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.

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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.


  • Cain


    My boss just gave me tickets to tonight’s game…….I truly cannot determine if it is a reward for hard work or punishment and I may be getting fired soon.

  • JuicyKillerWhale

    I agree that we shouldn’t make any rash moves but jeez is it embarrassing to be an oiler fan right now. I would start shopping our first round pick this year, yes I know what that pick could turn into but we need to get back on track ASAP. Also moving that pick would send a message saying that were done with this losing atmosphere.

  • Danglishish

    So what you are saying is that the first re-build that was replaced with the second re-build should now be replaced with another re-build?

    What are we playing lego here? Just move out the soft players, the non-drivers and get some players that will compliment the core………the core being MacDavid, Hall, RNH, LD, Nurse, Klefblom.

  • TKB2677

    I am as big of an Oilers fan as there is. I have been one of the fans that has been patient and has preached patience. I love Hall, Eberle, Nuge and it would kill me to see any of them go. BUT how much longer do you keep the same guys and watch them do the same thing year after year?

    They got rid of the President. They got rid of 2 GM’s (Tambo and Mac T). They are on their 6th coach in what 6 years? (Quinn, Renney, Kruger, Eakins, Nelson, McLellan). They seem to swap out the majority of their bottom 6 every year. When do you start looking at the guys that actually play the most minutes? There is noting left to change. I’m saying go scorched earth but don’t you have to look at getting rid of at least one of Hall, Nuge, Eberle to not only change up the look, feel and make up of the team but to bring in a piece or pieces to improve your team?

    They aren’t getting rid of McDavid. Getting rid of Draisaitl given their extreme lack of necessary skilled size would be insane. They already are hurting for defense so getting rid of Nurse or Klefbomb, the only 2 young, seemingly locks as top 4 guys they have makes zero sense. So who’s left to actually get you something of value? Yak’s worth nothing. Schultz is worth nothing. All the 3rd and 4th liners won’t get you anything. All that’s left is Hall, Nuge, Eberle.

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      Not to mention next season being a lost season too, or at best a “development” season, because we’ve seen time and time again that you can’t take a last place roster and turn them into a playoff team in one summer.

      Does Katz really want to open up the new rink with a team that maybe has an outside chance of cracking the top-20 in the league? This fan base has proved pretty patient, but there has to be a breaking point.

  • ubermiguel

    Wow, look how fragile the fan base is: two bad games and we’re back on the ledge ready to jump. To be fair it’s not due to 2 bad games, but 9 horrible years.

    I talk myself off the ledge by thinking most of Chiarelli’s work is in the summer, McLellan’s is during the season and McLellan has only had the team for 25 games. That’s not a long time to break multiple years of bad habits. We’ve already seen improvement, but he needs more time.

    I wonder how much pull Katz, Lowe and MacT have on personnel decisions, but that thought only lasts a second; there’s no way respected pros like Chiarelli, McLellan and Nicholson come on-board without full autonomy.

    Sadly, I’ve come to terms with the fact that the Oilers will own the record for missing the playoffs in the NHL and be objectively the worst NHL team ever assembled.

  • Spiel

    This article makes the most sense and is the most realistic article I have read in three weeks. All this nonsense talk and rumors of trading Hopkins or other players with contracts like his, is exactly what it is nonsense and rumors. And I use Rnh as the most ludicrous example cause of his position being center. Unless it’s a straight up Rnh forToews or Getzlaf deal then there’s no reason to and that is unrealistic in itself anyways. Anybody and everybody can get traded, but for this yr, the situation the team is in standings and contracts wise there is no reason to jump the gun and make drastic moves. Be realistic people and by people I mean the media. Your the ones that put “stupid”into people’s heads by posting articles. Everyone can’t forget what Chia said two months after being hired as gm and that this yr will be a developmental yr!!! Like it or not it is what it is. It takes time for new management to sort out mess left behind. Contracts can take yr’s, not months, but yr’s to straighten out and coaching staff might take most of this yr to work with what he has been given roster wise. I don’t feel this team should be last nor deserves to be but regardless of that, wether last or 20th, big trades are not happening during the season!

