Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland was getting to see what he wanted when he was hired last May: playing meaningful games in May.
Then, the NHL season was placed on pause on March 12. The Oilers had 11 games left in the regular season and were closing in on clinching on a playoff spot.
“I think everybody was excited to see what we could accomplish,” said Holland. “From Dec. 31 on, we played at a high level.”
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There’s a lot of speculation about how the NHL could finish the 19/20 season, but the league can’t do anything until health officials and governments give the green light.
“I’m optimistic and hopeful,” said Holland. “There are people all around the world trying to figure out ways to get the pandemic under control.
“I think all the players would love the opportunity to finish the season. It’s not perfect. If we have to play hockey in July and August, we’ll play hockey in July and August. It’s a different world. We have to adjust to what we’re battling against. The hope is that we’re going to find a way to finish this season.”
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When the season paused, forward James Neal had scored 19 goals. If he were to score 21 or more and outscore Milan Lucic by at least 10 goals, the Oilers would have to give the Calgary Flames their third round pick for 2020. Lucic has eight goals for the Flames.
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“If you look at the trade memo, there’s nothing in there about pro-rated or anything. It’s pretty black-and-white,” Holland said, expecting to keep the pick if the season isn’t finished.
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Holland added that he’s been in talks with former Oilers forward Anton Slepyshev, who has played for Moscow in the KHL for the last two seasons.
“We would like to sign him. I have made an offer,” said Holland.
Slepyshev, 25, has 23 points in 102 games for the Oilers from 2015-2018. He was a third round pick in 2013.
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Holland also hopes to see 2019 first round pick Philip Broberg in training camp and pre-season games in the fall.
Broberg, who turns 19 in June, plays for Skellefftea in Sweden. If Broberg doesn’t make the Oilers, Holland would return him to Sweden rather than have him play in the AHL for the Bakersfield Condors.
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