NHL 2019-20 Season Preview: Edmonton Oilers
Blues eliminate Stars in Game 7 double-overtime win, Oilers introduce Ken Holland as their new GM, Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy gets a one-game suspension, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues are going to the Western Conference Final. Patrick Maroon scored in double-overtime for a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars to take their second-round series in seven games. Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop made a career-high 52 saves, while his teammates managed just four shots combined in the second and third periods. Vince Dunn opened the scoring for the Blues while Mats Zuccarello countered for the Stars.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If you had suggested to me in early-January that the Blues, who were dead last in the league at one point, would be in the Western Conference Final I would’ve laughed out loud. Yet here they are. They were the better team in this game. It’s also fitting that Maroon, a St. Louis native, tallied the winning goal.
If not for Bishop’s heroics between the Dallas pipes, this game never would’ve reached overtime. He deserved a better fate. The Stars were dominated throughout most of this contest but Bishop gave them a chance to steal a win in this one.
NEW YORK POST: Because of the Stars elimination, the New York Rangers won’t see the 2019 second-round pick they received in the Zuccarello trade turn into a first-rounder. If Zuccarello re-signs with the Stars, the 2020 conditional third-round pick they also received in the deal would become a first-round pick.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers officially introduced Ken Holland yesterday as their new general manager and president of hockey operations. During the press conference, Holland said Ken Hitchcock would not return as head coach.
Many observers noted the change in the appearance of Oilers owner Daryl Katz. It was revealed he’s spent the past two years battling a life-threatening sinus infection. Katz has undergone three surgeries with one more to go but he’s over the worst and the prognosis for a long-term recovery looks good.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Katz on a full recovery. As for Holland, replacing Hitchcock will be among his priorities.
Reaction toward Holland’s hiring was mixed among Oilers followers. Some point to the long period of success he had with his former team, the Detroit Red Wings. Skeptics point to the club’s decline over the past decade. Given the mediocrity the Oilers have been mired in for nearly 15 years, it’s understandable that many of their fans aren’t getting their hopes up.
NBC SPORTS: San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski (concussion) remains day-to-day and isn’t expected to participate in tonight’s Game 7 against the Colorado Avalanche.
Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy will be suspended from Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final for an illegal hit to the head of Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson.
VANCOUVER SUN: The Canucks will not qualify the rights of defenseman Derrick Pouliot, who’ll become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pouliot’s defensive miscues turned him into a frequent healthy scratch this season. That won’t help his efforts to sign with a new NHL club this summer.
Will play for Kazan Ak Bars https://t.co/h6E5H78s4D
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) May 6, 2019
St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars heading to Game 7, Ken Holland to accept Oilers GM job, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars will require Game 7 to settle their second-round series. Third-period goals by Jaden Schwartz and Sammy Blais 33 seconds apart gave the Blues a 4-1 victory in Game 6 on Sunday afternoon.
Schwartz’s goal came with some controversy as Stars goaltender Ben Bishop was injured beforehand on a shot from Blues defenseman Colton Parayko. Bishop left the game following Blais’ goal and underwent x-rays on his left collarbone. According to Stars coach Jim Montgomery, Bishop was fine and he’s expected to start Game 7.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues were the better club in this one, especially their special teams. They went one-for-three on the power-play and killed off four penalties.
Bishop’s injury had some fans wondering why the play was immediately whistled down. NHL rule 8.1 indicates that can only happen when the injured player’s team gains control of the puck or if the on-ice officials believe the player’s injury is serious to merit an immediate stoppage of play. However, that raises questions over how officials determine the seriousness of an injury.
TSN: Detroit Red Wings senior VP (and former general manager) Ken Holland has reportedly accepted the position of Edmonton Oilers GM. The club is expected to officially announce Holland’s hiring later this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given how quickly this story percolated over the weekend we shouldn’t be surprised over this. The Oilers are believed to have offered Holland total autonomy over all hockey decisions plus a five-year contract worth $5 million annually.
The reaction to this news was mixed among hockey fans on Twitter. Some point to the Red Wings’ many years of success during Holland’s 22-year tenure as their GM, including three Stanley Cup championships. Critics believe he inherited a strong core from his predecessors and noted the club’s decline over the past decade.
THE ATHLETIC: San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski is getting closer to returning from the head injury suffered during the opening round against the Vegas Golden Knights. He’s still coping with concussion symptoms. Pavelski also doesn’t believe the major penalty assessed to Golden Knights center Cody Eakin for his injury was merited. He doesn’t feel the cross-check was malicious and that he got twisted up as he fell to the ice.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Should the Sharks advance to the Western Conference Finals, it sounds like Pavelski could return to action for that series.
SPORTSNET: After Hockey Night in Canada analyst Don Cherry chided Carolina Hurricanes fans as “front-runners” on Saturday, the club released t-shirts with “Bunch of front-running jerks” on the front.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Cherry’s getting a cut of the action here, he should just stop grumbling about the Hurricanes’ regular-season postgame victory celebrations and trying to shame their newfound followers as fair-weather fans. His comments are having the opposite reaction of what he intended. The Canes are dunking on him and laughing all the way to the bank.
