#FireChiarelli has been a hot topic in Edmonton this season. He was being praised last year because the team was successful, and he’s being chased with torches this season because they are losing. Here’s a short list with some specific moves that Chiarelli has made that have angered Oilers fans:
Griffin Reinhart for 1st (Mathew Barzal) and 2nd (Anthony Beauvillier): Traded away picks who became a probable Calder Trophy winner this year in Barzal and another effective winger in Beauvillier (Both of whom have been having success playing with Eberle this year) for a defenceman that isn’t even in the NHL anymore after losing him in the expansion draft.
Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson: Franchise winger and potential Hart Trophy nominee this season for borderline top pair defenceman Adam Larsson.
Milan Lucic: Seven years, $42 million for a guy that is on pace for 36 points and that consistently gives the puck away.
Benoit Pouliot: Paying a player $1.3 million to play for another team.
Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome: A scoring winger who scored 51 points in a bad year for a player whose career high is 50 points. Cap dump on a team with $8 million in space.
2017-18 Cap Space: The team carried $8 million in cap space and did not load up for a run at the Stanley Cup in the last year of Connor McDavid’s ELC.
Maroon for 3rd and JD Dudek: The goal was to get a prospect that was NHL ready, and instead the return was a 3rd and a weak NCAA prospect.
On the surface, it’s easy to see where angry Oilers fans are coming from. However, after analyzing the moves further, these decisions aren’t as bad as they appear.
Griffin Reinhart for 1st (Mathew Barzal) and 2nd (Anthony Beauvilier): Alright, this one was bad. I’ll concede that. This was a clear misread on what Reinhart’s talent level was. Barzal looks like he would be a great fit on this Oilers roster.
Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson: I’ll refer you to my previous piece on the Taylor Hall trade. To summarize, even though Hall is clearly a better player than Larsson, the NHL marketplace dictated that the value of a right-handed top pairing defenceman is more than that of a top left winger. The Oilers have scored more goals without Hall than they ever did with him, even in the year where both Hall and McDavid were both on the team. You wanted Weber or Subban for Hall, but that was a ridiculous expectation. The only asset valuable enough to land Weber was Subban himself! This was one of many situations where Oilers fans have expected gold in exchange for bronze. This was a good trade that was necessary, so move on Oilers fans.
Milan Lucic: Once again, I’ll direct you to a previous piece on Lucic. He has been awful this season, and $6 million is too much for what the team is getting. We might be stuck with him until he’s at least 32, but that will be the end of his “prime” years and we will be able to move on from him at that point. Any free agent signing is a risk, and the risk hasn’t panned out for Chiarelli so far. It’s a bad contract right now, but it’s hardly worth being fired over.
Benoit Pouliot: He has 19 points in 67 games this year. He was bought out because he was inconsistent and he took a lot of bad penalties, and it’s not like he’s lighting the world on fire in Buffalo. Paying Pouliot $1.3 million to not play here seems like a better move than paying him the $4 million he was getting to play here.
2017-18 Cap Space: The two ways to load up for this season would’ve been to keep Eberle, or to sign free agents. It was clear that both McLellan and Chiarelli didn’t think Eberle was good enough to contribute to a winning team, so free agency was the only other option. Who should Chiarelli have signed? Radulov (5 yr, $31.25 million)? Williams (2 yr, $9 million)? Vrbata (1 yr, $3.75 million)? Marleau (3 yr, $18.75 million)? Jagr (worked out well for Calgary)? Vanek (1 yr, $2 million)? Sharp (1 yr, $1 million)? Shattenkirk (4 yr, $26.6 million, didn’t want to come here and got hurt)? Radulov is the only name on the list that has more points than Eberle this season. “Loading up” using a weak free agent class last off-season without knowing what the cap would be for next season and before signing McDavid OR Draisiatl to their deals would’ve been horrific cap management. I’ll take the unused $8 million and the opportunity to learn just what we have in our young wingers, thanks.
Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome: One last time, I’ll redirect you to a different piece of mine on Eberle. This was a cap dump that didn’t necessarily have to happen last off-season, but it did because Eberle was clearly not a part of the future in Edmonton, and Strome was available. Oilers fans and media spent last season hating on Eberle for not being physical enough and for being weak defensively, which was magnified because he wasn’t scoring. The team was winning, and fans were still hating! So Chiarelli trades Eberle for Strome. Eberle scores more; but Strome is bigger, more physical, and better defensively. Just to recap… STROME DOES THE THINGS OILERS FANS HATED ON EBERLE FOR NOT DOING, AND YOU’RE STILL MAD AT THIS TRADE!! Where else would the Oilers find a right-handed 3rd line centre that can play wing that can get you 35-40 points in a season that is 24 years old? There certainly aren’t any available via free agency. Strome has value. This is a trade that allows Chiarelli some flexibility to make moves this off-season to make the team better in the future. The other factor in this is how much could the Oilers really expect to have gotten for a player that had a bad season and was ripped apart by fans and the media all year? Another case where Oilers fans over-valued an asset. This was a trade that had bad optics, but will have been a useful trade for the Oilers in a couple of seasons.
Maroon for 3rd and JD Dudek: Here we go again over-valuing assets. Other GMs weren’t willing to sacrifice an NHL ready prospect for a player whose career high in goals was 11 prior to last season’s 27 goals playing alongside McDavid. Chiarelli gave up a 4th and Gernat for Maroon; and he got a great season out of him and a higher draft pick and another prospect in exchange for him. It was a net profit for a player that we were not going to re-sign. Deal with it.
Chiarelli has admittedly made a couple of questionable decisions, but there’s nothing here that suggests to me that he should be fired. Chiarelli was brought here to build a team around McDavid. The dreaded “r” word was never uttered by this management group (perhaps for fear of their lives), but make no mistake about it: this is a rebuild. Chiarelli was also hired so that the team could have consistency in management, which has been lacking while the team has been losing. The team is in better shape now than when he started here 3 years ago, even though this season doesn’t make it feel that way. I’d give him a 5 year window. If the Oilers are still in the lottery pick conversation 2 years from now, then I would move on from Chiarelli. Now is not the right time to fire Chiarelli.