During a recent interview with Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now, Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman told host Stauffer, there is an expectation new Oilers GM Ken Holland might send a “jolt” through the Oilers lineup. That jolt might come, even if financially, the jolt doesn’t make complete sense.
This is not to suggest that Holland would be fiscally irresponsible, but that if buying out a player like Milan Lucic could send a worthwhile message (an expensive one, mind you), he might still do so.
There’s been no word or suggestion from Holland that this is something the Oilers are considering, but more a feeling Friedman has that this might be one direction the Oilers choose to go.
Why Milan Lucic?
Stauffer mentioned whispers of both Andrew Sekera and Lucic being in similar situations but Friedman said that while he’d heard that too, “at least Sekera has played well for you.” Friedman added, if money weren’t the major factor, only if the Oilers believed the defenseman’s leg issues were still a major concern, would you choose a Sekera buyout over a Lucic one. It’s Lucic, simply because he has provided far less value.
On the idea of buying out someone like Lucic, Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic wrote that if a move does happen, the Oilers need to do so in June to save the most money.
If buying out Lucic isn’t done in June, it’ll be a two-year wait before it makes sense to reconsider. The signing bonus structure is such that heading into potential lockout seasons – 2020 and 2022 – the savings in those years is just $375,000. The cap hits for the next eight years would be $3.625 million, $5.625 million, $4.125 million, $5.625 million and four at $625,000. The last four seasons aren’t a problem, but the first four are far from ideal – especially since the Oilers need to spend money to replace Lucic on the roster.
On the other hand, if the Oilers are looking at a trade, it becomes much easier to do after July 1st. By then, his bonuses will have been paid and his financial burden not so heavy on another team.
What Holland Said on the Subject
Stauffer then interviewed the new GM and while Stauffer didn’t get around to asking if Holland had any plans to “jolt” the lineup, Holland and Stauffer did discuss the idea of change.
The Oilers host made reference to contrasting styles brought up by former GM Brian Burke. Burke stated that GM’s have different approaches. One GM will take a wait-and-see style, gather information and then calculate his decisions. The others may do what someone like Brendan Shanahan did in Toronto, which was fire a dozen guys almost immediately.
Holland said that he expects there will be change but he’s going to talk to everyone first. By late May, early June, he’ll have a much better idea of what his scouts have said, how it compared to what his scouts in Detroit summarized and keep those that are on the same page with how he feels the team needs to change. Holland said he’d rely heavily on the word of Ken Hitchcock.
Hitchcock on Lucic
Hitch gave Lucic a ton of rope when he first arrived in Edmonton but as time passed, Lucic was used less often and fell back into his old, unproductive routine. He was not one of the former coach’s go-to guys near the end of the season and if he’d been retained as the coach next season, likely wouldn’t be nearly as lenient.
What advice might Hitch give Holland on the forward who makes a lot of money but doesn’t give a lot back? It’s probably not hard to read between the lines.
Do the Oilers Need a Jolt?
Having missed the playoffs 12 times in 13 seasons, something isn’t right in Edmonton. Does that mean sending a shock through the roster is a smart approach? Maybe.
That said, one of the mandates Holland has stated he wants in the organization is stability. Does putting the Oilers behind the 8-ball financially with a buyout as his first major act foster that stability he speaks of?
Lucic has hinted he’s ready to move on. He knows he’s not been good. The latest were comments he made that he can see himself one day playing in Vancouver. There were also murmurs he laid off when playing former teammates like the Los Angeles Kings. Neither may be accurate of the player’s true feelings but sometimes, perception is enough to require a change.
If Holland takes the time he says he’ll take, gathers the information he intends to gather, discovers some obvious infections within the organization, a “jolt” may be exactly what’s coming. He’s yet to speak to any of the players but that will come in short order. He also suggested that once he hires a coach, he’ll rely on his suggestions.
Holland demanded autonomy when he took this job. Perhaps he’s already prepared to flex that muscle.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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