Michel Therrien is back in the NHL. The @NHLFlyers will announce that he will be an assistant coach to Alain Vigneault. Confirmation should come in the next few days.
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) May 5, 2019
A look at the Islanders’ potential offseason plans, the latest Oilers GM speculation, and an update on Ryan Miller in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE ISLANDERS?
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis believes Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello faces “a massive amount of questions” this summer. They have “a gaggle of free agents” plus “a handful of attractive trade pieces”. He feels they must add some “high-end skills” to supplement their defensive style.
Cygalis’ colleague Larry Brooks expects changes are coming. Goaltender Robin Lehner, captain Anders Lee, center Brock Nelson, and winger Jordan Eberle are slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Brooks believes Eberle is “essentially out the door”.
The Islanders could have up to $34 million in salary cap room this summer but Lamoriello might not spend all of it. Brooks wonders if the Isles GM will get into a bidding war with the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers for Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin. He also pondered the possibility of Lamoriello attempting to sign Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitch Marner to an offer sheet.
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters expect Lee to be re-signed and recommend retaining Nelson. The contract term for Eberle could become a sticking point for Lamoriello. Lehner will command a big raise but Kaplan and Peters wonder if the Isles GM will instead attempt to sign Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.
They also wonder if Lamoriello will pursue a high-end forward like Panarin or Matt Duchene.
Backup goaltender Thomas Greiss has a year remaining on his contract. He could be traded if promising Ilya Sorokin cracks the roster next season. Center Valtteri Filppula could return on another one-year deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Islanders have over $47 million invested in 16 players. They’ll have plenty of cap room to re-sign their key free agents and bring in a high-end player or two. Lamoriello has a reputation for frugalness but he’s also willing to pay big raises to deserving players.
As long as the Lehner camp doesn’t seek Carey Price money, I expect he’ll return with the Islanders. I can see Lamoriello offering big bucks to Lehner on a two-year deal with the promise of more money to come on his next deal if he maintains his Vezina-worthy form. The netminder could feel a sense of loyalty to the Isles for taking a chance on him and perhaps agree to such a deal. We’ll see.
Lee seems keen to stay with the Islanders and Lamoriello probably doesn’t want to lose another captain two years in a row. Dollars shouldn’t be an issue but I recall reading somewhere that Lamoriello won’t want to go beyond five years for Lee.
Eberle has probably played his final game with the Islanders while Nelson’s status appears hazy. He’s coming off a career regular season and played well in the opening round sweep of the Penguins. However, he didn’t have a good series against the Hurricanes. Time will tell if that affects his contract negotiations with Lamoriello.
I expect Lamoriello will attempt to land a skilled player or two via free agency or trades. He’s got the cap space to make a competitive bid via free agency. He’ll also have to sell his prospective UFA targets on why the Isles are worth joining. The club’s improvement this season and the presence of well-respected head coach Barry Trotz should help.
Speaking of trades, I expect winger Joshua Ho-Sang will be shopped this summer. He’s struggled to crack the Isles roster under two different GMs and head coaches. He won’t fetch much on his own but could be bundled into a package offer.
As for an offer sheet, you can’t rule anything out with Lamoriello. However, he’s never gone that route before and could remain unwilling to go down that path.
OILERS STILL WOOING HOLLAND FOR GM JOB?
SPORTSNET: Mark Spector reported sources claim the Edmonton Oilers are going all-in trying to woo Detroit Red Wings senior VP Ken Holland into becoming their new general manager. The two sides have reportedly conducted extensive negotiations, with Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson offering Holland complete autonomy to hire and fire at will.
The two sides could reach an agreement over the weekend with an official announcement of the hiring to be made next week. If Holland doesn’t accept the job, Mark Hunter, Sean Burke, and Oilers interim GM Keith Gretzky would remain in the running.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: By the sound of things, Holland would take over full control of the Oilers’ hockey operations department. That would rule out the possibility of any meddling from the so-called “Old Boys Network” of former Oilers among the front-office staff. Indeed, it could mean some of those people would be replaced by Holland. It’s a tempting offer for the former Wings GM, who’s been shunted aside in Detroit since Steve Yzerman took over that job.
If Holland accepts he’ll bring a stellar resume with him. The Red Wings were among the league’s dominant teams for most of his 22-year tenure as general manager. During that period, they appeared in four Stanley Cup Finals and won three championships. He also has a solid reputation at the draft table, selecting such notables as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Dylan Larkin. Critics, however, point to his tendency to overpay in the free-agent market and the Wings decline during his final years as GM.
It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds.
Anaheim Ducks have interest in bringing goaltender Ryan Miller back for one more year. Up to Miller to decide if he wants to play. Likely a bonus incentive contract #letsgoducks
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) May 3, 2019