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.


  • 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.

  • 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 ……….


  • Spiel

    Why should PC get a free ride for a year? That type of thinking has helped to get us into this ten year sh!t show in the first place. His job 1 is to improve this hockey team and should be judged on the results on an annual basis.

    While I am at it, why on earth are Kim Jong and MacT still in Oil management? They are largely responsible for this decade long gong show. No one in their right mind would retain these losers let alone pay them big bucks. They need to held accountable once and for all.

    If Nicholson has any balls he will make an attempt to be transparent and explain to loyal fans the master plan for this organization. The status quo is not acceptable by any standard.

  • 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

  • Hemmercules

    I’m thinking this team maybe makes the playoffs in 2018-2019, maybe. If they are last place now, the likelihood of them making it next season is very slim.

    Another big summer ahead with way too many holes to fill. They will need new goaltenders and probably 4 defensemen and a couple forwards with grit, not an easy list to fill. I’m guessing they ditch a couple vets at the deadline and in the summer, replace them with similar mediocre vets no other team really wants. Sign a couple cast off 5-6 defensemen and make them play in the top four. Keep one of Nilsson or Talbot. Finish bottom 5, draft another smallish forward with skill. Rinse, repeat in 2017-2018.

  • 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.

  • smith

    I’m so, so tired of hearing that the Oilers will/should fix their problems at a later date (ie. the summer)…and then summertime comes and deadening silence follows because the latest iteration of management has fallen in love with their hot young talent.

    JW, not saying you are wrong…just saying its the same movie over and over.

    Anyway, enough bellyaching from me. My question: I’m curious to get your thoughts on the comparison between Davidson and Schultz. To me, they represent similar players. If the choice is to move the one with more upside (but as we see on a nightly basis, less “heart”), or the relatively unknown (who seems full to the brim on “character”), the choice is obvious.

    Am I wrong in seeing the two as similar players (size, skill set, position in the depth chart)?

    • bradleypi

      You clearly don’t see them as “similar players” tho. Why would anyone want the heartless,cowardly jultz as you pegged him when they could have the full of character Davidson? Seems like a pretty easy choice to me….why is it even a decision for the oilers who to keep if Schultz is such a waste of roster space? Yeesh. Classic oilersnation.

      • bradleypi

        I do, in fact, see them as similar players. My post is pretty obvious in that regard.

        I was curious if Willis viewed them as similar, since I would consider his knowledge of hockey as superior to mine.

        You’ve also misinterpreted my post as claiming Schultz is worthless (“why would anyone want the heartless, cowardly jultz”)…which, again, is a misread on your part.

        I am, however, saying that the two players are similar and given a choice, I would move the one with potentially more name name recognition.

        Try not to make mountains out of molehills.

        • bradleypi

          Lol. I’m not the one making a mountain. You did by claiming that Schultz has no heart and Davidson is full of character. Do you know these guys personally to make such claims against them? Just getting tired at people taking personal shots at players on here and making accusations just to get cheers. Pretty classless.

  • camdog

    There are 2 main types of Oiler fans, those that have a loyalty to the logo on the front of the jersey and those that have a loyalty to the names on the back of the jersey.

    JW has admitted on radio he’s not an Oiler fan, but from his articles it’s obvious he is a fan of certain players. As a fan of the Oilers logo I don’t believe in closing any doors without exploring all options.

    Peter Chiarelli is the first GM the Oilers have had since Glen Sather that will manage the team based on what he believes is best for the Edmonton Oilers. Lowe and Mact often would get blinded by the names on the back of the jersey and this negatively influenced their decisions.

    Change is coming, and I have no idea who will be moved and nobody does, because nobody writing about the Oilers knows what’s going on in that dressing room. PC and Mclellan are just in the process of figuring it out, it may take until summer to get the deal done, or it could happen before Christmas.

    • bradleypi

      If they are still in process of figuring it out they should be fired! Same players are the problems every game and yet the continue playing them instead of shipping them out of town…

  • 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.


  • 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.”

  • workashardasSmyth

    no knee jerk reactions like trading hopkins. #14 maby or davidson (he seems to have value now) but think it through P.C. dealing from a point of weakness is fine but don’t be retarded about it

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    The fan base needs to step back and rationally look at the situation; this team was dumpster fire under MacTavish and if it’s all possible made it even worse than Tambellini ever did.

    If Chiarelli trades certain players he also runs the risk of dividing his team, we al;so have to remember that this is Chiarelli’s first year.

    Did anyone honestly think the Oilers where a playoff team?

    If you did, I praise your optimistic view but for the majority of fans we knew this would be a year in which (paraphrasing) a year in which McLellan said there will be some very difficult times.

    Well, he we are and MSM have got a lot of fans in a frenzy with stupid trade speculation to further their own agendas and being fans of 9 years out of playoffs some of us (including myself) took the bait.

    If you knew the Oilers were going to be out of the playoffs for another year, then what difference does it matter where they sit in the standings as long as we see growth?

    We are seeing marginal growth, but the Oilers have also had injuries to key players and the flu that wiped out most of the team.

    Clearly, the team has assets, but trading from a position of weakness is death.

    In the summer, Chiarelli has draft picks, Wingers, combined with RFA’s and UFA’s and dealing from a position of strength.

    This summer is when the fans should get a real sense of where the team will be going.

    just my opinion.

    • A-Mc

      Don’t ask me to be patient and tell me it’s because Mactavish made this team a tire fire.

      Don’t ask me to be patient and tell me we have a new gm now and it’s gonna take time

      Don’t ask me to be patient when the guy your blaming it on is still collecting paycheques to advise the new guy

    • A-Mc

      But its always “this summer is when…”. When does the team do something that actually starts to pay off?

      If you go back to press conferences during the season when Tom Renney was coach, You’ll hear the exact same verbiage regarding consistency, personnel, learning, etc. If you go back to the blogs from that time, you’ll read the exact same text regarding “Smart times to make a trade”.

      The messaging surrounding the team has been a literal groundhog day for years now. So when is it time to break the mold? When do results finally start to swing upwards instead of just the Hopes and Wishes of the fans?

      Timing means a lot and i understand all that but at what point does the team decide to act in the here and now instead of waiting for futures?

      PS: Im responding more to the end of your post. You have lots of info in there and i agree with many parts; im speaking to the last part specifically.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • oilerjed

    I couldn’t disagree with you more Jonathan, it is way past time that this team starts to learn how to win. If we wait until next year to get the ball rolling which will cost us yet another year!
    It is time to do the number two or get off the pot!

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • hagar

    Time is running out for this guy. Last year I said if things don’t turn around for the oilers this year, I am done with them.

    Might as well cut my losses at some point. If this team decides it is sitting pat with what it has this year, and that there is no point trying to improve until the next, then screw it all.

    Katz has run this team into the ground, and I don’t see a lot of spare money floating around these days. Going to be interesting to see how ticket sales are in the new building in the middle of an economic recession, and with absolutely ZERO indication of an oilers team that will ever compete again.

  • Cain

    Time to talk draft seeing as we are throwing away season . I would like the two towers of power at 6 ft .4in. on RW and LW . That being the Finns P.Laine and Pujujaarvi . I see we have no second rounder again for next season due to changes .

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • smith


    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!