Two big deals Ken Holland never made for the Edmonton Oilers – and what they say about him – –

Two big deals Ken Holland never made for the Edmonton Oilers – and what they say about him – –

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The Edmonton Oilers have trended upward under general manager Ken Holland. The right moves this summer may well put the team in the top drawer of NHL teams.

But how different would the Oilers be right now if Holland had secured two huge deals last summer that he was rumored to be interested in, the signing of goaltender Jakob Markstrom and a trade for the Arizona man. Oliver Ekman-Larsson?

I’m not going to delve into Edmonton’s attempt to sign Markstrom today, apparently on a seven-year contract at over $ 5 million a year.

Markstrom chose the Flames over the Oilers and had a mediocre year, his worst in six seasons, with just a .904 save percentage.

Maybe 31-year-old Markstrom will bounce back. Maybe not.

The guards are like that, it’s hard to predict. Indeed, it is unclear how Markstrom’s season would have gone had he signed for Edmonton. Maybe he would have had a much better save percentage here.

It is clear from Edmonton’s offer that Holland viewed the goalie position as a huge question mark for the Oilers and he was hoping to resolve it long term with Markstrom on a costly but not deadly contract.


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If it wasn’t a good plan, it wasn’t terrible either.

If Markstrom had signed, the Oilers would have dropped Mike Smith and likely missed Tyson Barrie and Kyle Turris. But Evan Bouchard, in retrospect, looked poised to take it to the next level this year and Turris signing was a big mistake.

I’m going to give Holland a pass for offering Markstrom such an important tenure for now, although I wasn’t thrilled with the plan. But I’m not that indulgent when it comes to the prospect of an Edmonton trade for Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Did Holland really want Ekman-Larsson?

When rumors about Ekman-Larsson intensified last September, Holland knew something the Oilers fans didn’t know, that Oscar Klefbom was seriously injured and that Edmonton was going to have to replace him on the left defense.

Throughout September 2020, Ekman-Larsson’s name was constantly mentioned in terms of a possible choice for Edmonton, although we can’t say for sure how serious Holland’s interest was, or to what he was willing to give up. acquire Arizona d-man.

On September 11, Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now brought up the rumor with his guests. Brian Lawton and Brian Burke, both former NHL general managers, said OEL was still in the NHL’s Top 15 d-men, while former player Louie Debrusk was not so sure. . Big Lou, who is a sharp cookie, said OEL is not a true No.1 d-man as he no longer dominates both ways, with his defensive play not at the highest level.


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In Edmonton, many fans and watchers were excited to trade for OEL.

My Cult colleague Kurt Leavins liked the idea and said he would be okay if the Oilers moved a No.1 pick for OEL. “This quality of D-man is not often available in this league. Arizona is also expected to recover a few million dollars in salary. “

“If OEL is available, the Oilers should be interested,” TSN’s Jason Gregor said. “Fears that the last two years of the deal might be a problem is overshadowed by the fact that he’s now a legitimate No.1 D-man. And will be for at least five years. Don’t sell the farm, but the Yotes are not in a strong position.

And Jonathan Willis from The Athletic :: I’m surprised to write this – it’s not the outcome I expected when I started collecting data – but I’ve come to like the idea of bet on Ekman-Larsson. The best of times is great, and even the midpoint works, especially given the structure of his contract. “

Not having looked closely at OEL, I wasn’t so sure. I felt like OEL was a good NHL d-man at 29, but hadn’t played like a real # 1 d-man in two years. I was worried that OEL would get paid like a true # 1 d-man at $ 8.25 per million per year for the next seven seasons. I preferred that the Oilers go for a player like Tyson Barrie, who was a UFA at the time, with a short-term contract.

On September 18, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Boston, Calgary and Edmonton had inquired about the availability of OEL.

Bouchard and a first-round pick?

TSN’s Frankl Seravalli then reported on Oct. 1 that: “The Oilers are believed to have had preliminary talks on acquiring defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the new number one on the board of Trade Bait, Arizona. But there is a financial side to the potential deal that would require Arizona to keep part of Ekman-Larsson’s salary, which the Coyotes were unwilling to budge on. Top-level defensive prospect Evan Bouchard and the Oilers’ first-round pick could be involved in a deal.


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I saw this request for OEL as being almost laughable, noting that OEL may have a negative value over time due to its heavy contract.

Friedman said he didn’t think Edmonton offered both Bouchard AND a first-round pick: “I don’t think that’s what Edmonton was planning to do.

In the end, OEL rejected any trade with Edmonton, but allowed Arizona to negotiate with Boston and Vancouver. Nothing happened on those fronts, OEL later said he never really wanted to move and preferred to play his career in Arizona.

OEL had a meh season with Arizona in 2021, reports Sarah Bird of the Five for Howling blog. “It makes sense to wonder if all the off-ice pressure has affected his game this season. His 24 points in 46 games showed a drop in offense, but his defensive skills took a hit as well. If Ekman-Larsson allows it, (GM) Armstrong can attempt to move him again this offseason.

I haven’t seen OEL this year, but almost all of its top stats have dropped across the board, which would confirm Bird’s review to some extent.

To get a feel for the NHL d-men used as the # 1 d-men, I categorize them into five categories, the ones that seem to do a good job of identifying the crème de la crème of the NHL. These categories are even strength time on the ice per game, extra time on the ice per game and reduced time on the ice (to get an idea of ​​their defensive confidence), total power play points and even the strength points by 60.

These stats aren’t definitive for gauging a d-men’s true talent, but they give us an idea of ​​the confidence their coaches have in them overall and in key situations, with a focus on their performance on offense. .


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For the two-year period of 2018-20, this system ranked Roman Josi as the best d-man in the NHL, with Erik Karlsson second, then Kris Letang, John Carlson, Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, Morgan Rielly, Mark Giordano. , Seth Jones, Alex Edler, Drew Doughty and Ryan Suter.

Oscar Klefbom of the Oilers was 19th, Darnell Nurse 31st, OEL in 53rd.

In the final 56-game season (above), Hedman finished first, followed by Burns, Letang, Adam Fox, Devin Toews and John Carlson, with Darnell Nurse in 7th place. Tyson Barrie finished 49th with OEL falling to 74th.

OEL went from a d-man of 25 minutes per game when he was 22-24 to 21 minutes per game last season at 29. He will be 30 next month, he hasn’t had an All-Star or Norris Trophy vote in the past two seasons, he was passed in left defense in Arizona by Jakob Chychrun and he still has six years on this whopper of a deal.

if Arizona tries to relocate OEL again this summer, as Bird suggests, I would be even less excited about him coming to Edmonton than a year ago.

In this case, however, we can’t hammer Holland too hard for his interest in OEL for several reasons.

First, OEL could still turn things around and play like a # 1 d-man in the seasons to come. It’s not a big bet, but it wouldn’t come as a shock. Secondly, we don’t really know how passionate Holland was about this player and we don’t know what he would have paid to acquire him. Maybe the deal Holland had in mind would have made sense for the Oilers.

The failure of the OEL deal feels like a dodged bullet, but I can’t say for sure.

But, for now, I put Markstrom and OEL in the near miss category, deals that I’m glad they never happened because they both could have crippled the salary cap structure of Edmonton for years to come. That’s the ever-present risk of offering long-term deals to players entering their 30s.

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