Photo Credit: Dave Sandford

Sucker Deals and Chiarelli

I’ve got absolutely no doubt that Pete Chiarelli’s cell phone hasn’t stopped buzzing since well before he jumped a jet to Dallas for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. And, really, why wouldn’t everybody and his dog be calling the Edmonton Oilers GM to see if there’s a deal to be made? Anybody who isn’t on him like sportswriters on a free buffet isn’t doing his job.

Chiarelli has already made it be known he is willing to talk about moving the 10th pick the Oilers have in the first round if the “right player” is available — he’s already had conversations to that end. We already know that he’d love to bolster his blueline, namely with somebody who can play the right side and help run the power play. We’ve heard names like Colton Parayko, Dougie Hamilton and on and on . . .

Correct me if I’m wrong, but what we’ve got in Chiarelli is a GM with an, ahem, questionable trading record coming off a season in which his team fell miserably short of expectations who has made it known he’s willing to make a deal. Is that about right? That said, rather than asking what could go wrong, a better question might be what could go right? Like I said, any general manager who hasn’t called Chiarelli to offer help should probably lose his job.

Framed in that, maybe the best-case scenario is that Chiarelli does nothing more in Big D than walk to the podium and announce who the Oilers are proud to select with that 10th pick. Not because the Oilers don’t need help – they do — in other areas that will have to be addressed at some point, but because I don’t trust Chiarelli, given his trading track record since arriving in Edmonton and the Oilers’ circumstances, to get it right.

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Edmonton Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli speaks at year end Press Conference

From where I sit, it’s not unreasonable to think there’s a level of desperation involved in what Chiarelli is setting out to do this off-season. Of course he wants to make the Oilers better, address needs and get the team headed back in the direction it was headed before the wheels fell off this season. You’d have to be naïve not to think wanting to keep his job plays into things as well.

How long does the vote of confidence Chiarelli received this off-season when Todd McLellan’s assistants took the fall last if things don’t turn around this coming season? Not very long, I’d suggest – and that’s as it should be. Chiarelli isn’t dealing from a position of strength, and every single one of his peers knows that when any conversation begins. Who’s got the hammer when Chiarelli makes a call or takes a call about Parayko or Hamilton or whoever?

Chiarelli isn’t going to get the players he needs simply by offering up that 10th pick. Not a chance. So who else goes into getting that first-pairing D-man or a guy who can make a real difference on the power play? The question isn’t if Chiarelli will over pay for what the Oilers need, the question is how much will he over pay? What is the ask for Parayko by Doug Armstrong? I can’t imagine why Armstrong would want to move Parayko anyway, but everything and everyone is for sale if the price is right.

When we hear from connected reporters like TSN’s Ryan Rishaug that Chiarelli is “aggressively” looking for immediate help on the blueline, how do you see that playing out? When you’re talking about coming off a collapse of a season like the Oilers just had with a year of Connor McDavid’s tenure wasted and fans rightly pissed that it’s gone sideways yet again, my take is you can safely substitute “desperately” for “aggressively.”

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Maybe I’ve got it wrong. Maybe Chiarelli can somehow make the moves that need to be made without getting suckered in Dallas by those who’ll be calling to see how they can “help.” Maybe, and this seems more likely, Chiarelli makes a minor move rather than a big splash, that adds a useful player he can use next season. Maybe he just selects Evan Bouchard or Barrett Hayton with the 10th pick and calls it good for now.

We’ll find out what happens later today and tomorrow. There is, after all, the rest of the summer to take a step back, contemplate and make deals that make sense. Short of taking a drive through Dealey Plaza in a drop top Lincoln, I can’t imagine Chiarelli being an easier target than he’ll be in the next two days if desperation gets the better of him.


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