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From the Top

While there’s still work to do for Edmonton Oilers’ president and general manager Ken Holland with the off-season now stretching into the first week of August, the ink he’s already managed to get done is impressive from where I sit.

The signing of Kailer Yamamoto to a two-year deal with a $3.1 million AAV on the heels of a one-year contract worth $3 million for Jesse Puljujarvi is Holland’s latest work. Brett Kulak is back under contract for four seasons at $2.75 million per. Holland’s best work of the summer was getting Evander Kane back for four years with a $5.125 AAV. I thought Kane was gone for sure.

Not far behind in terms of impact – maybe just as important in the minds of many — is the signing of stopper Jack Campbell to a five-year contract worth $25 million that will have him sharing the goal crease with Stuart Skinner. No more Mikko Koskinen. No more Mike Smith. Fans have been throwing side-eye at the blue paint in recent seasons. I like the chances of Campbell and Skinner getting things done and providing an upgrade.

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What remains for Holland is to somehow find the salary cap room to get Ryan McLeod and Tyler Benson back in the fold on a roster that went to the Western Conference final, losing via sweep to the Colorado Avalanche. It was interesting, then, to listen to Holland discuss what’s been done and what’s next with Allan Mitchell and Dave Jamieson today. For context, the entire interview is at TSN 1260.

WHAT HOLLAND SAID

Avoiding arbitration with Yamamoto: “First off, I’m happy to avoid arbitration. When you’re trying to build a relationship and you’re going to arbitration, you’ve probably put some things onto paper that might hurt the relationship. So, fortunate, happy that we were able to avoid arbitration. We’ve been working at this for two or three weeks. The arbitration process, it’s about comparables and statistics. Happy we were able to get a two-year deal done. Kailer had a real nice year last year getting 20 goals for us and hoping he can build on that.”

Youth pushing for roster spots: “I think we’re satisfied. You’re always trying to figure out ways to make your team a little bit better. I’m excited to get to training camp and see some of the young players on our team . . . I’m anxious to see where some of the other players, you know, (Philip) Broberg, (Dylan) Holloway, (Xavier) Bourgault, (Markus) Niemelainen, Skinner. 

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“I’m anxious to get to Penticton. We’re going to have a rookie/prospect tournament with the other Western Canadian teams. Part of getting better is having youth to push their way onto your roster, push their way up the line-up. Certainly, we had a little of that happen this year. We need more of it to happen.”

The impact of veterans Duncan Keith and Smith: “They pass off that experience, that leadership, and that swagger. Going on a playoff run this year, I think our guys feel good about themselves. But now you start in October, and you’ve got to prove it all over again. That’s the beauty of the NHL. To do it all over again.

“You’ve got to play your way into the top half of the league and try to prove yourself all over again. Certainly, we’ve lost some real veteran leadership, but everybody in that locker room is a year older and has some really good experiences in terms of dealing with the adversity of the middle of the season and digging and grinding and finding a way . . .”

On Jay Woodcroft: “I know when he came in the team really responded to him. He can really communicate with the players . . . he was really good at building those relationships. Maybe part of the reason was he’d been here before, but I also think it’s just who Woody is. He’s a people person.”

Any interest in Phil Kessel, as has been speculated? “With regard to Phil Kessel, obviously anybody that’s on the market, most everybody that’s on the market, I’m aware of and talked to their agent, so, you know, we’ll see. I’m not going to say ‘yes.’ I’m not going to say ‘no.’ I think it depends a little bit if we do anything to our line-up between now and the opening of camp.”

Previously by Robin Brownlee