EDMONTON, AB - Oilers President of Hockey Operations & General Manager Ken Holland spoke to 630CHED on Inside Sports with Reid Wilkins on Tuesday to discuss helping construct Team Canada's Olympic roster, COVID-19 vaccinations within the Oilers dressing room, contract negotiations with defenceman Darnell Nurse and forward Kailer Yamamoto, as well as other pertinent topics.
Read the full transcript of the interview below:
Holland on the process of helping form Team Canada's 2022 Olympic men's hockey team:
"We started probably right before the season started this year in January, then met every month. We all had a division and a secondary division, and we being Doug Armstrong, Ron Francis, Don Sweeney, Roberto Luongo, myself, and Scott Salmond from Hockey Canada talked and did an evaluation of all the players every month. Then, last week, I think a 56-player long list was announced, and basically, the Olympic team has to come off that list because we have to submit that list to the [International Olympic Committee] for testing and such.
"I'm here in Banff actually for three days with the coaching staff and the management team of the Olympic team, and we're doing an Orientation Camp and going to have a Zoom call Thursday with the players on the long list. Then, we'll go back to evaluating in October, November, and December. I don't know the exact date, but at some time in December we'll announce the Olympic team."
On the value of having NHL players compete at the Olympics:
"I think first and foremost, the players really want to play best-on-best. It's every four years, and players want to represent their country playing against the other best hockey players in the world. Then, I obviously think it's an opportunity on that platform to showcase our players and all the great players our League has around the world. I've been fortunate to be with the Olympic team in 2010 in Vancouver, 2014 in Sochi, and a couple of World Championship teams. Any time you get to represent your country on a world stage, it's an honour."
On the continuing impact of COVID-19 and satisfaction with vaccinations by Oilers players:
"I think for the most part. Obviously, vaccinations are a choice, and I think most people in all walks of life decide they want to be vaccinated. Some, for personal reasons, don't want to be vaccinated, and I think probably what goes on in the real world obviously goes on in the NHL and all these other leagues. It's rarely something that's 100 percent, so obviously we're two weeks away from Training Camp and we play eight pre-season games - seven in Canada and one against Seattle - then our first three regular-season games are in Canada. We're probably a good six weeks away from when we travel, so we'll see where we're at here in the next couple of weeks.
"We're all waiting for information as we go along. Are things going to change? Are things going to stay the same in terms of the border? Last year there was a National Interest Exemption, and right now there isn't. There are lots of unknowns, and nobody knows how COVID is going to go. It's a guessing game. There's the Delta variant, so there are so many unknowns. We take it day-by-day and we try to educate our players. With Dr. Naidu, our team doctor who's also involved with the Edmonton Elks and ran the NHL Bubble in Edmonton, and [Head Athletic Therapist] T.D. Fors, we want to make sure that we keep our players as informed as we can on a regular basis with protocols and how it's going to affect our team and them individually."
On his perspective of how Darnell Nurse's eight-year, $74 million contract came together and his future with the Edmonton Oilers:
"Obviously, I believe he's trending upward by the commitment that ultimately I made the final decision on after talking to ownership, Bob Nicholson, and key people in my organization. As we went through the process a month or six weeks in advance of [free agency], I reached out to say that I'd like to engage in talks and find a solution to an extension. Over the course of the next four or five weeks, lots of things happened in the marketplace for elite defencemen. The market basically gets set, and you can either get into the market or you run the risk that players are going to move. Darnell is 26 years of age, he's six-foot-four, he's gifted, a great skater, he's in the gym, he's powerful, he eats up a tonne of minutes for our team, and there's no way in my mind we could risk losing Darnell. If we lost him, we're starting all over again. Those kinds of players like Darnell, you have to draft them and develop them. The odd time they jump from one team to another via free agency, you're not the only team in free agency. You're one of many teams that are bidding for these types of players. Ultimately, I made the decision based on a marketplace that was sort of ongoing to do the deal."
Video: RAW | Darnell Nurse 08.06.21
On contract talks with restricted free agent Kailer Yamamoto:
"I touched base with his agent J.P. Barry in the last couple of days. We planned to talk. Obviously, we've got work to do or else he'd be signed by now. Any time there's a player not signed, it's a difference in opinion. Basically, we talked a lot three or four weeks ago and decided to take a break. Much like I said with Nurse, you let a marketplace surface and you get some comparables. We plan to talk in the next couple of days here and we'll see if we can find a solution. The plan is to get him signed here at some point in time prior to Training Camp, because ideally, I'd like to get into Training Camp with everybody signed. But at the same time, there's the business aspect of hockey and the deal has to make sense for Kailer and his agent. It also has to make sense for the Edmonton Oilers."
On goaltender Alex Stalock and the possibility of carrying three goaltenders next season:
"I actually talked to Alex and his agent yesterday for a while. He's going to be at Training Camp, he's obviously signed to a contract, and he had 20 wins two years ago. He's motivated. He came into a tough situation last year when we picked him up off waivers. We needed three goalies, it was a short season, and Mike Smith played 32 of the last 45 or 46 games. He didn't really get a chance to play, and I know he was really disappointed.
"I know he's been playing in a summer professional league in Minnesota this year and feels very good about his game coming into Camp. He told me yesterday he's coming to try and push for a job. He wants to get back playing in the NHL and understands that he could wake up on October 10th or 11th when we submit our roster and be on waivers or in Bakersfield, but he's coming to Training Camp to push. I think that's a good thing and a great attitude for a player coming into Camp with, and I think it's great for the Edmonton Oilers. I would say to you right now, I'm planning on carrying two goalies, but based upon the circumstances, maybe we carry three. But ideally, I'd like to carry two.