In hockey, you hear about different ways to acquire talent. Build through the draft. Draft the Best Player Available and trade a surplus of talent at one position to fill a position of weakness. Sign elite talent when they become available a la John Tavares in Toronto or Erik Karlsson in this year’s free agency class.
The Oilers should employ another strategy with Ken Holland at the helm: take advantage of teams making bad decisions. TSN’s Travis Yost summed this up nicely in a tweet four years ago.
Here's how to be a good NHL GM:
Step one: Find the bad NHL GMs
Step two: Call them frequently
That's about it.
— Travis Yost (@travisyost) June 26, 2015
Unfortunately, the Oilers have been on the wrong end of these transactions since basically 2006. But Peter Chiarelli is gone and Ken Holland is now Oilers general manager. Holland doesn’t have a big history of swindling other teams in trades, but he’s a respected general manager that shouldn’t be the disaster Chiarelli was in Edmonton.
The Oilers presumably hired someone who won’t make the same mistakes Chiarelli did.
Chiarelli did a lot of good work, just not for the Oilers.
One of Chiarelli’s first moves was trading Boyd Gordon for Lauri Korpikoski. This may seem like a nothing move, but Korpikoski had an extra year on his contract and made nearly $500K more than Gordon. Korpikoski was bought out a year after the trade.
The Islanders got Mathew Barzal and a second-round pick, which they packaged to move up to select Anthony Beauvillier, in exchange for draft bust Griffin Reinhart. Chiarelli also gave them Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome a couple of years later. Chiarelli might have done more work for the Islanders than Garth Snow.
Oilers fans know how New Jersey acquired Taylor Hall. The Rangers got rid of Ryan Spooner’s contract for Ryan Strome, who scored 18 goals for New York down the stretch.
Chiarelli was a disaster in Edmonton, that much is clear. The Oilers have felt the brunt of many poor decisions from their own general managers. It’s time they utilized a poor general manager to improve their team.
Enter Paul Fenton. It might be too early to declare Fenton a poor general manager just yet, but he’s had a couple of questionable moves that I’d be calling him regarding any half decent player on his roster. Besides, general managers that make bad moves usually aren’t employed long. You have to be quick to take advantage of a lesser GM.
Fenton traded Nino Niederreiter to Carolina for Victor Rask mid-season. Rask scored at an 18-point pace over 82 games in Carolina and that only worsened to a 10-point pace in Minnesota. Niederreiter had a 42-point pace in Minnesota and a 68-point pace in Carolina. Rask has three years left on his contract and Carolina not only managed to dump his contract, but acquire a legitimate top-six winger in exchange.
Sure, that’s just one trade that doesn’t look good after 40 games. Plus, Fenton comes from a Nashville organization that often made a bunch of smart decisions and drafted very well.
Fenton also traded Mikael Granlund to Nashville for Kevin Fiala, acquiring a player he was familiar with for a guy a year away from unrestricted free agency. Granlund for Fiala isn’t Niederreiter for Rask, but it’s another trade where Fenton acquires the less-proven and lower-scoring player. Fiala is younger and under team control for longer than Granlund, but Granlund was scoring at a 63-point pace when he was dealt to Nashville. Neither player took off with their new teams, but it’s another move that raises an eyebrow.
Friedman additionally confirms a Jason Zucker to Calgary deal would’ve included Michael Frolik and a 1st or 2nd round pick.
Good chance it’s revisited in the summer. Type of deal that happens right before the #Flames make their 1st round pick, if no one they like falls to them.
— Christian Roatis (@CRoatis) March 1, 2019
Jason Zucker is the third move, or attempted move rather, that should make Holland flood Fenton’s phone with calls. Fenton has been trying to move Zucker since becoming Minnesota’s GM. Zucker was almost traded to Calgary for a package including Michael Frolik and a first-round draft pick. And again to Pittsburgh for Phil Kessel and Jack Johnson, although Rask was rumoured to be involved as well.
Zucker is a good player who had the second-worst shooting percentage of his career and still had 42 points. Zucker’s $5.5-million per year might seem like a lot for 42 points, but he scored 64 points in 2016-17 and is a good bet to score 50-plus points if he shoots closer to his career average.
Phil Kessel last three seasons at 5v5: 53 GF%, 48.6 xGF%, 2.15 p/60
Jason Zucker last three seasons at 5v5: 59 GF%, 57 xGF%, 1.95 p/60
— Nardo (@Bernardi2717_) May 23, 2019
Kessel obviously is the better scorer, but he might finally be the big scorer who is poor defensively that people thought he was before. Kessel gets points, but 5-on-5 Kessel and Zucker aren’t much different and Kessel is four years older. Johnson is another terrible free-agent contract and trading Rask for him is just a swap of bad contracts.
It’s not just Zucker, although the Oilers could use a guy like him on left wing badly. Jared Spurgeon is an Edmonton native who could significantly help their right side. Maybe Fenton would be interested in Kris Russell or perhaps Milan Lucic with salary coming back to Edmonton?
The Oilers got taken to the cleaners on many trades Chiarelli made as Oilers GM. Find the next Chiarelli and finally be on the right side of a lopsided trade.