In case you missed it: late January 22, the Edmonton Oilers relieved Peter Chiarelli from his position as general manager and president of hockey operations during the second intermission of a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings [who at the time held the coveted position as 31st in the league], as reported by Ryan Rishaug of TSN’s Edmonton bureau and Chris Johnston of the NHL Network and Sportsnet.
It’s unlikely Peter Chiarelli ever finds work in the NHL as a general manager again, but his career at this level of professional hockey may not be over. Before we get into that, let’s take a look at the unforgivable mistakes in Chiarelli’s history as a GM that have lead to this moment.
- TRADE: Acquired Griffin Reinhart from the New York Islanders in exchange for one of the Oilers’ 1st round picks (16th overall) and their 2nd round pick (33rd overall) — June 26, 2015
This was Chiarelli’s first trade as the Oilers GM and it was the first of many horrible ones to come. Reinhart only ever played 29 games for the Oilers and has spent the last two seasons in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves. Meanwhile, the New York Islanders acquired 2018 Calder Trophy winner Mat Barzal with the Oilers’ 1st round pick. This trade happened the same day Edmonton picked Connor McDavid 1st overall.
- TRADE: A one-for-one with the Arizona Coyotes wherein the Edmonton Oilers acquired Lauri Korpikoski for Boyd Gordon — June 30, 2015
This early trade isn’t often mentioned anymore, but it was widely criticized at the time. Chiarelli swapped an overpaid 4th liner that only had one year left of his contract (Boyd who was signed until 2015-16 with a $3 million salary) for another overpaid 4th liner that had two years left (Korpikoski who was signed until 2016-17 and made $2.7 million and $3 million for the next two years.)
- TRADE: Justin Schultz is traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2016 3rd round pick (91st overall) — February 27, 2016
Justin Schultz had been struggling in Edmonton but he would go on to help the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup that year, and then have a 51 point season the next year while aiding Pittsburgh in a back-to-back title. (The Oilers selected right handed defenseman Filip Berglund who has not yet played in North America nor been signed to a contract but may still develop into a useful talent for them.)
- TRADE: Sent Taylor Hall in a one-for-one trade to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Adam Larsson — June 29, 2016
Taylor Hall was Edmonton’s 1st overall selection from 2010 and was awarded the 2018 NHL MVP Award. Adam Larsson was the New Jersey Devils’ 4th overall pick from 2011 whose game has been struggling. Larsson is largely regarded as a 2nd (or even 3rd) pairing defenseman, and there is not much offensive upside to his style of play. There may still be hope for improvement, but there is no comparison to the overall game of Taylor Hall.
- CONTRACT: Signed Milan Lucic to a seven-year, $42 million dollar contract — July 1, 2016
Two days after the awful Hall for Larsson trade, Lucic was signed for his grit. However, his rough playing style and poor skating are extremely out of place in today’s NHL. Since then his production has suffered a decline and he has only 15 goals in his last 132 games. The $6 million AAV contract came with significant buyout penalties, and with the inability to buy him out nor move him and his hefty contract, as well as having to care for other large financial obligations, the Oilers have been in cap hell ever since the signing.
- TRADE & SIGNING: Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders in a one-for-one trade for Ryan Strome — June 22, 2017
Chiarelli traded Jordan Eberle to open up cap space. At the time it seemed as though Eberle really needed the change of scenery, but he is a player that has scored at least 20 goals every season, and the consensus was always that there was too little return for him. Currently, Eberle is regarded as a top 30 player in his position and is playing on the top line, whereas Strome did not have much success in Edmonton and spent most of his time in the middle and bottom 6. He later signs Strome to an overpriced two year deal at $3.1 million AAV on July 6, 2018. This trade only gets worse later on (cont. below.)
- TRADE: Another one-for-one trade where Ryan Strome is sent to the New York Rangers for Ryan Spooner — November 16, 2018
This trade happened 3 short months after Strome was signed. Even if you disconnect this from the Jordan Eberle trade, it’s still not good for Edmonton. Ryan Strome was spending most of his time on the 3rd line at the time of the trade whereas Spooner was a 4th liner, and in the age of analytics, it was very clear that Strome was the better player by a decent margin. Strome has started to settle in with the Rangers and grown into a 2nd line role, meanwhile Spooner was placed on waivers by the Oilers on January 21, 2019 after having only 3 points in 25 games.
These trades culminate in top-liner Jordan Eberle being traded for… essentially nothing.
