Oilers, Chiarelli Miss Golden Opportunity

After watching the Edmonton Oilers reach the second round of the NHL Playoffs for the first time in eleven years, one would have thought Peter Chiarelli would be looking to make a move to help his team get over that next hurdle in their development. If the last few days are any indication of what we can expect between now and the start of next season, it appears as though no such move is on the horizon.

From the moment this organization decided to move Taylor Hall and bring in Adam Larsson and Milan Lucic over the course of a couple of days last summer, assessing individual moves on their own merit has become something which is frowned upon in this neck of the woods. With that being the so-called new criteria, one can do nothing but give the Oilers general manager a failing grade for his lack of vision and unwillingness to make the necessary splash to improve his lineup in recent days.

The combination of trading away Jordan Eberle for an inferior player, signing defenceman Kris Russell to an eyebrow-raising extension and watching the Travis Hamonic saga unfold in the manner it did, has left me scratching my head. In a span of roughly 72 hours, we have watched the Oilers take a step back from where they finished last season and the Calgary Flames make a major play to close the gap between the two provincial rivals.

To his credit, Brad Treliving was willing to step up to the plate and pay a substantial price to get his man. First and second round picks in 2018, a conditional second-round pick in 2019 or 2020 for Hamonic and a conditional fourth-round pick in ’19 or ’20 is a lot to give up. With that said, it is the kind of move a GM makes if he believes his team has a real shot at taking a run at the Stanly Cup. In my mind, it is the sort of move Chiarelli should have been pushing to make, instead of the tinkering that was done.

Edmonton Oilers Kris Russell (John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports)

Chiarelli Took the Safe Route

Regardless of where you fall on the return Edmonton secured for Eberle, the selling feature behind the move was to help create cap space for the eventual long-term signings of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. Fair enough. However, with Andrej Sekera out for an extended period of time to start 2017-18, upgrading their backend was a must. That did not happen over the past few days and bringing Russell back on the term they did, will certainly affect said cap down the road.

If the plan all along was to create cap space, would the club not have been better off to move Eberle for a pick or two and zero in on acquiring Hamonic? It’s no secret, the Oilers are thin up front on the prospect side of the equation and giving up picks would have been tough. With that said, we are talking about three draft picks and my guess is acquiring a second and an additional pick for Eberle was likely doable.

Had the organization decided to go down that road, Ryan Strome would not be a member of the Oilers and Chiarelli would have had no need to sign Russell to the deal he did. In my opinion, seeing the club come away from this weekend with Hamonic in their back pocket, and signed for three more years at a bargain basement price, would have made losing Eberle and two picks in next year’s NHL Entry Draft far easier to stomach.


Sekera Absence a Major Concern

Make no mistake, there would still be holes to fill but they would be ones that could easily be addressed via free agency.  Finding a veteran winger interested in signing a one-year deal to come play in Edmonton should be fairly easy, just as Chiarelli did when he signed Russell last fall. The $2.5 million which is currently earmarked for Storme, would have gone a long way towards helping done just that and this lineup would be better off for it.

As things currently sit, the absolute best case scenario would be for the Oilers to be as good as they were last season on the backend…once Sekera returns to the lineup. Though expecting him to hit the ground running upon his return or at any point next season, is an awfully big ask. Adding a player like Hamonic into the mix would have made such a transition far easier to happen, not to mention help fill the void his absence from the lineup will undoubtedly create.

Bringing back Russell and doing nothing else doesn’t address that need. If a subsequent move is still required, would the better bet have not been to pony up in order to get 26-year old Manitoba native? The answer to that question seems rather obvious and yet Chiarelli decided to go in the other direction and there was no reason for it.

Perhaps he simply doesn’t believe the Edmonton Oilers would have been any better off and felt the potential risk that comes with making such a move would not have been worth it. If that is indeed the case, it is rather unfortunate because this kind of opportunity may not come around again anytime soon and with Connor McDavid set to get a massive hike in pay in 2018-19, it would have been the perfect time to step outside the box and go for it.