Chiarelli Willing To Deal?

NHL Draft Lottery Drawing

Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin isn’t a discussion that’s been confined to fans of the Edmonton Oilers. The team with the second overall pick, Boston, has a big stake in the outcome, and it doesn’t sound like Bruins G.M. Peter Chiarelli is going to let Steve Tambellini make his decision without at least attempting to sway the outcome.

Chiarelli talked to Boston Herald writer Stephen Harris, and the results of that discussion are in an article at the Herald’s site this morning. The short form is that Chiarelli expects Tambellini to talk to him and see if some kind of deal can be worked out, he declines to tell the reporter who Boston is leaning towards and if they’re willing to cough up something to make the player they want fall to them, and that he plans to talk with Tambellini about it but hasn’t yet.

Harris speculates that Hall is the player the Bruins want: in addition to the fact that most people seem to have Hall slightly ahead of Seguin based on his playoff and World Junior performance (Central Scoutings’ ranking notwithstanding), the Bruins are stocked at centre, and less so on the wings. He also suggests that Edmonton might prefer Seguin in any case; the Oilers have all kinds of first rate prospects at wing and their two best forwards (Hemsky and Penner) are both wingers.

This is where things get interesting. What kind of payment from the Bruins would be sufficient to make the Oilers leave Hall on the table for Boston? Here’s what Harris suggests:

What might it take to assure that Hall remains there for the Bruins? Perhaps winger Blake Wheeler? Or Tim Thomas, if the Oilers saw the veteran goalie as an upgrade on Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, Nikolai Khabibulin, et al?

I suspect Wheeler is a player that the Oilers might have in mind; a 6’5” winger who can score a little and hasn’t yet turned 24 is always an interesting commodity. Given Steve Tambellini’s public support of Nikolai Khabibulin, I doubt he especially wants to deal him.

But the more I think about it, the more the idea of swapping Khabibulin for Thomas makes sense to me.

After all, the Bruins starter right now is Tuukka Rask, and with the 23 year-old representing both the present and the future in net, 36 year-old Thomas is a redundancy at $5.0 million per season for the next three years.

Khabibulin is signed for the same term, but at a more palatable $3.75 million, and unlike in Edmonton he wouldn’t be expected to hold down the starter’s job; in other words, his health is much less of a risk for Boston, since their other goalie is more than capable of handling a heavy workload.

Certainly, Edmonton is getting the better half of the goaltending exchange, but it gives Boston a chance to get the player they covet and at the same time cut payroll. It’s a deal I’d definitely try to push from an Oilers perspective, particularly if Seguin’s the player the scouts want anyway.

As I said earlier, however, I take Tambellini at his word when he supports Khabibulin, and I expect that if a trade is made, Wheeler’s the one the Oilers would target. Given Wheeler’s salary (he’s a restricted free agent coming off a $2.8 million hit last year) and decline in production (one goal in the playoffs, regular season numbers down) he’s likely to be overpaid a little, so in Tambellini’s shoes I wouldn’t be willing to trade down to number two strictly for Wheeler. I think the Bruins would have to agree to take a player – one of Ethan Moreau, Patrick O’Sullivan, or Robert Nilsson – off my hands in order to make the deal work.

In any case, given that the Bruins likely want Hall, the Oilers likely want Seguin, and Hall’s probably the better pick than Seguin, there seems to be a lot of room here for a deal to be made that benefits both teams.