    • Spiel

      RNH’s name keeps coming up because he is one of the few players that is decent. Making a trade now while his value is low does make little sense. But lets face it. The Oilers are not going to get much better (playoff level) with what they have today. There is going to have to be a piece of the “core” that will need to be moved. You have to give something of value to get something of value. How good of a GM Chia really is will be determined by his ability to make this team significantly better and swing the “tough” deals, filling in the holes in the process.

      Begrudgingly I agree that it makes little sense to make a deal now when the value of guys like RNH, Eberle, Yak are in the toilet. Eberle and Yak are inconsistent and a tad overrated. A good GM will be able to trick another GM into taking the overrated and/or redundant duds.

      Also – having the losers MacT and Howson floating around doesn’t help and the only reason I see them still being here is Katz.

  • What a bunch of crap. The goal should be to get better NOW not wait another summer. Plus…. There’s only a limited number of moves you can do in the summer and then you will be saying “Rome was not built in a day” and so on, welcome to the infinite rebuild.
    On the same logics, because we are out of the play offs then let’s not get McDavid back, send him to the minors.
    On the same breathe let the players not play, not show up…. Why would they even want to play under this silly logic that winning isn’t important now?

    No! That’s losing culture! That’s a “leave it for tomorrow ” mediocre attitude that only mediocre people settle for.

    Change whatever needs to be changed and do it NOW, no one is untouchable. Maybe we can win 40 games if the right chemistry is achieved and paired with courage, ambition , perseverance…. And if not, we will still be proud that our team tried hard, until the last game.

    What a sucky article (there I said it)…. So why go to work Willis? You are not going to win the Pulitzer this year, so why show up?

  • Chet.

    I’m very concerned over everyone’s panic. Yes we are sucking yet again, but we have competent management that don’t even have a full season yet with the roster. Not to mention, the team has been playing much better than the previous seasons, we just aren’t getting the breaks that we are overdue on, and yes, this can be discussed further.

    What people need to do is sit back, understand we are dealing with injuries, understand we aren’t going to just magically become a powerful force that will punish all other teams and understand that making any stupid and rash decisions (trading our key players for minimal return) is the worst thing to do for this club.

    We are finally seeing the pieces come together. Why can’t we just give the team time to all be healthy and all get it figured out. Yes, they were terrible against the Leafs (still in shock, but mad respect for the retro style gear Sparks is rocking), but our key players, while not producing offense (what other team had that problem, Philly?) Hall and Nuge are playing two-way hockey, especially the Nuge. Why are people rushing to trade him? Draisaitl and McDavid are inexperienced!

    Right now, I think the time is to hold them, not fold them. Lets not look at the draft, lets analyze the team performance and understand this is not a quick fix, but we have the management in place that is capable to win. PC has done it recently and TMac had a fantastic record in San Jose.


  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I’ve been saying all year that this upcoming offseason will be when Chia shakes it up a bit. I just didn’t expect the Oil to be in the sewer again. Damn that sucks.

  • The Future Never Comes

    All I wanna know is why the FU(k is Lowe, MacT and Howson still cashing oiler cheques??? There is simply no logical explanation to explain the fact that the people who steered us into this mess are still employed by this franchise!! It’s nepotism at its finest. Wanna know why we have such a losing culture? Start there!

    It’s down right inexcusable! The fans pay the bills. The fans don’t wanna pay for those losers anymore. Havn’t wanted to for years. This franchise is a pathetic joke! Makes me sad that people support them

    • bradleypi

      Let it go man. It’s Chiarellis team. Yeesh. Do you honestly think that Mact and klowe are sitting in the Dr. Evil pose and saying “boy are we screwing over those oilersnation commenters!” Look at how much hair klowe has lost since he took this job. I bet it’s eating them up inside trying to figure this mess out. I’m sure it’s not easy running an nhl franchise or wouldn’t you be doing it?

      • BobbyCanuck

        I don’t care if it’s eating them up inside! I don’t care if they have any influence in the team anymore or not.

