The Rich Peverley Trade

Peter Chiarelli

I wanted to talk today about a trade that Peter Chiarelli
made during his time as the general manager of the Boston Bruins. The reason I focused
on this particular trade is because it encapsulates a lot of the debate surrounding
Chiarelli’s handling of the Oilers without including the same emotion in
Edmonton that comes from discussing the Oilers.

I’m talking of course about the February 2011 deal which saw
Boston acquire Rich Peverley from Atlanta in exchange for Blake Wheeler.

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The Deal

The full deal was more than those two parts, but not a lot
more:

  • Boston acquired centre Rich Peverley and prospect Boris
    Valabik
  • Atlanta acquired right wing Blake Wheeler and defenceman Mark
    Stuart

There isn’t any question that this was a good move for the
Thrashers, one of a bunch made by then-general manager Rick Dudley. It’s
unfortunate that Dudley never got to fully execute whatever his plan for
Atlanta was; the Thrashers died after his first year at the helm and he was
tossed aside by the new ownership group in Winnipeg.

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Nevertheless, the Wheeler deal would prove fortunate for his
successor. Wheeler has contributed 371 points to Atlanta/Winnipeg over 446
games and is still a highly productive NHL right wing. Stuart is a more
polarizing figure, but he too has played 366 major-league games since the
trade. And all it cost Atlanta was a prospect who would never play in the NHL
again and a forward with less than 200 games remaining in his NHL career (Peverley ran into health issues which ended his career early, but even had he not his post-trade career wouldn’t be a match for Wheeler’s).

Atlanta fared really well here, and there’s only thing
stopping us from proclaiming this deal a massively lopsided win for the
Thrashers: Boston won the Stanley Cup.

What Peverley Did for
Boston

Offensively, there wasn’t much to choose between these two
players at the time of the trade. Peverley had 34 points in 59 games for a bad
Thrashers team while Wheeler had 27 points in 58 games for a good Bruins team.

Role explained the entirety of the difference; Wheeler had
25 even-strength points and two power play points while Peverley had 20
even-strength points and 12 power play points. Wheeler would slide into
Peverley’s 19 minutes/game job in Atlanta while Peverley would transition into
just a little more than the 15 minutes/game that Wheeler had played for Boston.

Wheeler was also bigger (6’5”, 225 lbs vs. 5’11”, 195 lbs)
and younger by four years, so it’s not like the Bruins were after size or
potential here.

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Peverley was cheaper and had an extra year on his contract, with Wheeler a pending RFA. Arguably, though, the key difference was
positional: Peverley was a utility forward who could play at wing or centre and
he had a 55% win rate in the faceoff circle at the time of the deal. Additionally,
while Wheeler was no slouch in the two-way department, Peverley excelled in
that area.

Peverley spent some time during the playoffs in the top-six
as a right wing, but for the most part was a third-line player next to Chris
Kelly and Michael Ryder in the playoffs. That third line got tough-ish assignments
at times, but Bergeron remained the primary matchup centre and still got a lot
of defensive zone work.

Peverley won 54 percent of his postseason faceoffs. He
played a major role on a penalty kill that was modestly improved in the
playoffs. He also took a job on the power play, which clicked at just 11
percent in the postseason. Of the 42 teams since 2005-06 to play in at least 16
playoff games in a single year, only the 2005-06 Anaheim Ducks (10.8 percent)
had a worse power play.

In summary, Peverley played an important depth role for a
Cup-winning Boston team, but wasn’t a world-beater.

Was It a Good Trade?

As to whether it was a good trade, we don’t have the luxury
of going back and replaying it again with Wheeler in Peverley’s spot. Quite
possibly the Bruins would have won anyway. Potentially, the presence of Wheeler
instead of Peverley might have helped Boston win more than just the one Cup. On
the other hand, if anyone here thinks that Peverley-for-Wheeler was the
difference between winning and losing, I can’t prove that wrong.

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Every GM makes bad moves, but those aren’t what I’m getting
at here. Sometimes a general manager consciously sacrifices the superior player
to address a weakness in the lineup. To
what degree does losing the better player matter if the team succeeds? Would
the team have succeeded anyway, or perhaps be better off if an alternate path
had been followed? Does losing a battle that may or may not have needed to be
lost get forgotten if the general who lost it wins the war?