- TRADES: Edmonton acquires Brandon Manning and Robin Norell from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Drake Caggiula and Jason Garrison; earlier that day they also traded Chris Wideman and a 3rd round 2019 draft pick for Alexander Petrovic in a deal with the Florida Panthers — December 30, 2018
In what would end up being his last trades as GM of the Edmonton Oilers, Peter Chiarelli traded for one of the most controversial figures possible. These were not blockbuster trades by any means, but they were lopsided to say the least. The controversy arrives from the fact that Brandon Manning broke Connor McDavid’s collarbone during McDavid’s rookie season, and later bragged that he’d done it intentionally. McDavid most likely would have won the Calder Trophy for Best Rookie that year had he not missed significant time due to the incident.
As for the trade with Florida, Petrovic’s play was largely viewed as a liability for the Florida Panthers so their goal was just to get him off the team. Wideman’s metrics made him the better roster player in the deal but the 3rd round pick is the deciding factor, as Wideman was only played for a few minutes in one game before being sent down to the AHL to make room for another defenseman Florida had waiting in the press box.
In Episode 30 – Crotch Interference (feat. Lex Horwitz), you might remember us discussing that Brandon Manning and Alex Petrovic are both Edmonton natives and bad at hockey–aka Chiarelli’s bread and butter.
- CONTRACT: Signed Mikko Koskinen to a three-year, $13.5 million dollar deal — January 21, 2019
In his final move as GM, Chiarelli signed goaltender Mikko Koskinen to a deal that confused many. Mikko Koskinen is a 30-year old goalie who only had 31 games of NHL experience at the time of his signing. A $4.5 million AAV for that long is considered by many an overpriced and potentially far too lengthy commitment for a goalie of this age and caliber.
- TRADE: (From Chiarelli’s time as GM of the Boston Bruins) Boston traded Tyler Seguin along with Rich Peverly and Ryan Button to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Loi Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, and Joe Marrow — July 4, 2013
Now this technically doesn’t count as a strike against him while he was with the Oilers, but the whole fiasco behind this trade was so ridiculous that it cannot be forgiven nor forgotten. Rather than break down this trade, I’m just going to link to this behind the scenes look of how it went down:
There’s a truly alarming number of smaller scale actions that did not make the list. The culmination of several lopsided trades, overpaid contracts, and poor roster management have truly wounded the Oilers will be felt in Edmonton for years to come, but perhaps the worst thing Chiarelli did is not something that can be as easily quantified.
Peter Chiarelli has wasted prime years of Connor McDavid’s career. He forced the burden of the franchise on the shoulders of a teenager, and piled more and more weight onto him every year. Even as someone that isn’t a fan of McDavid, it’s unquestionable that he is the best player in the world right now, and watching his talent be squandered away on a mediocre team that had every chance to succeed but couldn’t due to terrible management decisions is something that not only impacts the Edmonton Oilers, but will undoubtedly be a stain in hockey history.
That said, Chiarelli was only one part of the puzzle. Edmonton’s failings go beyond just his decisions, boiling down to an incredibly poorly structured management team. Which is a perfect segue into:
TEAMS MOST LIKELY TO HIRE PETER CHIARELLI
- The Edmonton Oilers
- The Edmonton Oilers
- I cannot image for the life of me that anyone else would hire him
Peter Chiarelli may never find a job as a general manager in the National Hockey League again, but it’s entirely likely that he will be given a position in the front office and the Edmonton Oilers are the most likely candidates.
We’ve seen this happen before in other clubs like the Florida Panthers with Tom Rowe, who was GM and head coach for one of Florida’s worst seasons, making headlines with the controversial firing of Gerard Gallant. After Rowe was relieved of his duties as general manager and head coach, he remained in the front office in an advisory position. There are other former general managers who find positions in other hockey clubs, such as Brian Burke did when he took a job as president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames, but history dictates that the Oilers is where Chiarelli will ultimately end up.
Since the early 2000s, almost every GM that has ever worked for the Edmonton Oilers is still a part of the front office. The exception being Steve Tambellini who is currently a scout for the Anaheim Ducks. Kevin Lowes who served as GM from June 9, 2000 to July 31, 2008 is the vice-chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group. Craig MacTavish, Chiarelli’s predecessor, who held the position from April 15, 2013 to April 24, 2015 now serves as the Vice President of Hockey Operations, where he weighed in on all of Chiarelli’s trades and poor decisions.
Currently, Keith Gretzky is serving as the interim general manager for the Edmonton Oilers with Bob Nicholson stepping in as head of hockey ops for the time being. In a statement to the press, Nicholson stated “My main task will be looking for a general manager. We are not in a rush but as soon as we find a general manager we feel is right for the culture of the Oilers, we’ll name that person.”
This statement put me on edge, because as we’ve seen, the culture of the Oilers is greatly flawed.
There is something fundamentally wrong with this management group, and while I truly hope the rest of the front office is retooled, I don’t see anything that makes me feel like drastic change is coming after the firing of Peter Chiarelli.
Header taken from TheOilersRig