The trade deadline is on the horizon and the Oilers are thoroughly in the mix for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Given what we know about the organization’s overwhelming desire to ensure a playoff appearance, the Oilers would have to put together a monumental collapse over the next 15 games prior to the deadline in order for the team to become sellers.
The team has a burning need for help up front as only four players on the team are scoring goals. They could also use some help on the blueline, particularly in the realm of defencemen who can move the puck and drive offence. Complicating matters, though, is a tight cap situation that doesn’t allow for much wiggle room.
Peter Chiarelli has guided this organization to a difficult place. In the fourth year of his tenure (and Connor McDavid’s career), the Oilers are nowhere near Stanley Cup contention and are grinding hard just to make it into the dance. The team is devoid of depth, still lacking top defenders, and is bogged down by bad contracts. Chiarelli, while fair at drafting and finding diamonds in the rough like Alex Chiasson and Mikko Koskinen, has routinely spilled value from the team in virtually all of the deals he’s made.
We’ve beaten The Trade Is One For One and The Trade Is One For One Pt. 2 to death already. But most recently, he’s put together a head-scratching series of moves, downgrading from the underwhelming-but-effective Ryan Strome to the watches-from-the-pressbox Ryan Spooner. He then dealt Drake Caggiula, one of the team’s few wingers who can put the puck in the net, for Brandon Manning, a carbon copy of Eric Gryba, a player he bought out during the off-season.
These moves — the death by a thousand cuts — are perfectly emblematic of Chiarelli’s time guiding the ship in Edmonton. These types of moves are why the Oilers aren’t a contender four years into McDavid’s career. These types of moves are why the team is leaning so hard on just a handful of players. These types of moves are why an injury to one defenceman can sewer the team’s blueline.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION question. Do you give Chiarelli the keys to the ship leading up to the trade deadline? Does he deserve a chance to push his team into the playoffs? Or has he done enough damage at this point that him making any more moves is a genuine risk to the long-term outlook of the organization?
With Edmonton’s 10-day break set to begin after next Tuesday’s game at home against the Red Wings, the organization will have time to step back and think about their short- and long-term strategy. Like I said earlier, only some kind of massive implosion would result in the Oilers selling rather than buying at the deadline. From a business perspective, it’s critical for the team to make the playoffs and to give season ticket holders a reason to renew their pricey investments.
The Oilers have multiple former general managers floating around their offices — Craig MacTavish, Scott Howson, and Kevin Lowe — and while firing Chiarelli and bringing in either of the three would be hilarious, all with an interim tag would be less likely to make a panic move than a general manager trying to save his job. Hey, maybe K. Lowe can rekindle his 2006 deadline magic!
On the surface, it might seem like the right thing to do to allow Chiarelli to see out his plan, at the very least, until the end of this season. But, as the Spooner and Manning deals indicate, there’s a lot of potential damage to be done to the long-term health of the team if Chiarelli handles this deadline poorly. In acquiring those two aforementioned players, Chiarelli has added $5.45 million against the 2019-20 salary cap for two guys who are rotating in and out of the press box.
One thing we’ve praised Chiarelli for is his ability to tinker the roster and find good under-the-radar acquisitions. Alex Chiasson and Mikko Koskinen are examples of this, as was Patrick Maroon. The last time the Oilers were in a position to buy at the deadline, he flipped Brandon Davidson for David Desharnais, which was a solid move. In Boston, he did enough at the deadline in 2011 to lift the Bruins to a Stanley Cup, giving up Blake Wheeler, a first, and two second-round picks for Rich Peverley, Tomas Kaberle, and Chris Kelly. He also acquired Jaromir Jagr as a rental in 2013, helping the Bruins to the Cup Final.
What say you, Nation? Do you want Pistol Pete behind the wheel for the deadline? Or is it best to cut ties before any more damage can be done?