What will likely seem obvious to everyone reading is that ultimate
success or failure has a way of overshadowing the steps along the way. Winning
a Stanley Cup doesn’t retroactively turn mistakes—if they even were mistakes; a
reasonable person could argue that the Peverley deal was a necessary sacrifice—into
good decisions, but it does downgrade their relative importance. Internally, who
wants to bicker about whether or not Blake Wheeler would have helped win in
2012 or 2013 when there’s a championship to celebrate in 2011?

By the end of his time in Boston, Chiarelli was a far more polarizing
figure, a man who helped grow a team into a Cup winner but then couldn’t repeat
his success. But it wasn’t any individual mistake that doomed him; it was instead
the combination of the core he had inherited, his successes and failures, and
all the chance and randomness that is part of NHL hockey.

“Was it a good trade?” is, win or lose, a debatable question
and often there’s no consensus on the answer. All that’s clear when the dust
settles is that either the team was good enough to succeed or bad enough to
fail despite it. 


  • FISTO Siltanen

    One thing you don’t mention is Tomas Kaberle – Would that trade happen without Chiarelli jettisoning some money? That might have been just as important. Now, I know Kaberle wasn’t a raging success in Boston but as I recall their one weakness heading into the playoffs and through the playoffs was a weak PP.

    I agree with what you are bringing up – some tough moves might be needed (see: Taylor Hall trade) to better the team.

  • Randaman

    I really don’t get the past deals and how or why they have any relevance to today? If you want maybe ask MacTavish why he sucked.

    Pointless article

    • TKB2677

      I totally agree. I don’t understand the point of this article. Going back in time to look at a trade made 7 years ago by Chia when he was with another team.

      There isn’t a single GM in the league past or present that doesn’t have some bad trades or bad signings that he would like over. I think the most important thing is that he makes more bad than good deals. So far with the Oilers:

      Good:
      Sekera signing – he’s playing like a top pairing guy.
      Talbot trade – fleecing
      Maroon trade – fleecing
      Kassian trade – fleecing
      Benning signing – looks like a top 4, right shot.
      Letestu signing – PP demon, great 4th line center.
      Russell signing – he’s been pretty darn good this season.
      Klefbom contract will be a steal
      Caggulia signing – Actually got a good, uesfule college guy for a change.
      Gryba trade – Useful 6/7, good dressing room guy. Basically cost him Marincin. Marincin has only play 20 games for the Leafs this season.
      Yakupov – Relationship with team was sour. Yak was a bad pick made by someone else. Chia got some kind of asset and didn’t have to keep salary for a guy that I think had almost zero value. Yak’s been scratched 21 times this year. Might be KHL bound.

      Still need to be determined:
      Lucic signing. – I think it’s a good signing. Culture changer, leadership changer, style of play changer. I think in the playoffs is where we see his true worth. I put it here because I am sure there are people who disagree.
      Hall/Larsson trade – I think it was a good, needed trade. Addressed a need on defense but also it was again a culture changer, style of play changer and a message to the guys who have been here during all the losing. “We as a team are changing and losing is no longer tolerated”. Plus I think people grossly undervalue Larsson’s contract. In a cap world, every dollar counts. At under 4.2 mill and the way he has played, he might be slightly under paid already. He’s only 24 so his best is yet to come. So he could easily be very under paid very soon.

      Bad:
      Reinhart trade. Maybe Reinhart turns into a useful guy. Hard to say. Draft picks are always a bit of a crap shoot but best case, Reinhart is probably a bottom pairing guy. High price to pay for a bottom pairing guy.
      Gus signing. Just hasn’t worked out.

      Notable omissions:
      Schultz trade – Looks bad but I think it was a trade that needed to happen. Schultz was done as an Oiler. He was never going to do anything as an Oiler. I think he had very little value. His qualifying was going to be over 4 mill so no way the Oilers sign him. He’s now on maybe the best team in the league. The coach played him in a lot of sheltered mins for a good chunk of the season. Kept him away from defensive starts and situations, in sort of a PP specialist role. He’s been playing more since Letang went down. The guys is playing well, signed to a 1 yr, 1.4 mill deal. I can see he and his agent with his points wanting a HUGE contract. He will probably score high 40’s or 50 pts. He already took a big time cheap contract once, I can’t see him doing it again. Pens will probably have to walk due to cap crunch. Another lesser team will give him big money, expecting him to play a lot of mins and he won’t do as well.

