Defenseman Korbinian Holzer is done with waiting for the NHL free agent market to heat back up. In an in-depth interview with Eishockey News in his native Germany, Holzer reveals that he has signed a contract for the remainder of the 2020-21 season with Automobilist Yekaterunburg of the KHL. He also discusses training in Germany and what it would take to get him back to North America.
Holzer, 32, is a big, physical defenseman who has made a career in the NHL of being a reliable depth option. In fact, he actually set a career high in games played this past season, combining for 49 games between the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators. His previous high was just 34 games, but he has played in at least 16 NHL games in seven of the past eight seasons. He has always been an effective plug-and-play option who can be relied on for decent minutes, a penalty kill role, and a lot of hits.
However, in the flat cap market, a career depth player has no guarantees. Holzer states that there has been some interest from NHL teams, but nothing concrete. He says that teams are “very cautious” of using up cap space. Rather than wait and hope, Holzer has decided to move on. After a career high in NHL games, as well as over 16 minutes per game for a second straight season, Holzer’s priority at this point in his career is to have a core role and guaranteed ice time. It sounds as though he will require an NHL offer with those parameters in order to make a return.
Automobilist seems to have met those demands. The KHL club, who currently sits in fourth overall in the league standings and fourth in the Eastern Conference, is billed as a “top team” by Holzer. His soon-to-be teammates include former NHL great Pavel Datsyuk, former Toronto Maple Leafs teammate Peter Holland, and fellow countryman Brooks Macek. The team is also coached by an established NHL mind in Bill Peters. One thing that Yekaterinburg lacks is a top defenseman, with only former NHLer Nikita Tryamkin standing out. Holzer should indeed step into a major role with the club and could find himself as a top defenseman in Europe for several years if he chooses to stick with that path to continue his career.
Holzer is set to join Automobilist on November 12. In the meantime, he will finish fulfilling his obligations to Tolzer Lowen, his hometown team who plays in Germany’s tier two league, the DEL2. Holzer has been skating with the team and participating in exhibition games, but will now join the club officially for an upcoming preseason tournament. After that, he will make the trip to Yekaterinburg to begin the next stage of his career.