NHL insiders and commentators have ruled on Ken Holland’s work at the NHL trade deadline and he’s been given near unanimous approval of his work.
A number of publications and broadcasters declared Holland and the Oilers as one of the “winners” of the deadline day.
Oilers a winner
Rory Boylen, Sportsnet: Edmonton Oilers: Ken Holland rewarded his troops… First of all, I cannot wait to see Andreas Athanasiou on McDavid’s wing. Edmonton’s top need at the deadline was for speed and scoring on the wings, and while Athanasiou has struggled this year, he scored 30 times in 2018-19 and could find that touch again next to McDavid. He’s an RFA this summer as well, which means Edmonton will have more than one year of control on him. Tyler Ennis was a cheap addition as a depth winger and also adds some speed, so the Oilers leave the deadline having addressed their primary need and didn’t have to use a first-rounder or Jesse Puljujarvi to get it done. And then there’s Mike Green, who was a late-night addition on Sunday. Like Athanasiou, Green comes over from Holland’s old team in Detroit, so the GM feels comfortable with the player. He’s a depth add at 5-on-5, but is still an excellent passer with great offensive instincts and should help their second power-play unit. And, heck, Green sending stretch passes to McDavid and Athanasiou could be a lethal combination.
Andrew Knoll, Forbes: The Oilers unloaded the contracts of Kyle Brodziak and Sam Gagner, and with minimal salary retention, along with some sub-first-round picks to land forward Andreas Athanasiou and defenseman Mike Green in two separate deals with the Detroit Red Wings… The Athanasiou acquisition could pay big dividends for the Oilers. Athanasiou is a speedy forward with scoring touch, who could round out a lethal top line with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl or breathe life into the Oilers’ secondary scoring.”
Peter Blackburn of CBS Sports: My goodness, they did it — the Oilers actually made some decent trades to get Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl some help on the wing.”
Jimmy Hascup and Mike Brehm USA TODAY: One can joke about GM Ken Holland reuniting with former Red Wings Mike Green (for a conditional fourth) and Andreas Athanasiou (for Sam Gagner and two second-round picks), but the moves have logic, especially after he also added winger Tyler Ennis from the Ottawa Senators for a fifth-round pick. Edmonton is second in the Pacific Division, and it has played the year without enough quality wingers. Athanasiou, a restricted free agent this offseason, has the speed and offensive skills to mesh with Connor McDavid. Ennis should slot on the third line, while Green will give the Oilers experience and a power-play threat.
TSN’s Michael Farber said Ken Holland was the winner of the day for Canadian GMs: For me it’s Kenny Holland because he’s understood this city has suffered enough. Yes, McDavid is there, yes, Draisaitl is there but they haven’t done anything when it’s mattered most. He looks at the window and is saying, ‘OK, it’s open now, the West is open, so we’re going to move people in.’ He knew a couple from Detroit, Green and Athanasiou, now Tyler Ennis. There’s some options up front, the right-shot puck-moving defenceman. I really like what Ken Holland has done.
A number of writers also liked single moves made by the Oilers.
Ken Campbell, The Hockey News: Everything about Andreas Athanasiou, particularly his dreadful and league-worst plus-minus of minus-45, has to be viewed through the prism of him playing for the Detroit Red Wings. But after a trade to the Edmonton Oilers Monday, the 25-year-old will be better on a superior team, and has the chance to be much, much better if he can find chemistry with the best player in the world. … This deal conceivably leaves (McDavid) with Athanasiou and Zack Kassian once the latter returns from his seven-game suspension on Feb. 29. That’s a very good top line, one that is supplemented by the second unit of Leon Draisaitl between Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto.
Lyle Richardson, Spectors Hockey: The Oilers sent Sam Gagner and two second-round picks to the Detroit Red Wings for one of the fastest players in the league in Athanasiou, prompting speculation he’ll become a new linemate for Connor McDavid. If those two mesh well together, Athanasiou will regain the 30-goal form that he’s been lacking this season. Failing that, perhaps he’ll be a better fit on their second line with either Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Actually, the Oilers were a loser
There were, of course, a few negative voices, includ9ing Nick Goss of MSNBC in Boston, who had the Oilers as a “loser” of deadline day: “Athanasiou is one of the fastest players in the league, making him a natural fit alongside Oilers captain Connor McDavid on the top line, but he’s not a top-tier offensive player and his defensive ability is below average. He’s not the type of player a team should spend multiple second-round picks to acquire, especially when that franchise is an Oilers squad whose playoff fate is far from certain. The Oilers also acquired winger Tyler Ennis from Ottawa Senators for a 2021 fifth-round pick, which was a really good value deal for Edmonton. The bottom line is the Oilers better make the playoffs after giving up valuable assets for two players who’ve scored a combined 24 goals this season.”
A negative word was also heard from Brian Burke on Sportsnet, who was not convinced the Oilers had it right by bringing in speedy players. Burke wondered about Edmonton’s ability to now retrieve pucks and win battles. “It’s nice to have all this speed but someone has to get the puck.”
Finally, here’s the assessment of Kurt Leavins of the Cult of Hockey: Two thoughts on the #Oilers at the deadline today: 1/2 – I’m very sorry to see Sam Gagner go (again). Class guy and a favourite of our family so I have a soft spot for him. And I would not rule out a FA return in July. Having said that a very good performance by Ken Holland today. It gives the club a much better chance at cementing a playoff spot and builds a roster that could (with continued good goaltending) even go a couple rounds. One hell of a job considering the cap situation.”