What's next for the Oilers after deciding not to bring back Ken Holland as GM?

Edmonton Oilers hockey operations CEO Jeff Jackson has some work to do over the next few days since the NHL Draft starts Friday and free agency commences Monday. But don’t hold your breath when it comes to news on the team’s two biggest decisions of the offseason.

Jackson said he’s in no rush to replace general manager Ken Holland, who left the organization on Thursday ahead of his five-year contract expiring Sunday.

Along the same lines, Jackson doesn’t feel compelled to begin contract negotiations for Leon Draisaitl, the elite forward who’s about to enter the final season of his deal and is eligible for an extension Monday.

“I’m confident we’re going to be able to accomplish what we need to in the short term and then going forward with some discussions on contract extensions and things like that,” Jackson said.

Jackson will serve as the acting GM until a hire is made. The one thing he made clear is there will eventually be someone else running the team on a day-to-day basis.

“I don’t have any intention of being the general manager,” he said. “I have a number of candidates I’ve started to reach out to. It’s a difficult time for everybody. We’re at the draft; people I want to talk to are integral parts of other organizations, so I’m going to probably anticipate I’m going to have to be patient with that and get through these next few days.

“But I’m OK with that. I want to do this the right way. I want to get the right person. I don’t have a time frame for it.”

The new GM to work under Jackson is expected to be someone well-versed in analytics.

There have been no negotiations on a new contract for Draisaitl, the winner of the 2020 Hart and Art Ross trophies, Jackson said. He hopes to meet with Draisaitl’s agent, Mike Liut, at the draft in Las Vegas before the end of the weekend to have a preliminary conversation.

The talks won’t intensify for a while, though.

“It’s critically important the general manager is in place before we get into the meat of that discussion,” Jackson said.

Colleague Chris Johnston reported Tuesday, citing multiple league sources familiar with the Oilers front office’s view of the situation, that the team isn’t inclined to let Draisaitl play out the last season of his deal. That way the Oilers wouldn’t risk letting him walk to free agency next summer.

However, Jackson countered that assertion on Thursday.

“I don’t feel the pressure of any date to do this. He’s got another year on his contract,” Jackson said. “We’ve got a year to work on it.”

Draisaitl playing out the final season of his deal without an extension has the potential to be troubling because Connor McDavid is just a year behind him. McDavid, the 2024 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, is eligible for an extension next July 1 — the day Draisaitl could hit the open market — and can be a free agent in 2026.

McDavid is getting married to longtime partner Lauren Kyle next month. Later in the summer, Jackson plans on sitting down with the Oilers captain, Draisaitl and the new GM to understand the two players’ thought processes — and if they both want to be in Edmonton beyond their current contracts.

“It’s important that we have the collaboration of our top two players, they know what the vision is and what our new GM is thinking,” Jackson said.

Until all that happens, the Oilers have other business at hand.

Director of amateur scouting Rick Pracey will handle the upcoming draft.

The Oilers dealt their first-round pick to Anaheim to acquire forwards Adam Henrique and Sam Carrick, with significant retention on their contracts. They’re not on the clock until late in the second round — pick No. 64. It’s their only selection in the first four rounds as of now. Their other picks are Nos. 160, 183, 192, 196 and 218.

In terms of free agency, the Oilers have 10 players who travelled with the team during the playoffs and can sign with other teams on Monday. That group consists of Henrique, Carrick, Mattias Janmark, Connor Brown, Warren Foegele, Corey Perry, Sam Gagner, Vincent Desharnais, Troy Stecher and Calvin Pickard.

The Oilers have just over $10 million in cap space, per PuckPedia, with seven forwards and five blueliners signed.

“We’d like to bring back the team,” Jackson said. “We might like to tinker with it — make a change here or there. Being realistic, I don’t know if we’ll get everybody back or not. We’ve got to try. We’ve got to work around cap issues and different things like that.

“We’re going to be active and look at ways to free up money and have options, try to make improvements wherever we can in the lineup. But I wouldn’t say we’re going to open the floodgates and try to do a bunch of big deals. That just doesn’t make any sense with the team we already have in place and the success this year and the group we have.”

One of the more obvious ways to free up money would be to buy out goaltender Jack Campbell, who has three more seasons left on his $5 million AAV contract. Campbell spent all but five games in the minors before acting as the third goalie for most of the playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final.

A buyout keeps Campbell on the Oilers’ books until 2030. Next season’s cap hit would be $1.1 million, followed by $2.3 million and $2.6 million for the following two campaigns. The Oilers would be charged $1.5 million per season from 2028 to 2030, according to PuckPedia.

“At this point, we’re not planning that,” Jackson said of buying out Campbell. “We’re considering it.”

(Photo of Jeff Jackson and Ken Holland: Jason Franson / The Canadian Press via AP)

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