Ken Holland contradicts self in underwhelming trade deadline for Edmonton Oilers

Zach Laing
4 months ago
The trade deadline has come and gone, and so has the Edmonton Oilers’ ability to upgrade their roster further.
Teams around the NHL were busy. The Vegas Golden Knights continued to load the wagon after picking up Anthony Mantha and Noah Hanifin, with a buzzer beater to pick up Tomas Hertl.
Ken Holland was busy too though, making a pair of trades this week to acquire Adam Henrique and Sam Carrick from the Anaheim Ducks and pick up journeyman defenceman Troy Stecher. The Oilers moved out picks in the first, fourth, and fifth rounds to accommodate the deals, while removing zero players from the active roster, beyond the assignments of Sam Gagner and Dylan Holloway to the American Hockey League.
And on Wednesday, these were Holland’s comments about the Oilers having to place Gagner on waivers, and assigning him to the AHL Condors.
“It can’t be a popularity contest sometimes, unfortunately,” said Holland. “Sam is going to be back. At the very latest, he’ll be back when the cap counting ends, depending on how much cap space we’ve got left, and if we accrue space, maybe sooner.”
Holland’s comments about hockey not being a “popularity contest” directly juxtapose what he accomplished — or didn’t accomplish — this year at the deadline.
It’s clear that the Oilers wanted to get better. They were in on Chris Tanev, reportedly offering up Cody Ceci and a first-round pick, but it’s also well-known that Ceci is well-liked within the Oilers room. If they were willing to do that deal for Tanev weeks ago before he was sent to Dallas, where was plan B?
They were also in on Jordan Eberle and likely the team to acquire him before his re-signing in Seattle Friday morning. If they were willing to swing a deal for Eberle in the final hours before the deadline, where was plan B?
To compare, here’s who other teams in the west acquired in-season, and ahead of the deadline.
Vancouver: Nikita Zadorov, Elias Lindholm.
Dallas: Chris Tanev
Winnipeg: Sean Monahan, Tyler Toffoli, Colin Miller.
Colorado: Sean Walker, Casey Mittelstadt, Brandon Duhaime, Yakov Trenin.
Los Angeles: … *crickets* ….
Nashville: Anthony Beauvillier, Jason Zucker, Wade Allison.
Vegas: Anthony Mantha, Noah Hanifin, Tomas Hertl.
The issue with the Oilers’ deadline isn’t so much about what they did — which was, by and large, fine — but rather what they didn’t do. Their inability to pivot after “Plan A” didn’t come through could be detrimental to their Stanley Cup aspirations.
It’s hard not to look at the other moves teams made in direct contention with them and see Edmonton’s moves as underwhelming —d oubly so considering a buyer’s market opened up. The Jets grabbed Toffoli for a second and third. Out of nowhere, Hertl was acquired for effectively two first-round picks. Jake Guentzel was sent to Carolina for a conditional first, a middle-six winger and some mid-range, likely-not-NHLer prospects. Anthony Duclar was sent to Tampa for a 3rd. Trenin went to Colorado for a third.
Questions can and should be asked about the Oilers’ commitment to pushing this team over the top. Under Kris  Knoblauch, Edmonton has had the best points percentage in the league securing 74 percent of their possible points. The Jets are second with 71.3 percent, while the Canucks, Avalanche and Stars are all in the top 10, too.
Edmonton had the assets to make more moves. Roster players like Cody Ceci, Brett Kulak, Warren Foegele and Connor Brown could’ve been dealt to help make money work. This year’s second-round pick remained with the team, as did next year’s first and third.
And don’t try to tell me you can’t go all in every year. Holland said that quote in April 2021 and still hasn’t done it.
The good news is the Oilers can still be cosidered one of the top five teams in the league. They’ve proven so much this season, but given the arms race that happened around them, Edmonton’s margin for error has significantly shrunk.

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.

Check out these posts...