Peter Chiarelli shouldn’t worry much about improving the Oilers for this season

Peter Chiarelli4

This is not the time for the Edmonton Oilers to be looking for a big, season-saving trade. Instead, it’s almost certainly time for Peter Chiarelli to grit the teeth and once more look to next year, as his predecessors in the big general manager’s chair have done before him.

Edmonton currently sits at 8-15-2 on the season. To match the pace of last year’s Calgary Flames—the final qualifier for a playoff spot in the West in 2014-15—the Oilers would need to go 37-15-5 the rest of the way. Even with McDavid, goaltending and a Justin Schultz-for-Travis Hamonic trade, that doesn’t seem a particular plausible.

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That’s not to say that Chiarelli should turn his nose up at a good deal if one comes his way, but the short-term ramifications should be secondary. The real goal here is to make Edmonton a better team for next season, and the window for big moves which accomplish that is more likely to come in the summer than at the trade deadline.

For now, it’s all about preparation, clearing away salary and securing whatever assets are available.



Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are all on pricey multi-year contracts. We can debate the wisdom of dealing any of that trio, but if one or more is dealt it will be in the summer. There isn’t a trade out there that’s going to make sense for Connor McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl is also close to a non-starter.

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Benoit Pouliot doesn’t quite make his way into that quintet because his $4.0 million cap hit might be digestible at the deadline, but given his five-on-five scoring ability (like Eberle he’s scored 1.94 points/hour at evens over the least three-plus seasons) and the way his size and aggressive play fit with the team it’s my view that the Oilers would be nuts to deal him.

Players on shorter deals fall into a few different categories. Nail Yakupov would likely have some value, but if dealt again probably makes more sense in the summer rather than as a sell-for-futures move. Matt Hendricks might have value, too, though the Oilers might rather keep him around given what he brings to the table. Mark Letestu isn’t exactly having a banner season and Lauri Korpikoski has been an unmitigated disaster.


Of the rest, the only player who really stands out is Teddy Purcell. He’s on an expiring deal and he’s playing well, but he’s also likely replaceable via free agency. I’ve argued that the team should cash-in on him and feel the same now. Unless fellow UFA Rob Klinkhammer comes back soon and makes some noise, that might be the only deal up front that makes sense for Edmonton at the deadline.

The Back End


I’d be very surprised if the Oilers had any interest in moving Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom at all, and certainly not at the trade deadline. Andrej Sekera is another pricey multi-year contract and certainly won’t be in play until the summer and probably should not and will not be then either. It makes little sense to trade Brandon Davidson given the likely return, and Griffin Reinhart isn’t the kind of guy buyers are looking for at the deadline (if it even makes sense to trade him).

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Of the veterans, most lack real value. Andrew Ference isn’t going anywhere, and if Nikita Nikitin does there won’t be much of a return. I’m skeptical that Mark Fayne’s moveable in-season; he has two years left on his deal after this one at a pretty decent price-point and I’d wager his value as part of the team is considerably higher than his value in trade.

That leaves two names on defence. Eric Gryba is a tough-as-nails veteran depth piece; that always has value at the deadline and given the number of entry-level defencemen currently in the system it makes no sense for Edmonton to keep him.


Justin Schultz is the most interesting name on the list to me. He’s going to cost almost $4.0 million to qualify. He’s an offensive defenceman and a potential No. 4 in the here-and-now, and he’s on an expiring deal, all of which means he’ll have value at the trade deadline. A trade is an opportunity for the Oilers to both rid themselves of a summer salary cap headache, add to their assets in the here-and-now and open up a roster spot for a much-needed legitimate top-four right-shooting defenceman.

In net, we’ll just have to see what happens. Cam Talbot and Anders Nilsson are both on expiring deals, with the former unrestricted and the latter restricted; we’ll need to see more games from both to have a good idea of what an optimal Oilers summer strategy looks like.

Trades involving Purcell, Schultz, Gryba and possibly one or two others should stock up the Oilers’ cupboard of picks, allowing them the flexibility to move multiple selections at the summer draft. The loss of those salaries and others will open up cap space for Edmonton to be aggressive in pursuit of both trade targets and free agents, and potentially to take on salary in a bigger deal involving one of the team’s biggest names.

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The remainder of this season from a management perspective is all about preparation. The real work of improving the team will be done in the summer.


  • Axiv

    Potential trade proposals:

    1. RNH + Schultz + 3rd Round Pick to COL for Duchene + Barrie (taking on 0.7 million in salary)

    2. RNH to CBJ for Johansen (CBJ will be taking on 2 million in salary, will need to make another move or include a player for draft pick to even up salary)

    For the record, I would only entertain trading RNH if an established center is coming back. I like our new-found center depth, and don’t want to get rid of it. However, I believe our core needs a shake-up. Colorado and Columbus probably wouldn’t be opposed to an equal-value shake-up either.

