Photo Credit: Dave Sandford

WWYDW(FE): Giving Pistol Pete the Keys

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.

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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? 

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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? 

  • The future never comes

    We already know the answer to this, we see at least 30+ comments on every article now with people saying they are scared to death with Chia making a trade. This has become rhetorical at this point, you could have saved yourself the effort.

  • Big Nuggets

    Don’t tell me the last player he added on a PTO was an astute move by Chiarelli. He got lucky on that one, credit to Chiasson for putting it together this season.

    • Chia’s Son wasn’t even Chiarelli’s idea. Gulutzan coached him two seasons ago in Calgary and made the suggestion to bring him in on a PTO, otherwise, why wouldn’t have the terrible pro scouts done their job and told Chiarelli about him? All Chiarelli did was eventually approve a cheap no risk contract–Keith Gretzky probably did all the paper work.

      Now can you imagine how much worse the team would be in the standings without Chiasson?

      Caggiula is an undrafted player from the NCAA. He had a lot of potential and showed sparks of quality and was able to fill many spots on the roster when needed. Chiarelli, not patient enough with a young player, pulls the trigger on him.

      Strome? Solid 3rd line centre defensively, but he only scored one goal, so trade him for a non-defensive bottom six guy who sits in the pressbox.

      I can’t take this anymore.

      Rieder, Spooner, and Manning aren’t assets. You can’t even package any combination of them together. At the deadline, Chiarelli won’t be able to get a rental and isn’t going to get 5-7th round picks for them either. What sucks is Gravel is a good asset and he’s probably the best shot for a rental. He’s better than Manning.

      Their only assets are in the AHL, yet none are even ranked in the top 50 prospects (although Button contradicts himself month to month).

    • The future never comes

      Exactly, that was luck. Chiasson is having an outlier year, signed last minute by Chia before the season started to minimum salary. That’s not astute.

      • Odanada

        Chiasson works hard and stands up for his teammates, and that is character more than luck. He would likely be a good mentor for younger players as well.
        The question is: how much do you sign him for? It would be a very bitter pill if the Spooner-Manning contracts ate up cap space and they lost AC.

  • tkfisher

    If Instead of hiring our current GM, if we replaced MacT with a google home speaker and simply used Bob Mckenzies Draft List each year, the following would have happened. This assumes zero trades and zero free agent signing since 2015 (aka a GM doing nothing)

    Draft 2015
    1st 1st
    1st 16th (Team D is zero so the speaker leans towards D)
    Barzal or Thomas Chabot D (Most likely)
    2nd (33rd)
    Daniel Sprong RW or Oliver Kylington D (Most Likely)

    Draft 2016
    1st (4th)
    Jesse Puljujarvi (no change)
    2nd (32nd)
    Alex Debrincat RW (Most Likely because BM draft rank shows great value, plus McDavid link) or Dennis Cholowski D

    1st (22nd)
    Kristian Vesalainen LW or Nicolas Hague LHD
    2nd (53rd Pick to Boston for PC)
    Jack Studnicka C or Josh Brook D

    1st (10th)
    Bouchard D (no change, great value from BM list)
    2nd (40th)
    Ryan McLeod C (no change, great value from BM list)

    Todays Roster

    RNH 6 – McDavid 12.5 – Eberle 6
    Hall 6 – Draisaitl 8.5 – Alex Debrincat 800k
    Benoit Pouliot 4- ? ? ?- Puljujarvi 925k
    M. Hendricks 700k – Khaira 675 – T. Pitlick 1
    Total 47.1 cap

    (assumes the google speaker would have done the obvious and not traded/let our only decent Dman leave mid 15, unlike MacT)

    Klefbom 4.16 – Jeff Petry 5.5
    Nurse 3.2 – Justin Schultz 5.5
    Oliver Kylington 730k – Thomas Chabot 863k
    Total 19.95 cap

    67.05 Used
    79.5 2018-2018 Cap Limit
    12.45 in CAP Space
    Need 3C (3 mill), a 13F (1 mill), 7D (1 mill) and goalie 1 (5 mill) , goalie 2 (2 mill) = (12 mill)
    Cap hit 79 million with 500k room

    Full Team, Cap Compliant and Good. All by doing literally nothing to the roster and using Bob McKenzies List and assuming no draft picks rounds 3-7 dating back to 2015 and all players current NHL salaries.
    Face Palm.

    Side Note lesser known draft picks current seasons:
    Vesalainen – 6’4” 207lb pt/gm in AHL and 12pts in 18 games (KHL). OR
    Hague 6’6” 215lb LHD playing great in AHL 17pt in 39 games plus 18.
    Jack Studnicka 6’2” 180lbs pt/GM in OHL and 5 pts in 5 AHL game stint OR
    Josh Brook 6’1” 192lbs 39pts/30 games RHD in WHL.

    Plus Bouchard and McLeod in the pipe.

    So no, Pistol Pete should not be allowed to do any further damage.

    • tkfisher

      I can barely look at this do nothing roster and not puke in my mouth. As tempting as it is to cherry pick and plug a Tkachuk into it as well. This is nothing more than taking the top rated McKenzie pick available at the time of the Oilers pick. Our management, and scouts currently hold negative value. Beyond frustrating and inexcusable.

      • Randaman

        I like the way you think. Please tell me that you have a connection to the OBC? Draft, develop, build from within. I am not getting why this is not the first three things taught in GM school. Oh, nevermind, most of them are lawyers. Nuff said.

    • rnj

      This reminds me of investing – the “best traders” routinely lose to index funds that do nothing but take a piece of the top performing companies. Traders bleed to death trying to get ahead fast and be smarter than the rest of the world. Smart people are patient, take the best available and build slowly.

      Great post tk… really disappointing to see it all there in black and white though.

    • This is an amazing post. Wouldn’t Sekera and Davidson still be on the team?

      Here’s the lineup prior to the Feb 2015 trade deadline:

      Hall – Draisaitl – Kassian
      Pouliot – McDavid – Eberle
      Hendricks – Letestu – Korpikoski
      Khaira – Lander – Yakupov

      Davidson – Oesterle
      Sekera – Fayne
      Nurse – Clendening


      • tkfisher

        No, I checked. Sekera signed with the Oilers July 1st, 2015. McDavid was drafted June 27, 2015. You could easily argue that Davidson would be on the team, and would be that guy filling the 7D slot for 1 million. Good catch on Davidson. He’s still better than our current number 5/6. So yes. The google home speaker wins out again.