In Part II of our of Grading Chiarelli series, we’re taking a look at some of the smaller signings for the organization and the biggest signing in franchise history. For those who felt I was harsh in my grades in Part I, — and I was a little based on the uncertainty of where those moves left the club at certain positions and in respect to team needs — you’ll be happy to see that Chiarelli is getting credit for some very wise decisions in this go-round.
July 2, 2017 – Brad Malone Signs Two-Year Contract
No, this isn’t the big signing, but it was a signing meant to help improve the depth of the organization and replenish some of the talent pool in the American Hockey League (AHL) system. It also proved that the Oilers were committed to a player like Jesse Puljujarvi.
This was one of the first opportunities to sign a forward free agent that people were familiar with. Chiarelli chose not to. Instead, he wanted someone who could play the PK and win the odd faceoff, move up and down from the AHL to the NHL without worry and play a lot in the AHL when he’s down there.
This was not a flashy signing and while many will argue that someone more notable should have been signed, this move served a couple purposes. It showed the AHL was important and so is Puljujarvi.
July 4, 2017 – Connor McDavid Signs Eight-Year Extension
While the 20-year-old league MVP and captain of the Edmonton Oilers signed the highest annual salaried contract in the NHL, giving this anything less than an A or an A+ grade would be sacrilegious to Oilers fans. He’s arguably the best player in the NHL and any of the other 30 NHL teams would have paid him more if given the opportunity.
The Oilers now have their captain locked in with the team for nine seasons. McDavid’s willingness, not only to extend early but do so for less than he could have gotten out of the Oilers, proved that he both understands the marketplace and wants to build a winner in the city of Edmonton.
Forget that it cost $100 million to make this happen. This was a deal the Oilers couldn’t afford to have appeared sluggish on. When it leaked that he could get as high as $13 million-plus over less time, it was a relief to hear the team and the player came together with McDavid insisting the per year value be lowered.
This was priority number one for Chiarelli over the summer and it was probably the easiest part of his job. Everyone understood that you simply gave McDavid whatever he asked for. A monkey could have managed that. That’s the only reason I considered just an A grade, but the fact that McDavid is here long term has A+ written all over it.
July 6, 2017 – Jussi Jokinen Signs One-Year Deal
If Oilers fans were looking for the team to sign someone people knew about, the Jussi Jokinen signing granted them their wish. A versatile forward who was bought out by the Florida Panthers, Jokinen was only a couple seasons removed from 60 points and inexpensive (only a $1.1 million). He signed a one-year contract to give the Oilers more functional skill up front and he’s going to be asked to mentor a guy like Puljujarvi as he tries to improve his play in the NHL.
Jokinen is older and slower than he once was, but his brain likely still operates at the same speed and that’s good for the Oilers who will use his hockey sense and experience along the way.
This is a former 30-goal guy. He won’t be there again this season but to suggest he could score 40 -45 points is not at all unreasonable. For just over $1 million, that’s a smart bet.
July 9, 2017 – Oilers Sign Yohann Auvitu For One Year
Another decent bet, Auvitu didn’t play much in New Jersey last season but when he did, he scored four points in 25 games, shot the puck a lot and was a mover on offense trying to produce on the rush. Edmonton wanted a player like this and with Andrej Sekera out of action for some time, the team needed a depth replacement that could play in the NHL.
He has a knack of shooting from anywhere and that can often mess with a goaltender. For this reason, the Oilers will probably deploy him in the offensive zone and on the power play, but he might not get a lot of time outside of that. He’s a depth guy if and when he’s in the lineup.
He could be a surprise for the Oilers but the grade is a B- because it’s not a proven bet and there were some other defencemen available.
August 9, 2017 – Oilers Sign Kailer Yamamoto to Three-Year Deal
There was some question about drafting such a small guy in Kailer Yamamoto, but the kid has skill. So far in the preseason, fans are realizing he’s also greasy and that’s great for an Edmonton Oilers team who wanted to get a little greasier.
There is actually a chance Yamamoto makes this team and no one would have suggested that at the draft table. Right now, all that is known is that he’s survived cuts and will play at least one of the final two preseason games, giving him an opportunity, which is all he can ask for.
The three-year entry-level deal was not the thing that gets the Oilers such a good grade, it’s the fact they even drafted him at all. Many teams likely overlooked him because of his size. The Oilers could have too and they didn’t. He’s showing just how good a choice Edmonton made and proving that with the team no longer drafting in the top five every year, they still have the wherewithal to find talent in the later parts of the first round.
Up Next: Part III
Part III will give grades to moves like the Leon Draisaitl extension, Chris Kelly invitation to camp, the decision not to sign any free agents and the cuts being made heading into the season.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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