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.

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.

Forwards

93-RNH-9

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.

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.

16-Purcell-1

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

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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).

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.

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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.

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.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS



  • The Future Never Comes

    Well the summer months start now I guess, looking to next October again and it’s December 2nd. What lucky fans we are, thank you Oilers this is so much fun!

  • Big Cap

    Hey Jonathan Willis

    The summer you are refering to never seems to happen with this joke of an organizatioin! I am sure everyone but you apparently would agree that every gm the Oilers have had in the past 10 years never seems to want to trade anyone of value so of coarse they won’t get anything decent in return. The time to make changes is now so they will be prepared for next season when it comes and they can further evaluate the remaining players during the rest of the season to see if they are worth bringing back.

  • A-Mc

    I understand the reasoning behind not making moves this season, and to wait for the summer. I understand that player value is a fickle thing and there are strategic times to deal and time when you need to hold tight. I understand all that.

    BUT

    There are 3 reasons why i believe the Oilers need to make their ‘move’ this season before the season is over.

    1. We know the internal timeline for playoffs is next season. In order for that to happen, this team needs to hit the ground running and in order to do that, the team needs to be largely in place before the end of this season. Adjustment periods and group confidence level is something that needs to start growing this season so that we’re set next season. If major changes are done over the summer, then we will lose the first 30 games to a ‘feeling out’ process, and that’s not good enough.

    2. We have 2 expiring contracts for our goalies whom i believe are good enough to get the job done. BUT. Edmonton has become a death march for goalies. Chiarelli needs to see how his goalies perform with a legitimate NHL Defense infront of them so that he can go into negotiations with confidence. Likewise, the goalies need to see that the team is serious about improving and/or has shown improvement, to make them want to stay . The absolute WORST case scenario is having to pay Talbot far too much money to stay onboard because he doesnt really want to be here. If we can’t convince our own pending UFAs to stay, how are we going to convince new ones that Edm is a good place to come play?

    3. UFAs and Public perception. When the Organization hired Chiarelli and McLellan, the hockey world took notice. Edm was looking to be a more attractive destination for players. If we’re dead last in the league again this year, all that momentum we gained over the summer, is lost. Players will be quick to dismiss edm as an option because the same old crap is happening over and over. We need to show the NHL that the team is improving and we’re a great place to come play. Improvement has to happen as soon as possible or else all credibility is lost.

    Am i saying we need to make a bone headed move just for the sake of making a move? no. But if a decent deal is available now, i think Chiarelli needs to move on it immediately because we need our adjustments to happen THIS season so that we’re good for NEXT season.

    just my .02

  • Big Cap

    WARNING for Ebs & Nuge:

    Pick up your game and turn your soft play around or else we’ll be forced to teach you a lesson by trading you to New York, LA, or Montreal. Then tell me how much you’ll enjoy your 6 million dollar salary playing on a winning franchise with the playoffs already in sight.

    PLUS, it’s now December and you’ll totally miss all of our 6 months of winter! Get back to work before the beaches of Southern California and a chance to win a Cup become your reality and we ship you outta here!!!

  • A-Mc

    Eberle and Hall haven’t won a puck battle against a man in the NHL. Yet, their groupies be like:”give them time, they’re champions, they won cups when they were kids/teenagers.”

  • A-Mc

    Whatever. I realize I need to stop complaining about this pathetic franchise and just stop watching this garbage. Cuz if you don’t care, it won’t bother you!

  • SmythsMullet

    Funny how Buffalo improved. Funny how Arizona improved. Sad how in a decade of losing that without McDavid we are still bottom feeders. We have the Aces and Kings but they are young. The fact we have no veteran D or effective 3rd and 4th lines speak of the incompetence of prior managers. I agree with Willis. Lets eat more humble pie, actually choke it down, it would be foolish to make a bad trade at this point.

    • ubermiguel

      arizona also has a wealth of talented prospects on the way.
      They stuck with a slumping goaltender who voodooed his way back to top form.
      Wile we panicked and traded ours away for pennies on the dollar.

      Hope management has learned their lesson about trading away slumping talented players.

  • XL Lebowski

    One thing I like about Chiarelli is he’s giving us some info but not too much. Unfortunately McTavish would show his hand through the media and he never had any leverage with other GMs. Chiarelli may make a deal this month. He may make one at the trade deadline. Or yes, at the draft next year. He’s waiting for someone else to blink.

