Ken Holland was fairly active on the first day of free agency.
Staying true to his word, the newly minted Edmonton Oilers GM added a goaltender and a variety of bottom 6 forwards to create competition. The moves, of course, were received with mixed reaction among the fan-base, with the Mike Smith deal being the subject of most of the discussion, but what do each of these deals mean for the franchise?
Let’s take a look at the what Ken Holland’s July 1st acquisitions mean for the team heading into next season and the seasons after.
Mike Smith (1yr, $2,000,000):
Ken Holland’s #1 priority heading into free agency was to add a goaltender that would help push Mikko Koskinen. Speculation about Edmonton’s interest in Mike Smith broke last week and we found out a day before free agency that he would be coming to Edmonton on a 1-year deal.
Perhaps the signing that caused the most controversy among Oilers fans, the reaction to Smith coming to Edmonton was predominately negative. Smith is coming off the worst season in his career and, at the age of 37, the chances that he will bounce back seem unlikely.
Smith does have an well-known relationship with, Oilers head coach, Dave Tippett and the organization is obviously hoping that Smith can rebound under his old coach. I firmly believe that Holland was looking for a cheap goaltender on a 1-year-deal and Smith was one of the only goaltenders that could reasonably start 35-45 games for the club next season
Other options out there, like Petr Mrazek, ended up getting multi-year deals in the 3-million dollar range and that is something that Holland didn’t want.
The actual contract isn’t awful. Smith was never gonna get anything over a 1-year-deal and with a 2-million-dollar cap-hit it won’t hinder the Oilers cap situation for the future.
Where things get interesting is the bonus structure in place for Smith. Depending on the amount of games that he starts in Edmonton, and whether or not the team makes the playoffs, Smith could walk away from the upcoming season with 4-million dollars.
Its a ballsy bet by Holland. Mike Smith has plenty of experience in the league and has the potential to be an alright 1B goaltender for the Oilers. However, if Smith continues to struggle in Edmonton it will be seen as a massive misstep.
A high-risk-high-reward signing to kick off July 1st for the Oilers.
Markus Granlund (1yr, $1,475,000):
The second signing made by the Edmonton Oilers was a 1-year deal for, former Canuck, Markus Granlund.
Granlund played in 77 games with Vancouver last season, where he put up 12 goals and 22pts. There wasn’t much talk about Granlund making his way to Edmonton during the days leading up to July 1st, but Holland must’ve saw an opportunity to sign a cheap player would could impress.
The Finnish forward is only 2 years removed from a 19 goal season and Holland mentioned in his July 1st availability that they were looking for bottom 6 forwards who could net goals in the double-digits.
Granlund was also a fixture on Vancouver’s penalty-kill, which ranked 11th in the league last season. Edmonton could definitely use a versatile forward (he can play all 3 forward positions) that can kill penalties.
When it comes to even-strength play, I think that Granlund will find himself playing wing on the third line next season in a defensive role. Best-case scenario he is defensively responsible and can contribute 10-15 goals.
The contract is only for a year and is relatively cheap, so the risk factor here is pretty limited. At the young-age of 26, Granlund adds depth to the bottom 6 of the roster and he could prove valuable on the penalty kill.
Tomas Jurco (1yr, $750,000)
The last signing of the day saw Tomas Jurco come to Edmonton on a 1 year deal valued just above the league minimum.
Jurco, originally drafted by Holland in 2011, spent last season in the AHL splitting time between the Springfield Falcons the Charlotte Checker, scoring 27pts in 33 games.
At one point, Jurco was seen as a top prospect in the Red Wings system, but the Slovak just couldn’t put it together at the NHL level. His impressive point-per-game run in last season’s AHL Playoffs, with the championship Checkers, helped put him back on the radar of NHL teams.
Safe money would bet on Jurco spending the majority of next season in Bakersfield, being a call-up option in case of injury. However, Jurco will battle for spot in training camp and that further emphasizes Ken Hollands desire for competition in the bottom 6.
Jurco had a good playoff in the AHL last season and he’s a player that Holland knows well. Theres is a small chance that he finally puts it together and becomes a full-time NHLer, but that should not be expected.
His contract is another low-risk gamble.
Ken Holland did not take a lot of risks in this year’s edition of Free Agent Frenzy.
Outside of Mike Smith, who will have the biggest role of the players signed today, all the players that were brought in from outside of the organization will battle for bottom 6 spots.
I don’t oppose to this. The Edmonton Oilers need to be improved in almost every area and the bottom 6 is better than it was yesterday so that is a plus. Holland’s work is by no means over and he must find a way to bring in a suitable 3rd line center and a established top 6 winger if he hopes to make the playoffs in 2019/20.
The team is better today, but not good enough to make the playoffs.
We’ll have to wait and see for what the rest of the summer holds.