      I may have misses a few deals but in general, I think Chia has done a damn good job.

  • As an Oilers fan, these sorts of questions are what I like about him being a GM here. He isn’t an unproven GM (like he was prior to joining the Bruins, previously an assistant GM with the Sens). He has some experience under his belt and has learned some lessons the hard way. He’s made some mistakes, he’s a different person now than he was 10 years ago when he first started.

    One could consider the lack of repeat success a failure, in a sense.

    Maybe he would do some things differently, and maybe he’s looking more long term this time around.

    I hope I’m not misinterpreting the article Willis, but it seems that moves like this are something we can definitely attribute to affecting the long-term success of Bruins, while (as the article mentions) the impact on their short term success could be debated forever.

    So here’s hoping that Chia can look to building a long term thing here in Edmonton.

    This expansion draft seems to throw a wrench into the plan, I gotta say. It’s a cloud that hangs over the head of every transaction as well as the trade deadline. As such I don’t blame Chia if there isn’t much activity.

  • Oilerz4life

    One pattern that has continued in Edmonton is Chiarelli signing aging veterans to expensive long term contracts. That may not hurt the Oilers right now, but it has the potential to handcuff the roster under the salary cap to older players a few years down the road and prevent the teams ability to make any moves because they are right up against the ceiling, once players like Nurse, Drai and McD have their contracts renewed. McDavid alone will be in the neiborhood of 10 million while older players are pushing the roster right up against the salary cap.

  • Explicit

    The trade was with a different organization with different circumstances. I have full trust in Chiapete. He turned around a losing culture and decade of suck into a first place team in 1 year. In Chia I trust!! Also, suck it Hall trade haters!!!

      • D

        Like many here on ON, I was around for the first five in the 1980s, so Vancouver fans have little to say in the matter. Generational talents at the level of Crosby, Lemieux and Gretzky won multiple Stanley Cups. McDavid is at that level, which means if Chiarelli pulls a Boston in Edmonton and brings only one Cup, he will not be judged well.

  • Finnish Oiler fan in Edmonton89

    Willis did you get the idea for this article from my comment on hendersons article?

    I made a comment analyzing chiarellis 2011 deadline trades

  • camdog

    “The reason I focused on this particular trade is because it encapsulates a lot of the debate surrounding Chiarelli’s handling of the Oilers without including the same emotion in Edmonton that comes from discussing the Oilers.”

    So which Oiler trade is this reference to the Hall for Larsson trade?

  • IRONman

    PC is smart guy.

    I get him now. He fills holes.

    Larsen is +11 and must have.

    I miss Hall and hurts to see him in Devils.

    Hope he goes free agent comes back like Smyth

    97 Rocks. Soo fast

    Enjoy game tomorrow boys.

    In 97 I believe. Forsberg said he wished he was like 97. Wow.

  • RJ

    It was a great trade for Atlanta. They traded a waiver wire pick-up (Peverly) and a prospect who never made it for a future core member of their team.

    On the Bruins side, it wasn’t quite the Nieuwendyk for Iginla, but a lot of people saw this move as contributing to his Cup win. So you can’t complain too much when you get a Cup out of it.

    Just based on articles I’ve read out of Boston, Chiarelli’s big mistakes were his managing contracts (and the cap) and making big trades that hurt the team (like trading Seguin).

    And you see the same pattern here. He makes risky moves. When they pay off, like Maroon and Kassian, it’s great for the team. When they bomb, like Reinhart, it harms the team.

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    I think the better and more interesting example of this principle of trading better players to make a better team is the Hawks, particularly with the long view of winning in the cap era.

    Of all the teams that have won the Cup since 2009 (Chicago, LA, Pittsburgh, Boston), Chicago’s done the best job of managing assets in a way where they’ve traded away the pieces they could afford to lose while working to reload. As well, they’re the only team that’s won and continued to make the playoffs and continue to finish the regular season as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

    That can’t be said of LA, Boston, or Pitt (or anyone else).

    And look at who they’ve traded or let walk away:

    Dustin Byfuglien (for Joey Crabb, Jeremy Morin, and Marty Reasoner);
    Brian Campbell (for Rostislav Olesz);
    Nick Leddy (for Kent Simpson, T.J. Brennan, Ville Pokka & Anders Nilsson);
    Johnny Oduya was able to walk on his UFA.

