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On Ken Holland’s 2021 End Of Year Press Conference

Holland embarks on enormous offseason with a wad of cap space and some ideas.

2020 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Ken Holland gave his end of year media press conference today, and he gave the listener some perspective on what direction he wants the club to go this offseason.

After it concluded, it led me to believe that he’s still trying to create some Detroit magic here in Edmonton. I’m not sure the amount of success he’ll get with all of that, but let’s digest a little of what he said today.

Before I jump into digesting what Holland said, I know it’s a short year, they played the same six teams 56 times, and that it’s fair not to make any super rash decisions based on this year.

With that being said, let’s jump in.

  • Holland gave sort of a vague response about how he was proud of the club for what they did in the regular season and how they got to the playoffs, having the “fourth best record” after they went 3-6 to start the season. He said he was proud of the club’s accomplishments and that they played a good team in Winnipeg, but he was also upset that they couldn’t go any further than the four games they had.
  • Terry Jones asked if Holland would be able to make some free agent signings with the cap space available this offseason. The Oilers will have around 22 million but they’ll need to make some decisions on bigger named players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tyson Barrie, Mike Smith, and Adam Larsson. Exit interviews first, then Holland said he’ll wait ten or so days in order to “get the emotion out” from losing in the first round of the playoffs. Then, he’ll make some calls.
  • I can’t keep switching players in and switching players out” Throughout the media availability, Holland would frequently reference his time in Detroit. He’d talk about how getting into the playoffs eight, ten, twelve times in a row was a big reason for their success, and how if they won, say, three Stanley Cups during that time, it’d be a dynasty of sorts. I’m not here to take away any success that Holland had during his time in Detroit, but...the game’s a little different now. Holland made most of his hay during a time where a hard cap wasn’t a thing. Things got dicey when Holland had to play within the constraints of a cap. The same day that the Oilers tossed a seven year contract at Milan Lucic, Ken Holland made it six years for Frans Nielsen in Detroit. Nielsen was 32 when the ink hit the paper on that deal, it’s been two years since Nielsen’s seen 30 points. The Oilers need to really avoid that sort of thing going forward.
  • Holland touched on stability, which is good. He was vocal about how free agency shouldn’t be the main source of success for the club, rather it should be in addition to the club’s successes from within. He cited Jesse Puljujarvi as being a big piece of the picture, Kailer Yamamoto too. This is some good sound bites from Holland - he sees drafting as being the big part of the club’s successes in the future. I like what he said about Puljujarvi and Yamamoto and it leads me to believe that the Oilers are expecting both of these players to take the next step.
  • Buyouts are on the table. When asked about them, he said they’re “very possible”. I’ve got James Neal as being one of them. Another one? Zack Kassian or Mikko Koskinen. Koskinen’s only got one more year on his deal, but Kassian has three.
  • GREYBEARD: Yeah this one was interesting. Holland says that on every Cup winning team that there’s plenty of what he calls “greybeards”, especially among the D corps. I read this as he’s going to sign Larsson, but I’m not sure it ends there. He’s got cap space, and he will wield it. When asked if players like Bouchard or Broberg were “off the table” in a deal, he didn’t say no.
  • Perhaps the most straight-forward answer of the day: Holland wants to re-sign Mike Smith. Smith had a great season where he finished with a .923 SV%. Holland sounded enthusiastic about his desire to sign Smith, we’ll find out in the next month or so whether that happens.

“There’s so many good teams in this league, you get into the playoffs, and you go from 32 team league in the regular season to 16, to 8, to 4, to 2, to 1, it’s hard, it’s hard, so my message is i believe we’re on the right path, i believe everybody knows we’ve got great players.”

-Ken Holland

  • Ryan Rishaug asked Ken Holland about whether Ken would trade futures for support today, and it sort of cracked Holland for the remainder of the media availability. Rishaug asked Holland if he’d be willing to sell on future assets for help today, and it set Holland off on a whirlwind of a response. The response was sort of close to Kevin Lowe’s “I know a thing or two” response some years back when he was asked about winning. Holland opened by saying he’s done this before, he’s been doing this for 24 years, he cited his work in Detroit as proof of how it should be done, and the deals he made throughout the years. It sounded a bit all over the place. “Dominik Hasek wanted out of Buffalo, Chris Chelios wanted out of Chicago”. By the time Holland was done, he reiterated that he wanted growth to come from within, and that the best way of going about it was getting into the playoffs and stability through development.

Here’s what I think.

  • I think Holland is going to bring in a couple of second or third line players, I think he’s going to sign them to term. I agree with Holland that the Oilers can use a couple of different pieces going forward, but his repetitiveness about stability leads me to believe they’re probably the three or four year variety. Like his old self in Detroit, this is where he could get himself in trouble if he’s not careful.
  • He’s going to re-sign Mike Smith if he can, I think that’s a given. I think he’s going to try to trade Mikko Koskinen around the draft for whatever he can. If he can’t, he’ll buy him out.
  • I think he re-signs Ryan Nugent-Hopkins unless the ask is enormous.
  • I think he signs Larsson and Barrie walks. I think they’re pretty hush hush on Klefbom because they don’t want him to get any attention. It’s completely a gut feeling but I think Klefbom is back in the fall.
  • Holland said that it’s not necessary to acquire an impact forward in a response to Daniel Nugent-Bowman from the Athletic today. Maybe he lures one in via free agency, but he seemed pretty straight on saying the club didn’t need one.

It’s a big offseason coming up. Holland’s got a wad of cap space and some moves to make. I’m not sure what Holland’s plans are, but he and his group will have a plan.

We’ll see the next page of the plan soon.