What Now For Holland, Oilers?


Taylor Hall is an Arizona Coyote. A rollercoaster 72 hours ended on Monday afternoon when the Coyotes and Devils agreed to a trade, sending the winger to the desert for a first-round pick, a conditional pick and three prospects. It was a disappointing end for Oilers fans hoping for a reunion between Hall and the club.

It was also disappointing in the that sense that the Oilers missed out on a player that can really help them. The team currently sits in a playoff spot, but the Oilers have struggled mightily at five-on-five recently and they desperately need a consistent second scoring line. Hall would have fixed that.

I do believe that Hall will test the free agent market in late June. I also believe that the Oilers will be pursuing him as a free agent. There are no guarantees that it happens, but there has been and will be mutual interest between the sides in a reunion. It will be a story line to watch in June and July.

That doesn’t matter in the here and now. The fact of the matter is that the Oilers are entrenched in the playoff race and they have holes to fill. The club needs to add a second line winger and, ideally, a third line center. Hall is off the market, so it is time for Ken Holland to move on to plan B.

Standing Pat:

One potential option for Holland between now and the trade deadline is to keep his powder dry and not make any trades. It’s a realistic option but one that I feel would be a mistake. The Oilers aren’t going to win a Stanley Cup in June in all likelihood. They just aren’t there yet as a team.

That being said, there is real, tangible value to making the playoffs. An improvement that sees Edmonton get a ticket to the dance would do a lot of good. It would show perspective free agents (Hall?) that the organization is in fact going in the right direction. It would also really calm things down with Connor McDavid, who has clearly grown frustrated in the last two seasons.

The Oilers can preach patience and keep their powder dry, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this is what they did. That said, I think it would be a mistake on Holland’s part. If you have a chance to make this a playoff team without moving one of the blue-chip prospects, you have to take that chance.

A Third Line Center:

Chief on the list of things for Holland to add is a third line center. Personally, I think a top six winger is more important but I do not believe the organization agrees. Holland has been hunting for a third line center since last June.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau is Edmonton’s ideal target. The right-shot center has 16 goals in 34 games and a 48.8% Corsi For % in Ottawa. There is no secret when it comes to Edmonton’s interest. There is also no secret that the Senators will be selling at the deadline and Pageau, a pending UFA, will be in play. It is going to come down to price here.

Anaheim’s Derek Grant is another potential target. More affordable at just $700,000 per season, Grant has nine goals on the year and has proven to be a capable checking center. That said, he’s been absolutely caved in possession this season, posting a 38.7% Corsi For (-12.1% relative).

Columbus’ Riley Nash (2-5-7, 28 GP) and Chicago’s Zack Smith (1-4-5, 27 GP) are potential lesser options that shouldn’t cost much in a trade. That said, neither is an ideal trade candidate for the Oilers. Edmonton has plenty of solid penalty killers who struggle to put up points.

Top Six Winger:

To me, this is the big spot that needs to be addressed. The Oilers could run a center trio of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on their top three lines. The issue is, there aren’t enough wingers on the roster to make that work right now.

Zack Kassian and Joakim Nygard look fine next to McDavid, but on Monday night the Nugent-Hopkins line got absolutely caved in possession. Jujhar Khaira and Alex Chiasson both looked overwhelmed in that spot. Leon Draisaitl’s line wasn’t bad (James Neal, Sam Gagner), but he too needs a winger to play with.

Tyler Toffoli of the Kings is certainly going to be traded. The question is when and for how much, not if. Toffoli has nine goals in 34 games this season with a 54.9% Corsi For. He appears to be back as a 20-goal scorer in the NHL, and would be a welcome addition to a team starving for more production from the wings.

Andreas Athanasiou is an interesting option. The Red Wings speedster can move with the best of them and has a knack for scoring goals. He has just five this season, however, and appears to be on the outs in Detroit. Holland would know the player well and he did score 30 a season ago. His speed and skill combination would be killer for the Oilers. He’s a pending RFA, but his price tag and trade value are not really known.

Chris Kreider is a classic Ken Holland addition. A well-respected veteran who will hit the free agent market in July. Kreider, to me, is a pure rental. He has eight goals in 33 games this season with a 44.7% Corsi For. Kreider scored 28 goals a season ago and is a proven top six forward who brings size and scoring ability to the table.

Final Thoughts:

Ken Holland was in on Taylor Hall, there is no debate on that. In the end, the Oilers GM decided against matching Arizona’s offer and the club lost out on the player….for now. The fact that Holland was in on those conversations indicates that he is at least open to making an addition or two for this club.

Sources indicate that the club has been searching for a third line center and a top six winger. That hasn’t changed. Will Holland be able to deliver and help push this team back into the playoffs?

Pageau and Toffoli would certainly be a nice haul.

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