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Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Chiarelli Talks Kris Russell, Hall for Larsson, Expansion, and the NHL Draft

On Tuesday, Peter Chiarelli sat with TSN’s Pierre LeBrun to talk about all things Edmonton Oilers. Yesterday, I covered the Jordan Eberle trade speculation and what Chiarelli had to say about McDavid and Draisaitl’s new contracts. In today’s breakdown, I’ll focus on what the GM had to say about Kris Russell returning, expansion, Taylor Hall, and the upcoming entry draft.

For many of us, this past season came with varying levels of surprise. Although many of us were hopeful that the Oilers would be able to make progress and get themselves into the playoffs, history dictated that our hopes would come with a certain level of doubt. For Peter Chiarelli, it seemed like he knew the improvement was coming but wasn’t really sure just how much.

“I would have been mildly surprised. As a GM you plan, you make maneuvers, you make trades, you put in positions for improvement, and, if you look at how the ducks were lining up for us, there was going to be improvement.”

Did you have to use “ducks lining up” in your analogy? Sorry, I guess I’m still bitter about that Game 5 loss and Ryan Kesler holding onto Talbot’s pad. Bah. Anyway, when asked about whether or not changing the culture was something that contributed to the Oilers’ resurgence:

“I think there was a large part of that (improvement) done last year and carried into this year. I never liked the word “culture” but I guess, at the end of the day, that’s what it is.”

Culture! Buzzword! Good in the room! Intangibles! Break it down for us, Petey.

“I think it’s just a way of doing business and what we expect and what standards are set. Call it culture, call it expectations, call it the way of doing business. I’m happy with how the players – and the people involved – see the way we want to move this thing forward.”

I guess it is better that the players can see tangible results in their progress rather than being sold hope for better days. I imagine the old “we’ll get ’em next year” speeches were starting to get pretty old for some of these guys.

LOOKING BACK ON HALL FOR LARSSON

If you guys think the Jordan Eberle stories are getting old then how about revisiting the Taylor Hall trade again? When asked to look back on the biggest trade he’s made as the Oilers GM, Peter Chiarelli offered a mix of relief and I told you so.

“I’m happy (the fans) can see what we’ve always seen and will continue to see. I know it’s (the media’s) job to put these things on the front stage, I understand that. I professed all along that this is a fair trade. People may have looked at me sideways when I said that but they didn’t know what Larsson was.”

How dare you assume that I overreacted about the trade despite only watching Larsson play a handful of times. HOW. DARE. YOU. Okay, so maybe all of that happened, but can you really blame me?

“(Larsson) is a heck of a player. He’s getting better. He’s doing things, in the latter part of the year, that he didn’t feel comfortable doing. He’s still a young player.”

Wait what are you guys doing that’s making him uncomfortable? Adam, do you need help? If you need help just DM me a picture of your Billy Bookcase and I’ll know that’s code to get you out of there.

“Taylor is a terrific player. He was their leading scorer, or, if not, their second (leading scorer) because he missed a bunch of games with injury.”

Taytay tends to miss some games, doesn’t he? If there’s one thing he does as well as put up points it’s getting himself hurt. I kinda picture Hallsy like the Wile E. Coyote: he will go nuts out to take the puck to the net, but every now and then he’ll run himself off a cliff or into a wall to get there.

What else?

“I feel better that the fans can see what we see, but we were comfortable making that trade.”

I think Larsson grew on the fanbase from the minute he started playing. Personally, I never expected him to be as physical as he is and I appreciate the sense of calm that he displays in his own end. As far as a defensive defenceman goes, Larsson certainly fits the bill. He kinda reminds me of a Swedish Jason Smith, just not quite as mean… yet.

ON KRIS RUSSELL

Another hot topic item around these parts is what will happen with pending UFA defender, Kris Russell. Chiarelli didn’t waste words with what he hopes will happen.

“What I told Kris is that we want him back, but (Leon and Connor’s contracts) are our obstacles that we have to get to first.”

Alright, so there’s good news here for both sides of the argument. For the haters, Chia already knows how important cap space will be going forward and making sure that he can get those done first will show him what kind of space he has to play with. For the Russell fans, it shows that the shot-blocking dynamo from Caroline, Alberta, is still in the plans and that will bring reassurance to the blue-collar crowd that loves a strong work ethic.

“I would like to have him back but when we can do that, I’m not sure. He knows how strongly we feel about him.”

One thing I feel like I should bring up is that feelings don’t necessarily translate into results. As an example, I have strong feelings for Miranda Kerr but I don’t think she’ll be leaving the Snapchat dude because of those feelings. My point is that the dollars have to match up with the desire to bring Russell back. Over the long term, Russell slots in as a third-pairing defender and Chiarelli will have his work cut out for him if he expects Russell to accept a contract that pays him accordingly. Get it? Of course you do.