    I can understand why people are impatient. I am too. But I also lived through the WHA days when the team sucked and there was never any hope until Gretzky came from Indy. Don’t be too hasty to get rid of Yak. When paired with McDavid, he’s strong. Just like Kurri with Gretzky.
    If Kurri played his first year with Brett Callighen as his centreman, he may not have made the hall of fame. Great players like Gretzky and McDavid bring greatness out in others.

  • smith

    Awesome.

    I have been saying for years that one of the largest problem with the Oilers is the lack of trying to win. The management gives the expectation that it is okay to lose. Then at the start of the year the players are suppose to magically develop a compete level. When this somehow does not happen then they all can go back to their happy little losing. You want a winning team? Commit to winning all the time. Make it unacceptable to lose!

  • smith

    As a flame fan the best part about articles like this is year after year my comment (see above) will receive far more trashes than props and the losing will continue.

    The worst part, is that I live close to Edmonton and would love to go see some competitive NHL hockey or even better playoffs. I am even willing to cheer (a little ) for the Oilers if it means I will have a chance to see some good hockey.

    • For Pete's Sake!

      Worry about your own team Flamer. Them being second last in the league, they’re not exactly trending in the right direction.

      You can’t get any lower than the Oilers but your Flames are only “2” big points ahead of us.

      Worry about that.

      • smith

        The flames look worse than the oilers right now, but their is a big difference in organizational attitude. One says it is okay to lose the other that losing is never acceptable. This makes me feel quite confidant that the flames even if they have an awe full year (or two) that they will bounce back.

        I really would love to see a better Oiler team one day sooner rather than later.

        • For Pete's Sake!

          And you guys said Oilers fans were sipping the Koolaid last summer.

          Burky must be serving up some mighty strong stuff down in Calgary.

          Or they’re handing out rose colored glasses at the Saddledome.

        • AJ88

          Did you watch the Flames game against Dallas last night? Ouch. What I feared…the return of the Flames from last season. The Oil have yet to show us a game like that where they dig in and fight.

          • smith

            Yeah I watched. Not sure what it means in the long term. Do the flames play like that and miss out on the playoffs by 3 points? Do they make the playoffs? (seems unlikely) Does the goalie crap the bed (again) and they sink below the Oilers? Did you see the goals Dallas scored? Wow Ramo and Hiller are bad this year.

  • 24% body fat

    Getting tired of hockey season being over in late November/early December. its like the off season starts now…as in “turn this crappy game off”

  • bradleypi

    JW wrote

    “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.”

    I thought that was the situation last year and the year before that and the year before that and the year before that and the year before that ……….

    “sigh”

  • BobbyCanuck

    I am sure there are GM’s out there that given the current success of our latest players deemed not good enough for the Oilers (Dubby, Petry), feel that they will be able to get said player turned around into NHL quality.

    You may think that Ebs, Yak, RNH have zero trade value, but if they played on a team with the correct mix of player whom could augment them…they could become very good, dependable players…

    Maybe, whatever, hardly matters now, another season 10 games away from being a total flush

    • A-Mc

      The only comment i’ll make regarding this is that i dont think anyone seriously believes that we’d be trading any of those 3 because they suck. The trolls will claim that they have 0 value, but that’s just ignorance speaking.

      I think the sentiment is that you need to give up value to get value and what we need is a valuable top end defender. In order to get that, we need to give up top end talent, which Ebs/RNH are. Yak is still TBD.

      The reason Ebs/RNH are being named is not because of a state of declined play, but its because the team has some depth to replace them (to some degree) if we were to move them.

      If Ebs gets moved, he will be replaced by draisaitl when McDavid comes back.

      If RNH gets moved, Draisaitl/McDavid become the top 2 Centermen.

      A lot of the speculation hinges on the notion that Draisaitl can make one of either Ebs or RNH expendable. If you agree with that or not, is another story. Personally i am leery about trading an experienced centerman, so i’d lean towards dangling Ebs (pun intended).

  • Here we are, yet again, clearly out of the playoffs by November (albeit not mathematically yet). The more things change, the more they stay the same. I believe that in order to improve in areas they need to (namely the blue line) some more drastic changes are needed, but I’d agree with JW that it isn’t going to happen probably until the summer.

    Also, I’d be amazed if the Islanders swap Hamonic for Schultz, but I’d do that in a heart beat at any point that they are willing to do that.

    Failing that, I’d have to think that the back-end heavy Predators could work something out with the front-end heavy Oilers somehow.

