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Ken Holland’s Shopping List

When I lived on my own I never made a shopping list. I’d do a quick scan in the fridge, freezer and cupboards and make mental notes about what I needed. It was far from a perfect system as I’d inevitably miss an item every few trips. I never forgot main staples like chicken, milk, eggs, but often would forget an tasty accessory or spice and would end up going back the next day to buy it. Not ideal. Marriage changed my shopping style. Now we have a massive chalk wall in the pantry and when something is low it goes on the board.

While I miss the challenge of remembering every item, and the one-man celebration when I had a perfect shopping outing, I do admit our shopping system today is more efficient.

Ken Holland and the Edmonton Oilers management has a shopping list. They know what they need, but when free agency begins on Wednesday it will be like they are shopping late on a Saturday night when the shelves are bare and the person in front of you just grabbed the last tub of your favourite ice cream. There are other flavours, but they aren’t your first choice.

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The Oilers have a shopping list. They know what they need, but signing those players will be a challenge.

OILERS NEEDS…

Feb 20, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Zach Hyman (11) plays the puck against Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

They will officially sign Zack Hyman on Wednesday. Barring a last minute change, it will be a seven-year deal. If Toronto wants to accept a late round draft pick as part of a sign-and-trade, then it will be an eight-year deal. But as of today all arrows point to Hyman signing for seven years with an AAV around $5.5m.

With Hyman signed, they still have four holes they’d to fill: one top-nine left winger, a third line centre, a second pair right defenceman and a third pair left defender. The challenge is they have $10m in cap space to do it and have to consider contract extensions next season for Darnell Nurse and Jesse Puljujarvi. Kailer Yamamoto needs a new deal this year, but I don’t see him getting much of a raise. He has no arbitration rights and had four goals in the final 41 games of the season.

Considering they have to sign four players and have $10m to spend, I don’t expect them to be big-game hunting. I’d argue the most important spots are on defence. They need to replace Adam Larsson’s tough minutes (D-zone starts at 5×5 and PK), with two players. I don’t see a RD, who is available, who can play all those minutes. Dougie Hamilton isn’t an option in Edmonton. So I see them shoring up the defence with two players.

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OPTIONS…

On the right side:
David Savard, Travis Hamonic, Tucker Poolman, Jason Demers, Cody Ceci and Jani Hakanpaa.

Savard will cost the most and there are some concerns about his speed. Hamonic is likely more of a third pairing guy now, but he has played in second pair before and could do it. He wants to play in Western Canada and had a $1.25m AAV last year.

Poolman is intriguing. He played 44% of his 5×5 TOI against Elite players this past season and was paired mainly with Josh Morrissey. He isn’t flashy, and brings less offence than Larsson, and isn’t as physical, but he skates well and can munch minutes.

Demers is who they should have signed in the summer of 2016 instead of trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson and signing Milan Lucic. But I digress. Five years later, signing Demers to replace Larsson would be a classic Oilers move.

Ceci’s past two seasons in Toronto and Pittsburgh have been infinitely better than his previous seasons in Ottawa. Via PuckIQ.com, over the past two seasons Ceci played 32% v. Elite, 34.9% v. middle and 33% v. Gritensity players. He played a total of 1,779 minutes at 5×5. Larsson played 1,786 minutes and his splits were 33.3 v. Elite, 32.6% v. middle and 34.1% v. grit. Their splits were very close.

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Here are some other comparisons:
Player       CF%     SF%       GF%     xGF%
Larsson    46.5      47.4      45.6      47.6
Ceci         49.3      48.4      54.2       49.8

Their zone starts:
Player          Ozone     Nzone       Dzone       On fly
Larsson        169         380            280           1259
Ceci              233         317           221            1395

Ceci isn’t as physical with 148 hits to Larssson’s 248 and Larsson blocks more shots 171-119. They have different skill sets, as Ceci moves puck better. Ceci actually had significantly more PK time the past two seasons at 292-213, however he was on the ice for way more GA. He isn’t the same physical, shutdown as Larsson, but he will cost less and has been effective the past two seasons.

Hakanpaa is a big, strong defender, but is probably more of a third pairing defender. One scout told me, “Slow head,” which means doesn’t react quickly enough, but another said “Makes the right play. Safe, solid defnder.” So it seems there are varying opinions on him.

LEFT SIDE…

Derek Forbort, Jake McCabe, Mike Reilly, Ian Cole and Ryan Murray.

Forbort can also play the right side which makes him even more valuable in my eyes. He has consistently played more minutes against elite competition dating back to his time with the LA Kings. A lot of teams undervalued him last season in free agency, but this year he will cash in. He might be out of Edmonton’s price range. He has played in Canada, but his birth certificate gives me pause.

