Since Ken Holland entered the halls of power at Rogers Place, he’s done what he said he would do and “the plan” is coming into view. I have returned to this Holland interview by Daniel Nugent-Bowman many times over these last weeks, it’s basically a road map for all that has happened in the weeks since the conversation.
Holland told Daniel he thought 97, 29 and 93 were part of the top-six forwards, otherwise you’re wasting someone. He said Tyler Benson played “really good” in Bakersfield but mentioned it was a small sample.
He said he wanted to fix the bottom six forwards and find value contracts.
When the conversation stopped at wingers, Holland said you needed eight and that the team had six: Draisaitl, Kassian, Khaira, Gagner, Lucic and the newly acquired Joakim Nygard.
Since then, he added Alex Chiasson, Markus Granlund, Tomas Jurco, Josh Archibald and traded Lucic for James Neal. That’s 10, make it 11 with Benson, 12 with Jesse Puljujarvi. Someone is heading out of town. Who?
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of the group, here’s an incredible Offer!
- New Lowetide: Does the James Neal acquisition impact Oilers’ prospects in 2019-20?
- New Lowetide: Oilers’ acquisition of James Neal could add badly needed scoring to the top two lines.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Ken Holland puts his stamp on the Oilers with first big move in Lucic-Neal trade
- New Jonathan Willis: Ken Holland ends an ugly situation for the Oilers by trading Milan Lucic for James Neal
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Potential free-agent options for the Oilers in 2020
- New Jonathan Willis: Which Oilers defencemen can make an outlet pass?
- New Kent Wilson and Lowetide: Why the Flames and Oilers would (and wouldn’t) trade Sam Bennett for Jesse Puljujarvi
- New Lowetide: Looking ahead to Oilers training camp: 35 players for 23 jobs
- New Jonathan Willis: What the Oilers’ 2020 cap situation suggests about Ken Holland’s master plan.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: With free agency all but over, Oilers’ Ken Holland has tough work ahead on the trade front
- Jonathan Willis: Josh Archibald won’t fix the Oilers’ biggest problems, but he’ll help with some key issues.
- Lowetide: Will the 2019-20 Bakersfield Condors be the Oilers’ best minor-league team ever?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: The Oilers have a new amateur scouting director. What can we learn from Tyler Wright’s track record at the draft?
- Lowetide: The Oilers are finally recovering from the wayward 2014 Draft
- Lowetide: Projecting Darnell Nurse’s next contract and possible trades
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: A missing mom, aching feet and looking for Kevin Lowe: A week in the life of Oilers prospect Raphael Lavoie
- Lowetide: What to do when Connor McDavid rests: The Oilers’ ideal No. 2 line for 2019-20
- Lowetide: Adding a scorer will be Ken Holland’s first big move as Oilers GM
- Jonathan Willis: How often do goalies like the Oilers’ Mike Smith rebound?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘He comes as advertised’: Philip Broberg’s skating makes him development camp standout for Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Oilers plan to skew younger on defence could open the door for Evan Bouchard, Dmitri Samorukov
- Lowetide: Oilers top 20 prospects summer 2019.
RIESEN TO BELIEVE: THE WINGERS
Leon Draisaitl: The big man is now 23, and has improved in each of his four seasons in the NHL. He’ll have a hard time topping last year’s 50 goals, but he’s averaging 29 goals per 82 games so the Oilers can count on 30+ goals if he’s healthy. I’ll probably have him 37-40 in RE. Role: No. 1 LW.
James Neal: He turns 32 in September and I think 15-20 goals is a reasonable estimate. If he grabs a job on the McDavid line that projection is going to be low, but we’re miles to go on the subject. Does he play LW or RW? Oilers need is greater on the left. Role: No. 2 LW.
Zack Kassian: He’s 28 and his 15 goals one year ago are a career high. Showed well on McDavid’s line for a time and may start there next season. Oilers would be wise to groom a replacement, someone with more skill. Has scored 10 goals per 82 games since coming to Edmonton, the Lucic trade probably secures his top-six role to start the season (Oilers will want some toughness). Role: No. 1 RW.
Alex Chiasson scored 22 last season but that’s an outlier. If he stays on the No. 1 power play, he’s probably capable of 13-16 goals this coming season. Chiasson doesn’t take a lot of penalties but does play a rugged game. The Lucic trade may benefit him as well. Role: No. 2 RW.
Markus Granlund is best suited (imo) to a two-way role on the third line, and the Neal trade takes him out of contention for a top-six role. Granlund’s possession numbers in Vancouver were good but he’ll likely play a more prominent role in Edmonton. As Tippett likes to shuffle, we’ll see Granlund at center, too. Per 82 games over the last three seasons, Granlund has averaged 16 goals. He could surprise. Role: No. 3 LW.
Josh Archibald was an astute signing by Holland, he brings skill and abandon to every shift. I think he’ll slide up and down the lineup and he appears prone to hot and cold in scoring. Averaging 13.5 goals per 82 games so far in his NHL career. Role: No. 3 RW.
Jujhar Khaira should see his stock rise a little now that Lucic is gone. Khaira has a mean streak and is strong strong strong, so he could see time on prominent lines during the year. Averaging 8 goals per 82 games. Role: No. 4 LW.
Sam Gagner played well down the stretch for the Oilers and should have a significant role on the club in 2019-20. If he gets power-play time we could see a handsome number, I see him in a depth role with several trips up the depth chart at five-on-five (Sam, like James Neal, is prone to giving up some the other way). On a team without a dominant RW, Gagner could surprise. The Oilers will likely move him to a skill line from time to time. In his last three seasons, he has scored 18 goals per 82 games. Role: No. 4 RW.
Joakim Nygard is a fast train, and that’s his biggest advantage against the competition this fall. Neal’s acquisition offers more of a roadblock than Lucic would have, but the team needs fast wheels and Nygard has speed on his resume. No. 13-14 forward.
Tomas Jurco has always been an intriguing size/speed winger, but he has scored nine goals per 82 games during his NHL career. Like Nygard, he’s a player who brings something the Oilers need (speed) but it’s going to be difficult for him to win a roster spot. Role: No. 13-14 forward.
Tyler Benson is in a fascinating spot, because he’s likely to be the first forward Holland will have to make room for during his time in Edmonton. The question is when? The addition of Neal isn’t likely to be a major factor in my opinion, if Benson is ready he’ll play. Role: No. 3 LW or Bakersfield.
Cooper Marody is a forgotten name so far this summer but as we head toward training camp and preseason I expect we’ll hear more about him. Marody has enough pure skill to play on an NHL skill line, likely on the wing. Role: Bakersfield.
Jesse Puljujarvi is the one roster hopeful on the wing who appears to be boxed out. The acquisition of Josh Archibald gives RW enough depth to run without the big Finn. I expect he’ll be traded. Role: None.
There are moves Ken Holland can make, including a free-agent signing (still need a No. 3 center). The addition of Neal allows one to dream, perhaps Jean-Gabriel Pageau is the target (instead of Riley Sheahan).
John Marino’s rights are an asset Holland can move, there are possibilities before fall.