Ken Holland is the new President of Hockey Operations and General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers. Now that the shine from the initial hire has worn off, it is time to get to work. Between now and the start of training camp, Holland must find a new head coach and likely an entire coaching staff. He’s going to need another goalie, at least two NHL-level wingers (likely top-six guys) and he’ll have to figure out his path with the defense.
Easing into things? Yeah, that’s not an option in a hockey hotbed like Edmonton that is expecting the veteran GM to have this team back in the playoffs next spring. Now that we know who is running Hockey Ops and we’ve had about a week to listen to verbal from the new boss, it is time to roll out the off-season targets.
We obviously don’t know everything, but we know that Holland is looking for another goaltender to pair up with Mikko Koskinen. He specifically mentioned the free agent market, so we’ll be shopping there first and foremost. Secondly, it is quite obvious the Oilers need forwards.
It looks like the club will have room for one big addition this summer, which is likely to come in the top-six. We’ll look at a few bigger fish, but most of the focus will be on cheaper options to help fill out the depth in the lineup. Value contracts are going to be absolutely key here, you need guys outperforming their salary.
I don’t think we will see too much happen defensively. The Oilers have a lot of prospects on the way up and a healthy Andrej Sekera coming back into the fold next fall. Although I think they’d like to strengthen the second pairing, I’m not sure that will be a priority this summer. When healthy, Edmonton’s current defensive group is good enough to make the playoffs, I truly believe that.
A better right-shot option on the second pairing would help, but eventually Evan Bouchard is going to fill that role. It almost assuredly won’t happen this season, but what about the fall of 2020? It’s very well possible.
Regardless, we’ll look at a few options for the role and some depth pieces on the blue-line that could help strengthen Edmonton’s group.
We’ll also be looking at possible head coaching candidates. I’d expect that process to be concluded within the next 10-14 days, so we’ll actually start with those candidates. It is my belief that Dave Tippett is the front-runner, and if Ralph Krueger ends up in Buffalo then Tippett will be in Edmonton.
This first hire is key for Holland, and likely tells us the direction he wants to go in with this roster. I’d prefer a younger coach, but Tippett’s resume is quite solid.
At the end of it all, at some point in June, we’ll recap everything and link all the pieces together, while also unveiling the first ever “Ken Holland Summer To-Do List”. This is a vitally important off-season in Edmonton, and with a GM finally in place things are just getting started.
Coaching wise, I’ll be profiling Tippett, Todd Nelson, Toronto assistant DJ Smith, Detroit assistant Dan Bylsma and former Florida Panthers coach Bob Boughner. They’ve all been connected to the team in some way, shape or form and I wouldn’t be shocked if one or two of these names ended up as assistants in Edmonton later this summer.
For goalies, I focused exclusively on the free agent market. The targets we will profile are Semyon Varlamov, Cam Talbot, Brian Elliott, Anders Nilsson, Keith Kinkaid, Robin Lehner and Petr Mrazek. All veteran options that won’t break the bank (sans possibly Lehner) and whose term won’t hurt the club.
Defensively, the group being profiled features Tyson Barrie, Tyler Myers, Adam McQuaid, Jake Gardiner, Anton Stralman, Torey Krug, Rasmus Ristolainen, PK Subban, Justin Faulk, Mike Green, John Moore and Dion Phaneuf.
The forwards will be the meat of this series. We’ll look at big fish options like Tyler Johnson, Nikolaj Ehlers, Gustav Nyquist, Andre Burakovsky and Taylor Hall, while also featuring potential value options like Connor Brown, Tyler Ennis, Brandon Tanev, Thomas Vanek and Richard Panik.
Also included are Riley Nash, Marcus Johansson, Joonas Donskoi, Brett Connolly and Ilya Kovalchuk.
We start bright and early tomorrow with a look at the coaching candidates!