-1064
Ray Ferraro… 1258 games… 408-490-898
Jason Arnott… 1244 games… 417-521-938
Steve Thomas… 1235 games….421-512-933
Vinny Lecavalier…1212 games… 421-528-949
Owen Nolan… 1200 games… 422-463-885
John Leclair… 967 games… 406-413-819

I included Leclair, because he had 20 more goals in 300 fewer games. He scored 50 three times. I’d have him in first among all the above players. I don’t see Smyth getting the call. I do think the Oilers should honour him in some way though. He was the face of the franchise for years.

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t see Smyth as a Hall of Fame player no matter how much time passes or what angle you choose to look at his career. Smyth earned a place in the hearts of Oilers’ fans with the way he played, but not in the HHOF.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I don’t think he does, but I think it’s very close and there is a very good case for him to get in. He won a lot with Team Canada and that’s worth something.

Zach Laing:

That’s a great question. Smyth won everything internationally, but his biggest knock against him was no Stanley Cup. Personally, I’d love to see him get in at some point, but it might take him a few decades ala Kevin Lowe.

The Nation Dan:

That’s where the scale tips for me. Smyth is one of the Oilers that would be a reason to create a “ring of honour” type thing for players that maybe don’t reach HHoF status. His international play is such that should make him ballot worthy and you can’t help but think, for a guy who made his heart and passion a thing that teams were willing to pay elite forward type money for, that he will see the hall at some point.

Baggedmilk:

I doubt it, to be honest. At least, not any time soon.

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