Five years after Ken Holland struck out on Corey Perry, he lands his guy

Zach Laing
5 months ago
It was the summer of 2019 and Ken Holland was fresh on the job in Edmonton.
He took over an underachieving Oilers team, who despite being chaulked full of talent, couldn’t seem to put it together. When in his first offseason in town, the Anaheim Ducks bought out veteran winger Corey Perry’s final two seasons, Holland made some phone calls.
“I went after Corey hard,” Holland said Monday morning, with Perry flanking him hours after his signing in Edmonton became official.
And understandably so. While Perry was coming off a tough season where he scored just 10 points in 31 games, there was no denying the moxie the then 33-year-old had. He won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks, as well as being a part of the elusive Triple Gold Club, being one of 30 players to win an Olympic gold medal, a Stanley Cup and a World Championship.
Perry opted to sign in Dallas and since has played with the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning since, going to Cup finals with all three teams, this past season landing with the Chicago Blackhawks. What seemed to be the start of a great partnership lasted only 16 games before Perry’s contract was terminated with the club due to an alleged “alcohol-fueled incident” that breached his player contract with the Blackhawks.
Days later, Perry issued a statement apologizing for his actions, saying he “started working with experts in the mental health and substance abuse fields to discuss my struggles with alcohol, and I will take whatever steps necessary to ensure this never happens again.”
“Over the last two months, I’ve really had a chance to reflect and get the help and take full responsibility for what happened in Chicago and try to better myself,” Perry told members of the Edmonton media Monday afternoon, thanking the family, friends, councillors and support systems he’s had. “I’ve been working with people in the mental health field, and in different fields. It’s been a long time since I got back to this spot, to be back on the ice with players and the NHL.”
Holland said Monday that while he didn’t know every detail that led to the termination of Perry’s contract, conversations with Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, Perry himself and others around him, led him to where he is today, inking the winger to a contract through the rest of his season.
“Obviously, you’re trying to make the team better,” said Holland. “I’m fortunate to have been around some good teams through the years, and you never really know.
“Certainly, we’re adding a player here that has won at every level. We’re adding a player, in my opinion, that plays playoff hockey, greasy, gritty, dirty, heavy on the puck down low. You need lots of depth, you don’t know about injuries as you go into the playoffs, so you need lots of players with lots of depth up front, lots of depth on the defence.”
The intangibles Perry will bring are incontestable. Even before he broke into the NHL, winning the 2004-05 OHL championship with the London Knights, and the Memorial Cup later that year.
It’s these intangibles that the Oilers value.
“Obviously a guy that has a tremendous amount of experience,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid. “He’s won, he’s been right there year after year. He brings a lot of experience, a lot of leadership, a lot of those intangible qualities you just can’t teach. A great add for us.”
The plan for Perry and the Oilers right now is loose, with a goal — as of now — for him to play Saturday night against the Nashville Predators, before the club gets a nine-day break. Perry has been keeping in shape himself over the last month and a half, skating at his home four to five times a week with his personal trainer and power skating coach.
While there were other suitors, he’s consistently had his eye on the Oilers from early in the process.
“I do want to say there was some other suitors out there that were great options, and I do want to thank them, but it kept coming back here,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “when you have a six-year-old kid, and you have Connor McDavid on the team, you kind of follow the Edmonton Oilers a little bit.
“All jokes aside, this team is going in the right direction and not just because they’ve won 13 games in a row, but you can see where they’re going and their mindset and the vision they have. They want to win a Stanley Cup here, and I think you look at the pieces around that dressing room, as Ken alluded to, that there are guys in there that can play this game and play it well.
“When you really get down to it, there’s a team in here that wants to win. When I talked to Connor before I ended up coming here and signing, he mentioned all the great things that dressing room has. It spoke volumes for me coming here.”
A match made in heaven?
About as close as one could be.
The additional depth to the Oilers lineup will be significant, now the question is just how impactful Perry will continue to be. If his four goals and nine points in 16 games with the Blackhawks is any indication, it’s clear that he’s still got some pep in that step.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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