    Personally, I would prefer to trade Eberle long before RNH, but neither of these deals would happen from the other side’s perspective if Eberle is swapped in for RNH.

    Bring on dem trashes!

    • JDP

      This organization has no balls…..they can only pick #1 overall in the draft but can’t pull the trigger on a decent trade. So many comments about the teams losing culture but yet you want the bacterial waste just to progress for another long year!

      • JDP

        My point here(which was obviously missed by you when taking your pills) is that the appropriate people are to make decisions. Not armchair GMS like we have been used to.

  • Cain

    The goal is to make us a better team now , not next year ! Chia had ample time to fascilitate trades and rid the team of some bad contracts . He did none of that ! We are still in sight of playoffs in Pacific division if he was faster at doing something to help make team better . He has done nothing ! Why wait till next year , for another first overall draft pick ? Then the team has decided to tank already , and that attitude makes one sick to even contemplate . Patience it seems is just an excuse for incompetence and tardiness.

    • Hemmercules

      The goal for any GM is to make their team better. Dont think Chia is just sitting there in his office every day not doing anything, trades are hard to make in the NHL, this isn’t trading hockey cards in the school yard at recess.

      Chia basically said himself when he was hired that it would be a process that wouldn’t just flip into a playoff team instantly. Like it or not this is Chia’s time to evaluate the players he was given. Its easy to say “buy them out, they suck” but you have to look at the bigger picture.

      Anyone with half a brain should have known the oilers weren’t going to be storming into the playoff this season so why buy out Nikitin and Ference and handcuff the team with wasted cap space for a couple years?? There was also the possibility that Ference and Nikintin would be decent enough to be depth defensemen or bottom pairing guys.

      I think by now Chia probably has a good idea of what he has with most of the guys in the system and he will start making calculated decisions on each and every one of them. Nikitin will be off the books or traded by seasons end, Ference will likely be bought out or traded be seasons end. Oilers fans hate to hear it, but it takes time. Chia has had about 5 months which really isn’t very long.

      As awesome as it was to hire guys with winning experience like Chia and Tmac, it also signalled somewhat of a new rebuild was coming and thats exactly what we are getting. Changing coaches, Gms and half the team every year isn’t a recipe for success. I want to see most of this team, coaches and GM stay together for a decent period of time for once, even if it means losing of a bit longer. Sucks but life isn’t fair.

      • The Future Never Comes

        Sounds like I could make a lot of money selling you stuff! Sucker born every minute…

        How many moves has Chia made so far? How many have worked out???

        • Hemmercules

          I thought signing Sekera and getting Talbot were good moves. There were other teams gunning for those guys so its not like he took bottom of the barrel players there. Missed out on Hamiton but not for lack of trying, hard to make a big deal with a team that just canned you. I think he tried for Hamonic but settled on Reinhart, not looking like the best move yet but maybe that one pans out down the road. As for the other guys he picked up, not so great but sometimes you take what you can get I guess. The 29 other teams in the NHL aren’t dying to send their best payers to the Oilers for draft picks and depth payers so I’m not feeling too shocked about his moves so far. I do think evaluation time is over and moves will start being made before the deadline.

          As for the Oilers selling me stuff, I haven’t payed a single dime to the oilers via merchandise or game tickets since the very second Mact returned as GM and canned Krueger for Eakins. That was it for me. I have donated only my time since then.

    • When they opted to absorb Nikitin’s cap hit entirely this year it signaled that this isn’t the year to win. It sucks, but rather than buy out him and our other bad contracts and penalise our cap hit for years PC opted to take our medicine now and just get over all of those bad contracts “quickly” so we can have money to keep our good players.

      It never was about winning now. That’s why all this McJesus talk was a bad idea. McDavid is a great player but he ain’t saving us, even when healthy. The first step to our salvation is removing the bad contracts and management’s, and it is a painful procedure. But… No more old boys club, and soon we will shed the bad contracts. Then we can finally have a level playing field again rather than having over 11% of our cap in Ference and Nikitin.

      And props to Andrew Ference getting that NMC. That was a savvy, savvy move.

      • Cain

        If the Oilers win the next 9 games in a row they will be at 0.500 (17 wins and 17 losses). Even then they’re not going to make the playoffs playing .500 hockey. Need to get about 94 points which is over .500. Currently on pace for 59 points. Looks like they’ll miss by about 17 wins.