    There are few untouchables on this team at this point, but since all the “don’t trade Baby Nuge!” folks are getting their shorts in a bunch, it should be said that the only reason to trade a guy of that caliber is if you get a top end defenseman in return. If you can’t get that, you don’t move Nuge. Center depth is definitely a very nice thing to have, but there are very few opportunities to add a high end defenseman, and if Nuge manages to get that done, then so be it.

    When people talk about making Nuge available, they aren’t chasing him out of town. Most sane Oilers fans that are OK with moving him aren’t down on him either, we just realize that in order to get quality in return you have to typically give quality. The fact is, this team has needed a high end defenseman for years… arguably since Pronger left town. The moment you can solve that problem, you should jump on it, as long as it doesn’t completely crumble your team. Moving Nuge wouldn’t do that, in my opinion, because both McDavid and Draisaitl look like they’ll be great at C. Ideally you keep all of Nuge, Drai and McDavid AND somehow get a top pair D-man, but that seems to be pretty unlikely to happen. It’s unlikely we get a top pair D-man even with Nuge available, but it is at least an option Chia should be considering.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Sigh.

    “Next” deadline. “Next” summer. “Next” season.

    Next, next, next…

    I’m 43 years old and I’ve been an Oilers fan since I was 11. I’ll always be an Oilers fan. But even I’m getting tired of “next.” How about …“now?”
    How about some sense of urgency … mid-season? How about an attempt to right the ship while we’re still Christmas-shopping? How about some good-old-fashioned panic?

    I’m getting tired of waiting for trade deadlines, draft lotteries, entry drafts and free-agent-frenzy days to make moves. I’m tired of my patience being taken for granted, year-after-year-after year … next-after-next-after-next.

    Yes, I know. We need to beware of rash decisions. Of bad trades. Of the possibility that a player we trade away turns into, say, Miro Satan or Kirk Maltby or Devan Dubnyk. I get that.

    But right now, it feels like this franchise is living its own version of Groundhog Day. Hopeful summer, followed by promising training camp, followed by slow start, followed by disastrous CFR road trip, followed by December doldrums, followed by the January blues, followed by discussions on whom is untouchable, followed by who the top prospects are for the June draft. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    The Oilers are too small in too many of the wrong places in their forward lines. They don’t have enough vocal leadership in the dressing room. Their best defencemen are three guys under the age of 23. They haven’t developed a decent goalie since Grant Fuhr (Dubnyk was rescued from the Oilers; not developed by it) and haven’t traded for a decent one since Dwayne Roloson. They’ve swapped out GMs, coaches, assistants, scouts … hell, even the training staff got taken behind the barn a few years ago.

    Twenty-six years ago last month, Glen Sather traded Jimmy Carson (who scored 49 goals the year before in Edmonton) for three Detroit Red Wings of questionable value. The Oilers were four or five games under .500 at the time. Seven months later, they won the Stanley Cup, thanks, in no small part, to that trade and those three Detroit castoffs.

    Time to get serious, in-season. Chiarelli once traded away Joe Thornton in December. A few years later, he won the Cup. Time to get creative. To get brave. Time to kill the groundhog.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Sigh.

    “Next” deadline. “Next” summer. “Next” season.

    Next, next, next…

    I’m 43 years old and I’ve been an Oilers fan since I was 11. I’ll always be an Oilers fan. But even I’m getting tired of “next.” How about …“now?”
    How about some sense of urgency … mid-season? How about an attempt to right the ship while we’re still Christmas-shopping? How about some good-old-fashioned panic?

    I’m getting tired of waiting for trade deadlines, draft lotteries, entry drafts and free-agent-frenzy days to make moves. I’m tired of my patience being taken for granted, year-after-year-after year … next-after-next-after-next.

    Yes, I know. We need to beware of rash decisions. Of bad trades. Of the possibility that a player we trade away turns into, say, Miro Satan or Kirk Maltby or Devan Dubnyk. I get that.

    But right now, it feels like this franchise is living its own version of Groundhog Day. Hopeful summer, followed by promising training camp, followed by slow start, followed by disastrous CFR road trip, followed by December doldrums, followed by the January blues, followed by discussions on whom is untouchable, followed by who the top prospects are for the June draft. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    The Oilers are too small in too many of the wrong places in their forward lines. They don’t have enough vocal leadership in the dressing room. Their best defencemen are three guys under the age of 23. They haven’t developed a decent goalie since Grant Fuhr (Dubnyk was rescued from the Oilers; not developed by it) and haven’t traded for a decent one since Dwayne Roloson. They’ve swapped out GMs, coaches, assistants, scouts … hell, even the training staff got taken behind the barn a few years ago.