        All I care about is the fact that they failed miserably at running this franchise, and somehow got promoted! It’s not reality! It’s not how the world works! When you suck at your job, you get fired and replaced. This is just nepotism, and we’re paying for it all

    • Spiel

      Agreed. It brings to question what role do MacT, Howson and Lowe still serve on this last place team? Especially after the previous tire fire seasons. What is the culture and structure of the management?

      And there are those that will say, yes, but they don’t play the games. Ah yes, but who is in charge of putting those players on the ice to play the games? How does the culture and structure of the management trickle down to all other arms of the organization and the players? Where do those guys fit into the decision making? How much influence do they still have?

  • smith

    Too many player personal changes but not enough. What a conundrum. The Oilers cannot expect to change over 30% of their roster every year and expect miracles, they also cannot stand pat with what they have now.

    Why can’t the coaching staff make this team work this year?

    Arizona and Buffalo seem to be doing alright. I just don’t get it, the only thing consistent the past five years is the “core”. Maybe these guys don’t have what it takes to really lead a team into the promise land. Having skill is one thing but they just don’t seem to have that quality of true leadership. AKA, Jason Smith.

  • 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.


    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

  • 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 ……….


  • 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!!!

  • Big Cap

    Chiarelli has been a big disappointment.

    2 easy situations he could have dealt with, Ference and Nik

    The rest of us knew the team was soft, he should have known. He is acting like a rookie GM.

    • A-Mc

      Yes if only we had bailed Nikitin and Ference, we’d be able to afford those 2 top end defensemen that are itching to sign with us! IF ONLY! WHAT IS PC THINKING!?


      Money and contracts are not a problem for us right now. Are those guys wasted cap space? yes, but if there were other options I’m sure Chiarelli would find a way to offload them.

      The problem is finding the right player that’s on a team willing to dance with us.

    • The Soup Fascist

      Please fill me in on “the easy solution” for dealing with the Ference and Nikitin contracts.

      As well please attach your contact information along with your simple plan as I vow to personally lobby Katz, Nicholson and whoever else I need to, in order to get you brought in as GM.

      Because for the life of me, try as I might, i couldn’t think of an “easy” solution that Chiarelli had at his disposal to move those two sleds out of town, without having to deal with cap implications down the road.

      Thanks very much. I will be over here on the edge of my seat awaiting your response.

      • JDP

        Ference and Nik should of been bought out.

        Veteran GM’s acquire good pieces for their team like NYI did (Boychuck and Leddy and Washington (Oshi and Williams).

        These GMs make things happen but I guess you are so blinded but the Oiler hype that you cant see potential moves or opportunities.

        Bad GM’s like PC sit on their hands.

        • The Soup Fascist

          So you are aware that there are still cap implications that affect the team for years down the road, right? In Ference’s case the team would have been impacted about $1.1 million in lost cap space for 4 years.

          This would include the crucial 18-19 season when the team needs to re-up Connor McDavid to what is likely to be a very large number. Not to mention Darnell Nurse coming off his ELC. This is one year after we need to sign Drai.

          Everyone throws out “buyout” like it is this magic elixir. But buyouts handcuff teams down the road. To me it was much more prudent to let Nikki come off the books completely at year end and then buyout Ference next year when his cap hit is off the books 2 years earlier than if you bought him out this year.

          What good would those two being bought out done for you this year? What Free agent D man were you going to sign that was going to put this team over the top? Arguably, they got one of the “best” free agent defensemen that moved in Sekera.

          IMO, buying out Nikitin and Ference out this year would have been idiotic.

        • smith

          Get your head out of your azzhat! And the long and short term results of buying out Nikitinin and Ference handcuff the teams ability and cap space to sign deals for Mcdavid, nurse, drai and that unnamed #1 defence man we so badly need . Props to Chia for parking those unproductive but Expiring contracts in the ahl . At the end of this year it frees up 100% of those salaries in cap space to use.

          • Spiel

            Ference is not in the AHL and still has a year to go on his contract.

            His last game he played he was on for 2 of the 3 goals against. I wish he would be in the AHL.

