Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland got to work on Sunday night, acquiring defenseman Mike Green from the Detroit Red Wings prior to Edmonton’s victory in Los Angeles going final. On Monday, he added Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis to his NHL roster and Ryan Kuffner to his AHL group in Bakersfield.
It was a wild change for Edmonton Oilers fans. After all, outside of two seasons, the Oilers have sold at every deadline since 2010. The exceptions? 2013 and 2017. In those years, the Oilers only added Jerrod Smithson (2013) and David Desharnais (2017). For the first time since 2009, when they added Ales Kotalik and Patrick O’Sullivan, the Oilers were true buyers on the market.
Holland did well in his first go-around as GM with Edmonton at the deadline. The Ennis trade in particular stands out as good value. The Oilers obtained the winger for a 5th round pick in 2021. Ennis will fill a top nine role for the club and could even play with Connor McDavid. His style is a perfect fit for Dave Tippett’s system, and Ennis’ offensive production has been strong in each of the last two seasons. This move was very low risk and presents the opportunity for a high reward.
The Mike Green trade was strong because it provides the club with real insurance. Green, although not the player he once was, is still a solid puck moving defenseman with the ability to help on the powerplay. In a depth role, Green should help the Oilers at a minimal cost. He also should give Matt Benning some cover. Although Benning has played well, his minutes have been limited since returning from a concussion. There is some concern for the Northeastern product within the organization.
The biggest deal was the one to land, in theory, Connor McDavid’s winger. The Oilers sent veteran Sam Gagner and a pair of second round draft picks to Detroit for Athanasiou. The speedy forward scored 30 goals a season ago, but has had a nightmare season for the Red Wings. In his defense, he isn’t the only one dealing with a down year. The Wings are on pace to be the worst team in the salary cap era.
Improved Depth, Speed, Skill:
The biggest thing Ken Holland did on Monday was increase the depth in Edmonton. On Sunday night, Alex Chiasson and Gagner were the wingers on McDavid’s line. No offense to either, but neither of those players is fit for that role. Athanasiou at least has the pedigree to play in that spot.
The speedy winger is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL and has a really solid shot. He also draws plenty of penalties, which is important considering Edmonton’s powerplay is historically good this season. Micah Blake McCurdy on Twitter had an interesting look at the forward on Monday.
McCurdy noted that Athanasiou’s defensive weaknesses are not as bad as people make them out to be and that the winger is a strong driver of offense at both five-on-five and five-on-four. That’s a good sign for an Edmonton team dying for another top six winger.
Ennis and Green are good depth options, with Ennis sticking out to me. The Edmonton native has 33 points (14-19-33) in 61 games and was a strong possession player on a bad Senators team. He’s a smaller player, but Ennis plays with speed and is a tough customer. His tenacity will appeal to coach Tippett.
What Holland did was give the Oilers three bonafide NHL players. Two forwards that can play a top nine role and a depth defenseman capable of playing on the powerplay is nothing to scoff at. The Oilers are a quicker, more skilled team this morning.
More importantly, they will take the ice in Anaheim tonight as a better team than when they took the ice on Sunday in LA. That’s the mark of a good GM giving his team a chance.
That’s exactly what Holland did on Monday. Now, we see if these moves can help Edmonton in a wide open Pacific Division.