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McCabe likely won’t sign in Canada either, but I had to include him as I think he is quietly a very good defenceman. He’d be a great fit.

Reilly has played parts of four seasons in Canada, so there is a better chance he’d sign here even though he is American. He’d be a very good third pair left defender who could also play on your second pair at times.

Cole is a minute muncher who does the ugly jobs. I love his strength and competitiveness. But, he’s American.

Ryan Murray is a Saskatchewan boy, and I’m told would love to play in Canada. He had a solid season on a bad New Jersey team. He reminds me a bit of Larsson in that he was also a high draft pick, but has become more of a defensive defenceman. He plays the tough minutes without much fanfare.

THIRD LINE C…

Jan 18, 2021; Anaheim, California, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (15) during a stoppage in play against the Minnesota Wild in the second period at Honda Center.

Edmonton needs to find a centre who can play the three hole until Ryan McLeod is ready. They might have to settle for a fourth line guy, but ideally, they find a third line centre.

Some options include: Ryan Getzlaf, Alex Wennberg, Paul Stastny, Nick Bonino, Erik Haula, Luke Glendening and Tomas Nosek.

Getzlaf is probably unrealistic, but he’d be the best option. Skilled, mean, tough and he’s always involved. He’d carry others into the battle.

Wennberg has good skills and he was the main penalty killer for Florida last season. Edmonton needs a skilled 3C, who can also kill penalties so he can stay in the game. The 3C in Edmonton won’t be getting much PP time, and if you want them productive and involved they need to be on the PK.

I think Stastny still has game. I liked him in the playoffs for Winnipeg. He hasn’t been on the PK much as of late, so how would Dave Tippett keep him involved?

Bonino would be a great fit. He’s been very productive at 5×5 the past eight seasons whether it was with LA, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Nashville or Minnesota. This past season he had 19 points in 55 games with a 1.99 P/60. In 2014 with Anaheim he had a 1.97 P/60. Really smart, consistent player and he can win faceoffs and kill penalties.

Haula can also PK and chip in offensively. He doesn’t bring as much 5×5 offence as Bonino, so I’d have him as rung below.

Frank Seravalli reported Glendening will have lots of suitors, and while his offensive numbers don’t look like a 3C, teams really like what he brings on the PK and in the faceoff dot.

Nosek is my darkhorse choice. I think he has more to his game than the opportunity he had in Vegas. He’d be a good low-cost bet for me.

LEFT WINGERS…

Options include Tomas Tatar, Mike Hoffman, Jaden Schwartz, MIkael Granlund and Nick Ritchie (wasn’t qualified by Boston) and Jordan Martinook.

I’ve been bullish on Tatar all off-season because he scored the 22nd most points in the NHL at 5×5 the past three seasons. With Hyman and RNH he likely doesn’t fit now, unless they sign another LW and move RNH to centre. Because then Edmonton would have enough skilled top-nine forwards to run with RNH in the 3C.

Hoffman can score, but it sounds like he will be getting an increase from his $4m AAV last season. That likely takes him out of being a realistic option for Edmonton.

Schwartz’ main concern is injuries, because when he is healthy is a productive player. His dogged work ethic makes him attractive, but he’s been connected to Colorado and Seattle already so he might not be a realistic option.

Granlund’s production has dipped the past two seasons, and that is why I think he might be in similar boat as Hoffman was last year. He might have to wait a few days and sign a short-term, prove it contract. He’d be a good bet in my eyes.

**Updated**
I wrote a few weeks ago Ritchie wouldn’t be qualified, mainly due to Boston being fearful of him going to arbitration and getting a big raise. Ritchie is a big body who has decent finish and plays with an edge. Last season was his best goal scoring season, but not his best points/game. He will get a lot of interest, due to his unique skill set. He probably gets priced out of Edmonton’s range, but a few years ago Patrick Maroon settled for $900K to sign in St.Louis. Maybe Ritchie won’t get the payday he wants and if so Edmonton should be very interested.

Jordan Martinook is more of a 4th line LW option. He is very vocal and energetic, which the dressing room needs. He’d be cost effective at around $1.1m and can kill penalties. He can also take some faceoffs if needed.

PARTING SHOTS…

I wrote earlier that Edmonton will have over $10m in cap space and that is based on them buying out James Neal. Holland has had discussions with teams on a possible trade, but one trade conversation did fall apart on the weekend. I can’t confirm how close it was, but it was far enough long to be considered a possibility. Maybe they reignite it tonight, but if not I expect Neal will be placed on waivers tomorrow for purpose of a buyout.

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