    Andrew Ladd (for Ivan Vishnevskiy);
    Andrew Shaw (for two 2nd round picks);
    Patrick Sharp (for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garrett);
    Brandon Saad (for Marko Dano, Artem Anisimov, Corey Tropp and Jeremy Morin);
    Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen (for a 2nd and 3rd round pick);
    Michael Frolik (for a 3rd and 5th round pick).

    That’s effectively two 2nd lines for most teams in the league today and 4D that can start on almost any team, from a 1D to a 3 and 4D.

    And they’re still a strong contender for the Cup–notwithstanding the Metro Division this year. That’s quite a feat.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      Good point.

      The one thing the Blackhawks have done extremely well has been the draft.

      Without looking I’ll bet they pull at least one, if not two, NHL players out of every draft. Not all stars, mind you, but players who can fill a hole and keep the backend of their salary structure low.

      Looking at the Oilers trading some of their pricey stars or letting players walk if they want too much money will be much easier if they have someone who can fill in and offer some comparable production of the departing player.

      • RJ

        This doesn’t get mentioned enough. The Hawks have killer scouting and do well in free agency, particularly picking up Panarin as a KHL free agent. That gives them a lot of flexibility.

        With enough prospect depth, you can move roster players and replace from within or you can add in a prospect into these deals.

  • toprightcorner

    Watching the Oilers and their successes this year, one thing I can say for certain; I don’t miss Hall and the defense is significantly better and more balanced.

    The Oilers are one of the top scoring teams i the league, with Ebere, Lucic, Nuge and Pouliot having down years.

    Hall only gives you offense and the team clearly doesn’t need any more.

    Larsson has some areas to improve on, but he is still only a 23 year old dman, but he has been an integral part of the improvement of the defense.

    I don’t think many fans would want a redo on that trade, if that trade never happened, there is a good chance the Oilers would be battling for a wild card spot instead of a division title.

    It is the sum of the team that matters not the talents of the individual players.

  • Pouzar99

    Please stop talking about the Oilers winning multiple Cups. We haven’t won anything yet and the Stanley Cup is very very hard to win in a 30-team league. One step at a time. Keep your hopes high and your expectations conservative. Things are going great. I am over the moon because it looks like we will finally grab a playoff spot and I can see that we are steadily climbing that mountain. Believe me, if the Oilers win one Cup, Chiarelli, McLellan and all the players will be heroes, even if they never win another. But first let’s make the playoffs and play every game like it’s Game 7 for the Cup. The kids will learn and we might even do some damage. IF we make the playoffs, which I think we will. Remember what happened to the Avs and Flames in the last few years. A breakout season, a hard fought playoffs and then they both slid back. It could happen to us, though I am increasing optimistic. There may be some deadline moves and I expect a few more in the off-season. Best of all the kids (McDavid, Draisaitl, Puljujarvi, Benning, Nurse, Klefbom, Caggiula, Slepyshev, Khaira and Brossoit) will be a year older and most will improve. After a decade of darkness it’s great to be an Oiler fan again. Let’s not spoil it with outlandish expectations. Onward and upward.

  • Billy Charlebois

    Another example that goes back quite a few years, is when the Flames traded Brett Hull to the Blues for Rob Ramage. I don’t think anybody can dispute that the Blues “won” that trade, but one could legitimately argue that the Flames don’t win their only Stanley Cup without Ramage on the blueline.

  • I am Batman

    The only thing that matters is that the Bruins denied the Cannots of the cup in a time in which they should have won it.

    They will NEVER be in the position to win a cup again and I love it.

    That particular Cansuck team is one of the teams I have hated the most in my life, they all looked so preppy but were a bunch of dirty players. I hated them more than I hate the shames today, and that is a lot to say.

  • Free Bird

    It’s easy to say the trade was a bad deal for Boston six years later but at the time it felt like a fair deal. Boston was trying to “win now” and Atlanta was rebuilding to win later. Both teams got what they needed in their respective players. You could argue that Chiarelli should have received additional value, even if only in the form of a draft pick thrown in to balance the deal, but the NHL trade market is not that liquid so I can’t imagine GM’s are going to nitpick when the key player they want is made available.

    Besides, every GM makes “good” or “bad” trades. It’s the culmination of all of their work, including drafting, player development, free agent signings, waiver pickups, etc. which leads to whether the team wins or loses, and that’s what really matters anyways.