            You must get your information from someone’s AZZ.

  • Big Cap

    Do something and do it now. Its possible that we lose the next ten games. The players need to know that this is unacceptable and if the management team doesnt want to hold them accountable the fans in the building must. Im not a fan of jersey throwing but removing namebars and throwing those?? Maybe…

  • Big Cap

    Hall is a b!tch. The opposition will key in on Leon tonight, therefore Hall will do nothing and be held pointless again.

    Hall is a good and will only go as the line mate that carries him-yet his groupies call him elite.

    Referring to Hall as elite is not a show of Hall’s skill, it more shows the IQ of the groupie.

  • 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

    People keep saying Chirelli has only been GM for a short time. That is true, but he is creating a bigger mess in a shorter time than past management. He needs to be held accountable. Look what he has done in his short time as GM:

    Sekera- gross overpay with terrible term for an average 2nd pairing defenceman

    Reinhart- brutal trade for a future average 3rd pairing defenceman. He gave up too much for a player that he said would make this team right away, but has underwhelmed at best

    Talbot- he overvalued an average career backup and left the goaltending situation almost the same as last year

    Korpikoski- another disappointing trade for another underwhelming player

    Gryba- Big body, but an average bottom pairing defenceman who has more ice time than he should

    Chirelli needs to be held accountable. Nicholson over rated him as a GM, which leads to the question: why isn’t Nicholson held accountable for his moves

  • Big red ginger snap

    Eberle or RNH salaries make them untradeable unless the Oilers take part of the salary back or accept a bad contract in return.

    They each make 6M per season.

    Other players make: Tavares- 5.5, Sequin – 5.75, Benn – 5.275, Kesler – 5.0, Neal – 5.0, Wheeler – 5.6, Duchene – 6.0, Bergeron – 6.5 and the list goes on and on as to good players making 6.0m or less.

  • Chet.

    I have a slightly different take on this. My expectation was that they would miss the playoffs, so in that regard everything is going as expected. This road trip did look a lot like Oiler teams from years past, but through the first 20 games I was reasonably happy with how the team was progressing. The effort level was much higher, they cut way down on defensive blunders, and the special teams was looking respectable.

    If we end up with another lottery pick I would be pissed off, but I personally don’t see that happening. Obviously, the Oilers desperately need a top pairing dman, but as JW pointed out, it’s not likely to happen during the season. Fortunately, I’m not sure there is a team more equipt to make a deal like that than the Oilers are. I don’t like the idea of trading RNH, but if that’s what it takes to make this a winning team then it’ll get done.

    For the first time in a decade we have a quality NHL GM and a quality NHL coach. I trust that TM can keep the team motivated, and I trust that PC will do what it takes to make the team better. For those reasons I don’t see the next 57 games looking like the past 5.

  • Hemmercules

    I defy any Chirelli/Nicholson supporter to show me a good, not even great, trade or signing he has made since Chirelli was hired. That’s what I thought. SILENCE! He has made more bad moves in a shorter time than any past GM

  • TKB2677

    It blows me away how big the “untouchables” list is on a 30th place team that’s been near the bottom of the league for as long as the Oilers have been.
    In my opinion, there should be 5 guys on the “untouchables” list. 2 centers, 1 winger and 2 dmen. When making that list, you should be asking yourself “can I replace what he does.” My list is:

    McDavid – you can’t replace the future best player in the world.
    Draisaitl – The Oilers have been dying for a big, skilled top 6 center since they traded Arnott. They traded Arnott in 1997.
    Nurse – The Oilers have been searching for a big, strong, mean, puck moving, good skating top pairing guy since Pronger. He’s young but he looks like he might be that. They have nothing else like him and have been trying to get top Dmen for almost 10 years.
    Klefbomb – The Oilers have lacked good, top 4 dmen since 2006. He’s big, strong, moves the puck well and can skate. They have nothing else like him and have been trying to get top Dmen for almost 10 years.

    Hall. He’s been their best player since they got him. He’s one of the best Left Wingers in the game. He’s a driver and has been their best player by a lot this season.

    Those are my 5.