Oilers want Woodcroft to return as coach, Kane back next season

Oilers want Woodcroft to return as coach, Kane back next season

“I think he did a fabulous job,” Holland said. “The team responded to him and I told him he and I would meet early next week, Monday or Tuesday and have a discussion. Yes, I am interested in him coming back. I want to hear what he’s thinking. But I think he did a great job and was a big part of what we accomplished.”

After going 7-13-3 from Dec. 3 to Feb. 9 to fall six points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot, the Oilers fired coach Dave Tippett and promoted Woodcroft from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League.

From there, Edmonton went 26-9-3, had the third-best points percentage (.724) in that span (Florida Panthers, .757; Calgary Flames, .731) and finished second in the Pacific Division.

The Oilers defeated the Los Angeles Kings in seven games in the Western Conference First Round and eliminated the Flames in five games in the second round before being swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Final, which ended Monday when the Oilers lost 6-5 in overtime in Game 4.

If Woodcroft is back, the Oilers are likely to look different. Holland said he didn’t think he could keep the current team together, given NHL salary cap concerns.

One of Edmonton’s biggest decisions ahead is what kind of offer to make forward Evander Kane, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 13. Kane signed with the Oilers on Jan. 28 after his contract had been terminated by the San Jose Sharks. He had 39 points (22 goals, 17 assists) in 43 regular-season games and scored 13 goals in the postseason, which leads the NHL.

“Am I interested in bringing him back? Yes,” Holland said. “I think he had a big impact on our team, not only his ability to score goals, but he plays with an edge. There was wonderful chemistry between him and Connor [McDavid]. When he joined our team, he made our team deeper. So can I keep him? Yeah. His cap number is $2 million. I don’t expect him to play for [a] $2 million cap number next year. I don’t know what it is. I’d have to sit and talk to his agent, Dan Milstein.”

Kane said Tuesday that although he is unsure if he will return to the Oilers, he has “nothing but good things to say” about his time in Edmonton.

Another area for the Oilers to address is goaltending.

mike smith, who started all 16 postseason games for Edmonton (8-6, 3.37 goals-against average, .913 save percentage), is 40 and said Tuesday he wasn’t sure about his future. He has one season remaining on a two-year contract ($2.2 million average annual value).

Once he returned from a variety of injuries that limited him to five games in the first half of the season, Smith (16-9-2, 2.81 GAA, .915 save percentage in 28 games, including 27 starts) split time with Mikko Koskinen (27-12-4, 3.10 GAA, .903 save percentage in 45 games, including 43 starts).

Koskinen can become an unrestricted free agent July 13.

“Mike Smith and [Koskinen], they dug in for us all year,” Holland said. “You don’t make the playoffs in the NHL without getting good goaltending. But certainly, Smith, he’s 40 years old. He gave us everything that he could and I got to meet with him to see what he feels he’s got in his tank. … He knows his body, and we’ve got to gather some information, but certainly I know that I’ve got to make some decisions between now and when we get to camp.”

Holland said he does not think the Oilers have a bona fide No. 1 goalie.

“We have two 1As, a 1A and a 1B,” he said. “How do I describe 1A and 1B? The guys that can play 40-45 games. A No. 1 one goalie to me can play 55-60. What are there in the League, 10 or 12 of those? I don’t know if any of them are available.

“Do I want a No. 1 goalie, a stud that can play [a big number of games]? Yeah. I think 32 teams want that. [But] I’m going to try to figure out a way to make our team the best that we can make it heading into September.”

The Oilers don’t expect they’ll have any players with offseason surgeries to recover from, even though they had several players playing with injuries during the postseason.

Forward Leon Draisaitl sustained a high-ankle sprain in the series against the Kings and finished the playoffs with 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists) in 16 games. Defenseman Darnell Nurse, who had six points (two goals, four assists) in 15 playoff games, sustained a torn hip flexor muscle April 22, missed the final four games of the regular season and played the entire playoffs with the injury. Forward Ryan Nugent Hopkins, who had 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 16 games, played with a shoulder injury. Forward Kailer Yamamotowho had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 14 games, missed the final two games of the playoffs after sustaining a concussion and forward Jesse Puljujarviwho had three points (two goals, one assist) in 16 games, had a shoulder injury that would have kept him out for the remainder of the playoffs (4-6 weeks).

After big progress this season, the Oilers future will require some good decisions and internal improvement in order to continue those strides forward.

“I said this yesterday in the room, if you’re 24 and under, we need you to take a bigger piece of the pie, and whether you’ve been on the team or you’re in the American League, we need you to push this offseason,” Holland said.

He also said it’s dangerous to assume the Oilers will regularly reach the conference final because they did so this season.

“We’ve got to make some tweaks, we’ve got to make some changes, but just stick with it,” he said. “The margin of error, the margin is [thin]. [Colorado is] the best team in the West. They’ve been good for two to three years now. They’ve been building to be good. I don’t think we’re a million miles away. I think we’re in the game… [but] that’s all history. We can go back and we can miss the playoffs next year, because there’s teams that missed the playoffs that want to get in.

“The margin of difference between so many teams is not as big as people think, whether you think we’re better than most teams or whether you think we’re worse than those teams. I’m just here to tell you there’s lots of teams, the margin of error is very, very thin, between lots of teams.”

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