    Twenty-six years ago last month, Glen Sather traded Jimmy Carson (who scored 49 goals the year before in Edmonton) for three Detroit Red Wings of questionable value. The Oilers were four or five games under .500 at the time. Seven months later, they won the Stanley Cup, thanks, in no small part, to that trade and those three Detroit castoffs.

    Time to get serious, in-season. Chiarelli once traded away Joe Thornton in December. A few years later, he won the Cup. Time to get creative. To get brave. Time to kill the groundhog.

  • Big red ginger snap

    before trading anyone yet which i think is very hard to do anyways why not try a night our two in the press box for some of these so called wonder kids. it could bring them down a notch or two and we could see play improve.

  • hagar

    So…. we are waiting around another year?

    Next year will be the year hopefully things start going in the right direction? Maybe the year after that?

    Hell, it’s only time!! Let’s give it another ten years to sort itself out before thinking about shaking things up!!

    This traffic hunting article makes me want to puke.

  • AJ88

    Season not over , and lots can be done to help alleviate the team beyond just getting McDavid back . Players are already looking like they have given up by the looks of it again , and see even their so called best efforts not getting positive results . So they go thru the usual motions until near the end of year and then try to pick it up again . Same thing every season . Hard for players to alleviate their games when rest of team not doing much either other than going thru the motions . Make a big trade now , and that scenario will be broken and rest of team will alleviate their play pronto . Might even make us competitive now and down the line . Kick ass move on the so called core should spark them back to a higher level .

  • Comment 102. Comment 109.

    102: The Oilers are in this situation again because not enough was done over the summer. That’s on Peter Chiarelli, and it’s also on Craig MacTavish because Chiarelli’s hands were tied to some extent by poor contracts (many of which will be off the books this year).

    109: This isn’t a situation where the team or coaches should stop trying to win games. It’s a situation where it’s hard to make a good trade and really, really easy to make a bad one. If a good one is possible, great! I doubt it is.

    None of this is about letting Chiarelli off the hook for a poor summer performance. It’s about not compounding those errors with a poor and short-sighted in-season performance.

    • smith

      Does anyone know what role MacT still plays with the organization? I would think in pretty much any other situation with any other team in the league, the old GM is fired and shown the door. Not kept around.

  • smith

    This is the season where Chiarelli gets to know the team better and discovers just how soft and one dimensional some of the players are. I have nothing against keeping Hall, Eberle, Nuge or Yak as individual players and could even tolerate having Schultz as a 6-7 D man, but collectively there is still not enough grit and character on this team.

    Added to that, these guys are already making about $6/6/6/4/4 million in respective cap hits. You can’t keep all that and expect to also extend McDavid, Drasaitl plus sign a first pairing defenceman (or a high level goalie who can bail this team out every other night). There won’t be enough cap space for all these guys.

    I actually think this team would be better off if they unloaded one of Eberle or Nuge for two quality middle six forwards, with one being a solid checking center that can win faceoffs and take all the def zone starts against top opposition and the other being a big, gritty winger. (I wonder if the Flyers are still interested in Eberle?) The other one of the two could be packaged with Yak and draft picks for more help on defence.

    By the way, most GM’s won’t qualify Schultz at $4M and I’m guessing Schultz won’t extend at a lower salary unless it’s with a Canadian team and he gets an NMC, so to a large extent you can consider him a pending UFA. His trade value to most teams is very low at the moment.

  • Spiel

    Good article Mr. Wilis. I can agree with everything you say.

    For you bridge jumpers, this doesn’t mean they don’t keep trying to improve the team. They just don’t make trades just for sake of making trades.

    As JW pointed out, you don’t turn your nose up at a good trade but consideration must be given to the future, not the right-now-today.

    There is a lot more to fixing this team than just moving players in and out.

    And to everyone that still thinks KLowe, MacT, Nikitin and Ferrence are a huge part of the problem, please check with Bagged Milk. He has a solution.

  • bradleypi

    I love it when all you “hockey Geniuses” have that moment when you realize your not as smart as you think you are. The beauty of it is even stronger when your rediculous comments (as above) are forever engraved on the internet.

    Willis, if I were a GM or Head Coach I would listen to your advice, do the exact opposite, and I would have a consistantly competitive team, possibly a dynasty!!!!