The Edmonton Oilers have officially announced the hiring of Ken Holland as the team’s new general manager and president of hockey operations. CEO Bob Nicholson and owner Daryl Katz introduced the former Detroit Red Wings executive in a press conference today, explaining how thrilled the organization is to bring in a manager with Holland’s resume. The contract has been reported as a five-year deal worth $25MM, and Holland will have full autonomy in running the team.
While Holland is the big news of the day for the Oilers organization, the team also confirmed that Ken Hitchcock will not return as head coach next season. A search has begun to find his replacement, one which Holland will lead. Hitchcock was always expected to be a short-term fix, coming in to try and push the Oilers to the playoffs last season after a poor start under Todd McLellan. They didn’t make it in the end, and Hitchcock will remain with the organization in an advisory role.
Holland now has plenty of work to do. The Oilers have floundered in mediocrity for decades and have now missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons even with one of the league’s best players contributing every night. Connor McDavid has won the Ted Lindsay award twice already and is a finalist again this year after putting up 116 points in 78 games, but has failed to get much support from the rest of the roster. In fact, only two other forwards recorded more than 38 points this season, with players like Milan Lucic (20 points), Jujhar Khaira (18) Tobias Rieder (11), all playing huge chunks of the season without much offensive contribution. That scoring depth will be one of Holland’s first priorities, but it won’t be his only task on the way to a building a contender.
The Oilers also have nearly $23MM committed to a defense corps next season that is underwhelming at best, with Andrej Sekera set to lead the group with a $5.5MM cap hit. Sekera has played a total of 60 games over the past two seasons due to injury, and though he looked better than expected down the stretch he was still playing an average of only 16:29. Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson and Kris Russell are all earning at least $4MM for the next two seasons, and totaled 64 points this season in 215 games played.
Goaltending too is a concern, despite the three-year $13.5MM contract extension that the team handed Mikko Koskinen earlier this season. Koskinen had made just 31 NHL starts when he signed the contract, and finished the season with just a .906 save percentage through 55 appearances. While his size and previous experience in the KHL are good indicators that he can play at a better level, Holland will need to find a way to upgrade in net if he really wants to compete for the Stanley Cup.