One way to look into the immediate future is to check on the distant past. When Peter Chiarelli took over the Boston Bruins in 2006, they were a team outside the playoffs with some major roster weaknesses. Their best center was 20 and brillint (C Patrice Bergeron) and their best scoring-winger was 23 and looked like he was going to be a star (Brad Boyes).
CHIARELLI’S FIRST SUMMER (2006)
- Signed UFA D Zdeno Chara and UFA C Marc Savard to long-term deals. “We were really aggressive out of the gate,” interim general
manager Jeff Gorton said on a conference call. “It made it much easier to sign Savard after Chara signed with us. He could see how
serious we were about winning.” Source.
- Traded D Nick Boynton for D Paul Mara (Boynton started his career as a legit two-way D but had faltered, it was still believed he had potential to become a quality NHL defenseman. Mara had been quite successful in establishing himself as an NHL defenseman, both players were about the same age).
- Signed Shean Donovan as a free agent in an effort to bring more speed and energy to the Bruins. Source
There were some other things that summer (Raycroft trade, etc) but I want to concentrate on what might happen in the next few months. Chiarelli did most of his shopping via free agency that year (and he has cap room now) and he did trade a young NHL player for one about the same age, only more established. Does that give us insight into this summer? Maybe. Each scenario has unique qualities and the Oilers may want to send away some of these youngsters in order to hurry the progress overall.
One area I should linger on a moment is the time line for Chiarelli’s involvement in transactions. Quoting the article above:
- Associated Press: Per the agreement between Boston and Ottawa, Chiarelli — who does not officially take over the Bruins until July 15 — wasn’t allowed to advise Boston about any of the Senators free agents.
You are free to believe whatever version of the story suits you, I’m of a mind to believe Chara may have been swayed (LA had apparently offered more money) by Chiarelli’s presence in Boston.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR EDMONTON?
A few things, possibly. We should probably have another look to see if the Oilers problems can be solved with a major free-agent addition or two (we’ve been talking Antti Niemi and Andrej Sekera). And we should also make allowances for the possibility Chiarelli cashes a promising young player who has not yet delivered on all of his potential, with the return being a similar, but more established, talent.
In terms of free agents, the list of available help (Niemi, Sekera, Christian Ehrhoff, Antoine Vermette, Justin Williams, Michael Frolik, Jeff Petry, Sean Bergenheim, Curtis Glencross, Michal Neuvirth, Zbynek Michalek, Carl Soderberg) should be examined again. I’d wager Chiarelli may in fact jump into the pool and attempt to grab a trio of Niemi, Sekera and Soderberg, with a trade for Vladimir Sobotka also possible.
DEALING FOR A MORE ESTABLISHED PLAYER
The Mara deal was an interesting one for both the Bruins and the Coyotes.
- Gorton from the Bruins side: “The trade enabled us to get somebody who is more offensive and more capable on the power play. I think it will blend well with what we already have and we are looking forward to Paul coming here and wanting to be a part of the turnaround.” Source
- Mike Barnett, Coyotes GM: “The addition of a young, hard-nosed, two-way defenceman is a plus for our hockey club.” Source
I’m thinking about two players on the current Oilers roster who are young, have value and have not (as of today) delivered on promise. They are Justin Schultz (RFA with a significant cap hit for next contract) and Nail Yakupov, newly signed to an attractive two-year deal.
WHO WOULD CHIARELLI CHASE?
I think we have a perfect fit scenario this summer, and that comes from cap-troubled teams. Here are some issues:
- Montreal: Cap a big issue, Jeff Petry performing well. Even if he doesn’t come to Edmonton (it’s very unlikely he would) that’s another name on the free-agent fire.
- St. Louis: Tarasenko is going to get paid. Does that mean Bouwmeester would come available?
- Pittsburgh: They have Ehrhoff and Martin as UFA. Would the Pens consider moving Letang?
- Minnesota: Dubnyk is going to get paid. Would they move Jared Spurgeon?
- NY Rangers: Everyone is a free agent (well, St. Louis, plus Stepan and Hagelin will get raises). Would the Rangers move Keith Yandle?
- Los Angeles: Terrible issues here, including Mike Richards and what to do with Slava Voynov. They’re not trading Muzzin or Doughty, but have some nice things.
- Chicago: The twin tower contracts plus Brandon Saad’s pay day make this an extremely difficult summer. Could the Oilers pry Brent Seabrook out of the windy city?
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
There’s no magic pill, no quick fix. However, Peter Chiarelli went about the work of fixing the Boston Bruins in his first summer (despite some restrictions). There’s no Zdeno Chara out there but there are defenders who could help this team and Chiarelli’s success in Boston from the start suggests there are possibilities we hadn’t discussed previous to his hiring.
The Oilers need help on defense. I don’t think we should discount things like Darnell Nurse making the team this fall, or Niki Nikitin being bought out this summer. It’s possible Andrew Ference takes a job in the organization and retires as a player. There’s a chance Justin Schultz is cashed for a better bet, and maybe this team grabs a Jared Spurgeon to replace him.
The Edmonton Oilers badly need defensemen. It’s been that way since the summer the club lost Chris Pronger, Jaroslav Spacek and Dick Tarnstrom in about 10 minutes after the season.
So many more things appear possible this morning.