What Ken Holland may be thinking heading into trade deadline
When Ken Holland agreed to become the Edmonton Oilers’ general manager, he knew he was accepting one of the most complicated and pressure-filled executive positions in today’s NHL.
But in his first season with the Oilers, he has one simple mission that is more important than anything else he does.
Holland must push the Oilers into the playoffs.
Edmonton fans need this. The players need this. Even the NHL needs this because the league’s most dynamic player Connor McDavid can’t be absent from the postseason for the fourth time in five years.
From 1984 to 1990, the Oilers won five Stanley Cups in seven years. Today, they are trying to avoid missing the playoffs for the 13th time in 14 seasons.
Rebuilding is a trendy strategy. The Toronto Maple Leafs embraced it and now they have an explosive offense. But the Oilers are proof that sometimes rebuilding doesn’t work. The Oilers kept building for tomorrow, but tomorrow never came.
The Oilers aren’t strong enough to consider themselves a premium contender, but it’s still time to play for today and worry about tomorrow later. Injured McDavid will be back in two or three weeks and he should be welcoming new teammates when he returns.
It’s the right time for Holland to be aggressive in the trade market, like he was when his Detroit Red Wings were contending every season. That doesn’t mean he should give up his first-round pick. It means he needs to be creative and drive to find ways to add multiple players to the Oilers’ lineup.
The Pacific Division is wide open. McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are wondrous performers. Why couldn’t they make the playoffs and win a round or two?
In talking to people around the NHL, here are players the Oilers are believed to be considering as possible trade targets.
Jean Gabriel-Pageau (Ottawa Senators): How many third-line centers already have scored 21 goals this season? The problem is that several teams are interested, which will drive up the price.
Tyler Toffoli (Los Angeles Kings): It seems as if the Oilers need a top scorer, and Toffoli could be that guy. He could be the perfect fit to play with McDavid. Plus, the Oilers would like to keep Toffoli out of Calgary. The Flames are looking at him to play with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monohan.
Kasperi Kapanen (Toronto Maple Leafs): If Holland could pull off this acquisition, he gets help for today and tomorrow. This possible deal probably falls in the “unlikely” category only because the Oilers would have to give up a proven defenseman to make this deal. Adam Larsson is the name you hear most often.
Luke Glendening (Detroit Red Wings): He might be the Plan B option, but he’s an intriguing possibility because he would fit well with coach Dave Tippett’s defensive style. He’s a fast plucky, checking center with passable offensive skills. This deal could get done easier because Holland knows the player well. Plus, Holland and Detroit’s Steve Yzerman are good friends. They can get down to business quickly.
Robin Lehner (Chicago Blackhawks): No one seems to know whether the Oilers have inquired about Lehner, but there would be logic to the Oilers’ considering Lehner should the Blackhawks decide to deal him. The Oilers have a .901 team save percentage, and Lehner has a .921 save percentage this season. Save percentage doesn’t always tell the whole story, but he has played well for the Blackhawks. The Oilers’ goaltending has known some inconsistency.