Offseason questions for Ken Holland

Current Edmonton Oilers General Manager Ken Holland. (Photo by Dave Reginek - Pool/Getty Images)
Current Edmonton Oilers General Manager Ken Holland. (Photo by Dave Reginek - Pool/Getty Images) /
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Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

Remember the last offseason when Duncan Keith decided to retire rather than play out the last year of his contract? Well at that point Kulak had been acquired from the Habs at the deadline for a pick and was a great depth piece for the bottom pairing.

Once Keith retired, Holland had to decide who to replace him with, and Kulak did such a great job that Holland decided he was ready for a bigger role and more minutes, so he signed him for $2.75 million over four seasons, a great number for a guy who was going to play in the top four for a few seasons…..or so we thought.

Kulak struggled a little to adjust to his role at first but eventually, he was able to play more minutes against tougher competition.

Then at the deadline, Holland pulled off a stellar trade by trading a haul to Nashville for Mattias Ekholm and a sixth-round pick for Tyson Barrie, a first-round pick and a first-round prospect who had just been selected in that summer’s draft (Reid Schaefer).

Suddenly Kulak was understandably bumped back down to the bottom pairing (what else are you doing to do, stupidly play Ekholm in the bottom pairing?) and Evan Bouchard was promoted back up.

Kulak is a fine player, but if he’s going to play on the bottom pairing again he is now officially overpaid for that.  At a pro-rated $1.85 million there was no problem, but now at full seasons of almost $2.75 million, this is a bad use of cap space when the team is right up against the cap and looking to gain any foothold they can.

Trading Kulak to another team looking for depth that has room for him once again in the top four in exchange for a third or fourth-round pick or a cheaper bottom-pairing D signed at least for next season would be the ideal play here. If they trade him for a pick it shouldn’t be hard to find a replacement in free agency – you might even say bottom-of-the-roster players are Ken Holland’s specialty.

Regardless of whether he stays or goes, it will be hard to argue that paying a bottom-pairing guy $2.75 million a season is a good use of cap space.

From a hockey perspective, he’s a great piece to keep but from a cap space perspective, this is not smart. Maybe if we encounter another team crazy enough we might even be able to get a second-round pick for him……

This will be a key decision to save the team cap space.