Speculation has engulfed Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland for months. The team he has assembled is sputtering, assembling a 14-16-7 record with no sign of a turnaround. The lame duck GM has not discussed a new contract with team owner Chris Ilitch in nearly a year. Many assumed the silence was a sign ownership had finally grown tired of the Wings' near decade of ineptitude. In fact, it is Holland himself who has walked away from the negotiating table.
Spiro Avenue has learned the longtime Red Wings executive intends to retire at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 NHL season.
Two sources with direct knowledge of Holland's thinking confirmed that the GM plans to step away from the game. Although the decision is not final, ownership has been advised of Holland's intentions.
"Both sides agreed to pause this (negotiation) long ago," one source said. "Holland is 90% sure he wants to step away from the grind."
Holland would likely remain with the organization in an advisory role. The Ilitch family intends to honor his wishes should he wish to stick around in some capacity.
While ownership has grown frustrated with the on-ice product, the decision to cease contract talks was entirely Holland's.
"I don't think Chris (Ilitch) is thrilled with the team," another source said. "But he was not going to push Kenny out."
Holland has told people close to him that he occasionally has second thoughts, but believes the organization would benefit from a fresh set of eyes. His loyalty to the Ilitch family would likely preclude him from staying on without being fully committed to his duties.
If ownership has earmarked a potential replacement for Holland, they have been tight-lipped about it. It is believed former Red Wing and current assistant to the General Manager Kris Draper would receive an interview, but is not a preordained successor.
Holland choosing to walk away would remove pressure on ownership to effectively fire the most successful executive in the 91-year history of the franchise.
Despite winning 4 Stanley Cups (3 as the team's top executive), Holland's legacy has been dinged by several years of underwhelming results.
"I think everyone in the organization is ready for a change," a source said. "There is no animosity."
For the first time since 1997, the Red Wings appear on the verge of tabbing a new leader in the front office.
"I just don't think (Holland) has the stomach for this rebuild," a team source said.