ON TRADING THIS YEAR’S 1ST ROUND PICK

Every year we wonder if this will be the year where the Oilers trade away their first round pick to bolster the lineup. When asked if he’d be open to trading the pick, Chiarelli predicted the conservative approach.

“It’s too early to tell you that. I don’t think so. Our scouts have put together a pretty good list, they’re going through it with me now, and I’d like to get a young player in the mix.”

With this year’s draft predicted to be a weaker class, I wonder if that could be enough to entice Chiarelli to move the pick for more immediate help. With McDavid on the last year of his ELC, the Oilers have a real chance to add as much as possible for this year’s run and I’d hope that pending truth would be enough to make a push.

“Right now, if I had to make a decision I’d say ‘no’ but who knows.”

Fine. Be that way. Shut me down again. Whatever.

“It’s such a draft that maybe you look to move down into the second round somewhere and you get almost the same player, but it’s too early to tell right now.”

If anything, I could see Chiarelli trading the first round pick to add more bullets to his draft gun. Edmonton doesn’t have a 2nd round this year and it’s possible that Swag Daddy could use his first to acquire two seconds from a team like Buffalo that has multiple picks in the second round. Who knows what will happen, but at least we can all agree that it’s ridiculous that Edmonton had to give Boston their second round pick for hiring a guy that the Bruins had already fired. *spits*

EXPANSION

With the Expansion Draft coming up in just over two weeks, it will be interesting to see who Peter Chiarelli will be protecting. In his year-end presser, Chia said that he’s likely going to go with the 7-3-1 approached based on who he has to protect and who is exempt.

“We’re not jockeying per se because I think there’s going to be a lot of wasted energy. There are some teams that have to jockey. I don’t want to lose a player but we’re going to have to lose a player.”

Frankly, Edmonton is lucky that guys like McDavid, Nurse, and Caggiula are exempt from this round of expansion because that would have added a whole new wrinkle to the decision making process. Not having to protect some of their biggest assets will allow Chiarelli to try and wheel and deal his way into losing who he wants to move rather than a guy he would rather keep.

“We’ve got some irons in the fire in terms of deals that we may do. We’ll continue to have discussions.”

I’m mostly excited about seeing what kind of moves teams will be doing to work around their protection lists. There are teams that will lose some high-end prospects and the drama of those losses will be fantastic to watch. As a fan, I’m excited.

“I respect the fact that (the Golden Knights) have to put a good roster in place so we’ll just try and work through it.”

Can we be honest? The Knights are going to be garbage for the foreseeable future and going there will likely be not much more than collecting a pay cheque in a cool city for many of the guys selected. Also, wouldn’t it be hilarious if Vegas picks up Griffin Reinhart? The blowback would be hysterical. Then again, maybe I’m just one of those people who wants to watch the world burn.

THE WRAP

For me, the takeaways from this chunk of the interview come mostly from Chiarelli’s thoughts on Russell and the draft. With Russell, it’s clear that the organization wants him back, but the challenge has always been the price and term on whatever that new deal looks like. If Chiarelli can lock him in at a rate you would generally pay a third pairing guy then that’s great, but I have my concerns. As for the Draft, I find it interesting that trading away the pick doesn’t seem, at least for now, to be on the radar. The Oilers depth chart for skilled prospects is rather shallow and I can see why they’d want to stock the shelves. On the other hand, every dollar matters in the McDavid era and loading up for the coming season shouldn’t be off the table either. Either way, we’ve got a wild month ahead of us and I look forward to seeing what the roster looks like 30 days from now.

    • Natejax97

      It would be nice if he signs a “value” contract to stay in Alberta for the next 2-3 years. Helluva competitor. I understand the dollars and cents, but if not him it will have to be yet another free agent or a trade. Another unknown commodity. With Russell, you know exactly what you have, and he and Sekera were more than adequate 2nd pairing. The trick is to make sure he is moveable on the depth chart when Darryl and / or Benning is ready to go.

      • Kepler62c

        I agree – I have no problem if it’s in the 3-4M range for 1 year – but if it’s got term it needs to come way down to reflect where he’ll be playing in year 2 or 3.

  • voom04

    with shipachiv(spelling) going to vegas, only makes sense they get his line mate kovlichuk, that’s a 1st line right there, vegas could have a very good team if that’s the case, could surprise some people

  • Kepler62c

    I honestly don’t see the logic in Vegas taking Reinhart, I’m still optimistic he’ll turn into a good player – but I’m a fan, I want that trade to to work out, and I want another mean defender in with Nurse and Larsson.

    Facing the facts, Reinhart was a 4th overall pick and has now been passed over by prospects in two organizations… it’s not looking good. I’d rather draft a guy I’m more sure of being an NHL player, AKA Khaira, Pakarinen, or even Pouliot if the Oil toss me a 5th. Vegas will need some forwards who can step in and play on the top line against the best without sacrificing the development of their younger forwards – Pouliot fits that bill.