Dear Red Wings: Ken Holland strikes, Kucherov calls Larionov, and a quiz

Former Red Wings GM makes move for veteran Duncan Keith, but was this worth it?

Ken Holland, Detroit Red Wings senior vice president, left, stands with Steve Yzerman, executive vice president and general manager during a news conference, Friday, April 19, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) (Carlos Osorio, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

We have to take a moment to talk about what our old friend did Monday.

Ken Holland adds Duncan Keith to Oilers

Former Red Wings GM Ken Holland, who now works as the GM for Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers, whatever), woke up Monday and decided to be risky. Maybe he made that decision earlier this month (perhaps years ago), but either way Holland decided to acquire 37-year-old (turns 38 this week) Duncan Keith from the Chicago Blackhawks.

That’s fine enough. Yes he’s in his late 30s, but Keith is still a very skilled defenseman who can help get the puck to McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He has two seasons remaining on a 13-year, $72 million contract ($5.5 million average annual value) he signed with the Blackhawks back in 2009. It makes Keith the second-highest paid defenseman on Edmonton, just behind Darnell Nurse at $5.6 million against the cap.

Holland is of course betting on Keith playing at the level at or beyond his cap hit. He’s betting on the aging, decorated NHL vet to add depth and leadership to his relatively young lineup. In fact, Holland gave up 24-year-old defenseman Caleb Jones and a conditional pick in the 2022 NHL Draft to get Keith.

And no one knows exactly why Holland did it this way.

Why didn’t he force Chicago to retain part of Keith’s salary? Why did he have to give up a conditional pick to make it happen? Keith had a request to move to western Canada to be closer to his son. It was inevitable that he was leaving Chicago. The Blackhawks were prepared to cut ties, let him walk and clear the cap space to upgrade their blue line as they try to rebuild on the fly. Edmonton was one of just a few actual, viable landing spots for Keith.

It seems Holland had a much better bargaining position. These are the kinds of trades you don’t love to see. But if it pays off, if 38-year-old Duncan Keith is the guy who can help turn this Oilers squad into a playoff team, then OK. But man, it’s a big risk that probably didn’t have to be taken.

We’ve seen him make similar moves during his time running the Red Wings. One that comes to mind is the deadline trade for Erik Cole from the Dallas Stars in 2015. Cole was 36 at the time and Holland gave up Mattias Bäckman, Mattias Janmark and a second-round draft pick in 2015 to get him. Of course, Cole’s career ended after just 11 games with Detroit due to a spinal contusion. That was an unforeseen and terribly unfortunate circumstance, but even without considering such an injury was possible, it was a risky move. I wouldn’t mind having Janmark (79th overall pick in 2013) on the Red Wings today. He’s a big center playing for the Vegas Golden Knights now. It was a good pick under Holland, but he gave it away to try to save the sinking ship that was the Red Wings.

I’m not saying the Oilers are a sinking ship, but they’re definitely lost at sea with one of the most skilled captains the NHL has ever seen. It’s a delicate situation for Holland right now. Some of the advanced stats suggest this Keith deal won’t go his way:

@IneffectiveMath tweeted: “Caleb Jones (traded to Chicago with some picks) is an average nhl defender. Duncan Keith (in return to Edmonton) is a liability to his team on offence at 5v5, a liability on the powerplay, a liability on the penalty-kill, a severe defensive liability at 5v5, and a poor shot.”

Good luck old friend. I would absolutely love to see Keith have some kind of swan song with McDavid’s squad. I want to believe that can happen. I understand why Holland did it, but none of us can deny how unlikely it is this move will make the Oilers that much better.

Maybe Holland is not done.

Tampa twice; Kucherov calls Larionov

Steve Yzerman’s brainchild just won back-to-back Stanley Cups, and he doesn’t get to celebrate. Nope. Yzerman has already moved on to his next project. We can only imagine what’s been going through his mind as he prepares for world domination in the form of an unstoppable Red Wings team. I digress, for now.

Nikita Kucherov, who missed the entire regular season due to injury, returned in time for the playoffs to score 32 points in 23 games for Tampa. He was Yzerman’s 2nd-round, 58th overall pick in 2011. And get this: He called fellow Russian Igor Larionov after he won, according to Larionov’s son:

“I was at dinner with my dad yesterday and he got a (FaceTime) call from a random number. He picks it up and it’s Nikita Kucherov with the Stanley Cup. Kuch shouts ‘ты мой кумир, спасибо' about 6 times. The translation of that is ‘You’re my idol, thank you.’ Coolest thing witnessed,” Igor Larionov II tweeted.

He later added to the tweet:

“I showed my dad this tweet and he said Kuch also told him that he always watches his highlights. Every athlete can relate to watching your idol, but how amazing is it to win the biggest trophy in your sport and then (FaceTime) your idol. Gives me goosebumps thinking about it.”

Yes, it would be like me calling Sergei Fedorov after winning a Pulitzer Prize. I totally understand.

Update: Investigation into NHL goalie Matiss Kivlenieks’ death in Novi turned over to prosecutor

📅 Coming up:

  • July 21 -- NHL Expansion Draft
  • July 23-24 -- NHL Entry Draft
  • July 28 -- Free agency begins

❓Quiz time❓

So you think you know former Detroit Red Wings GM Kenneth Mark Holland?

This week’s quiz:

Dear Red Wings Discussion Board

Have something to say about the team? Join the conversation here.


About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.