Edmonton Oilers CEO Jeff Jackson has “always been a fan” of Mark Hunter, who could be among the possible options to be the team’s next GM

Photo credit:The Canadian Press Images/Mark Spowart
Cam Lewis
1 month ago
Among the storylines on the 2023-24 Edmonton Oilers is that season could be Ken Holland’s last as a general manager in the NHL.
After spending 36 years with the Detroit Red Wings and 22 years as the team’s GM, Holland joined the Edmonton Oilers in June of 2019. The Oilers had fired Peter Chiarelli earlier during the season and Holland was brought in to turn things around following back-to-back years out of the playoffs.
The five-year contract that Holland signed will end after this season and it’s uncertain what the four-time Stanley Cup winner and Hockey Hall of Famer will do next. Last spring, after the Oilers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Vegas Golden Knights, Holland told reporters that he was focused on the season ahead.
“For me, it’s unfinished business,” Holland said. “I plan to honour my contract.
“Beyond that, at this stage of my life, I don’t invest in green bananas. I’m not sure if I’m going to be around long enough to see them ripen to be yellow.”
The ideal scenario for Holland would surely see the Oilers win the Stanley Cup this spring and him riding off into the sunset on top. If the Oilers don’t win, though, Holland, whose last Stanley Cup came in 2008 with Detroit, might still have “unfinished business” in Edmonton.
Of course, if the Oilers do ultimately come up short again this year, it’s difficult to say if there’ll be an appetite from the top level of the organization to maintain the status quo and give Holland another season or two. Leon Draisaitl is eligible to sign a contract extension this summer while Connor McDavid is set to reach free agency one year later. It might be easier to sign both players if they know which general manager will be building the team for the next five to ten years.
There seemed to be an internal candidate preparing to take over the role last year, but former Oiler Steve Staios wound up taking over as the President of Hockey Operations for the Ottawa Senators after the team was solid to Toronto businessman Michael Andlauer. Unless one of the team’s AGMs (Keith Gretzky, Bill Scott, or Brad Holland, Ken’s son) gets promoted, the Oilers will likely have to look externally for their next general manager.
Over at Sportsnet, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek were speculating about who the Columbus Blue Jackets might hire to replace Jarmo Kekäläinen, who was fired last week. Mark Hunter’s name came up as a suggestion for both the Blue Jackets and Oilers.
“The first name Elliotte Friedman wondered about for [the Columbus Blue Jackets’ vacant] GM position is London Knights GM and former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Mark Hunter, who knows all about development, having run one of the most successful junior programs in the CHL for years. And when the Blue Jackets actualize as a consistent playoff team it will most likely be on the timeline of the young players they boast in their pipeline.
Hunter is a good candidate, but I also wonder about him and the Oilers if this is Ken Holland’s last season running the team. Oilers CEO of Hockey Operations Jeff Jackson has always been a fan of Hunter as he always was of Kris Knoblauch — and we all know how that played out.”
Hunter was the seventh-overall pick in the 1981 draft by the Montreal Canadiens and he scored 213 goals and 384 points over 628 games in his NHL career. His two older brothers, Dave and Dale Hunter, both played in the NHL, with the former winning three Stanley Cups with the Oilers during the 1980s.
Following their playing careers, Mark and Dale Hunter purchased the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and took over as general manager and head coach. In 2003-04, Hunter was named OHL Executive of the Year, and, the following season, the Knights won their first OHL Championship and Memorial Cup in team history.
After a decade of success with the Knights, Hunter left his role as general manager with London to be the Director of Player Personnel for the Toronto Maple Leafs. A few months later, the Leafs fired general manager Dave Nonis and Hunter was named co-interim general manager alongside Kyle Dubas.
The Leafs hired Lou Lamorellio to become their GM and Hunter and Dubas operated as his assistant general managers for the next few seasons. After two consecutive losses in the first round of the playoffs in 2016-17 and 20-17-18, Lamorellio and the Leafs parted ways and Dubas was named the team’s general manager. Hunter and the Leafs agreed to terminate his contract and he returned to the Knights.
Given his success at the OHL level, Hunter is frequently talked about as a candidate to become the general manager of an NHL club, though his few years working with the Maple Leafs is the only experience he’s had in the league beyond his playing career. Most recently, Hunter was a “name of interest” for the vacant GM position of the Calgary Flames before the team ultimately went with Craig Conroy.
There’s also been speculation about Dave Gagner, the father of current Oiler Sam Gagner, being a candidate to become the team’s next general manager, but that suggestion was shot down when Elliotte Friedman later reported that he wouldn’t pursue the role.

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