EDMONTON — The one thing we can all agree on when it comes to Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland is this: he should know what a Stanley Cup contender looks like.
Twenty-two years running the Detroit Red Wings has given the Oilers GM an excellent sense of what a team looks like when it’s ready to win, when it’s nearly ready to win, and when it’s still a year or two away from winning. It is fair to assume he has learned to act accordingly, depending on the situation.
Newsflash: The Oilers are not considered a Stanley Cup contender — even if the weaker Pacific Division allows the possibility that a team like Edmonton (or Vancouver, Calgary or Vegas) could somehow navigate into a Western Conference Final. But Edmonton is not a “right now” team, and Holland should not approach the Trade Deadline as if he is running the 2008 Red Wings.
Holland has been at the helm in Edmonton for only one summertime free-agent season, and hasn’t even taken the Oilers through a Trade Deadline yet. So his opportunity to affect change has been short — even though he has made maximum impact in his nearly 10 months in charge.
He’ll bolster his team at the deadline, but he won’t give up a first-round pick or a top prospect in the process. Not for an Oilers team that could still miss the playoff altogether, or go out in Round 1.
The Oilers’ biggest need is a left winger for Connor McDavid. Full-stop.
The goaltending is fine, the defence could stand the addition of a veteran, depth D-man — particularly with Oscar Klefbom (shoulder) on the injured list — and they could use a third-line, faceoff-winning, penalty-killing centreman like Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
But for this team to really fly, McDavid needs a fast finisher on his left side that would give the Oilers two potent offensive units up front.
Andreas Athanasiou? Tomas Tatar? Kyle Palmieri (a RW)? Tyler Ennis?
Speed is a must, and some finish would help too.
• Jesse Puljujarvi, 21, $925,000
• Ethan Bear, 22, $720,000
• Matt Benning, 25, $1.9 million
• William Lagesson, 23, $741,666
• Mike Smith, 37, $2 million
• Josh Archibald, 27, $1 million
• Gaetan Haas, 28, $925,000
• Riley Sheahan, 28, $900,000
• Sam Gagner, 30, $3.15 million
• Markus Granlund, 26, $1.3 million
• Patrick Russel, 27, $700,000
• Brandon Manning, 29, $1.175 million
Potential Assets To Move
Jesse Puljujarvi: The former No. 4-overall pick cannot play in the NHL this season, but that won’t matter to a seller that is already done for the season. Holland is shopping the current Oulu Karpat winger hard, and the New York Rangers are said to be an interested team. At six-foot-four, 200 pounds with an excellent stride and above average shot, Puljujarvi is an intriguing question mark that could easily be sold to a team’s fan base if picked up as part of a rebuild.
Second-rounder: If we agree that Holland won’t move a first, and we think that James Neal will score two more goals to send Edmonton’s third-round pick to Calgary in the Milan Lucic deal (Neal must score 21 goals and have 10 more than Lucic for the pick to move), then it seems that Edmonton’s second-round pick is at large. We believe that Holland will not move a prospect like Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod or Dimitri Samorukov.
2020: 1st, 2nd, *3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th 7th. (*3rd goes to CGY if Neal scores 21 goals and Lucic trails him by 10 or more goals).
2021: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 6th (PIT), 7th.
One bold move the Oilers could make
How about Puljujarvi and a first-rounder — in 2021?
Puljujarvi is valued by Holland as equal to a first-round pick. And if the Oilers could find the right left-winger for McDavid — who has term left on their deal — Holland could swing for the fences by moving next year’s first. That doesn’t interrupt his pipeline for another year, at which time he could justify not having a first because this deal helps make his team a legit contender for 2021 and beyond.
The Oilers should not
Be Arizona, and act like a team that can win a Cup this season when they can’t.
The Coyotes gave up a ton for Taylor Hall, who may turn out to be just a rental. Edmonton isn’t much better than the ‘Yotes, if at all. So trading for a player with term makes sense, but over-spending on a rental does not.
Trading this year’s first-round pick would be a sin. So would dealing a significant prospect.
Those days are around the corner, but have not arrived in Edmonton yet.