It’s so easy to forget about the sequence of events as time marches on. On the day Peter Chiarelli took over, he had a herculean task in front of him. My first “Chiarelli’s list” went like this:
- Draft McDavid (and sign him)
- Find a quality goalie option (this is the Talbot/Lehner item)
- Acquire a legit top pairing blue (as always, clear as mud days before bullets fly)
- Sign a more offensive two-way F (I’m hoping for Soderberg)
- Ignore MacT re: Marincin (Or trade Marincin for someone goooooood)
He did draft and sign McDavid, traded for a goalie, and signed his first Oilers free agent in order to cover off item No. 3. Here are Peter Chiarelli’s free agents as Oilers general manager:
PETER CHIARELL FREE AGENTS 2015-16
- July 1, 2015: Signed D Andrej Sekera. Six years, $33 million, $5.5 million AAV. The Sekera signing suggested (to me) the Oilers were now shopping down a better aisle in free agency. He was absolutely one of the best available defensemen that summer and has shown himself to be a worthy part of the key veteran cluster in his two years in Edmonton.
- July 1, 2015: Signed RC Mark Letestu. Three years, $5.4 million, $1.8 million AAV. Letestu called it better than anyone on the day he signed. He was a guest on TSN1260’s free agent show and told me he would play in all situations and felt he could help on the power play. He didn’t get a lot of opportunity in year one, but scored 11 with the man advantage this past season.
- October 6, 2015: Signed L Braden Christoffer. Three-year entry-level deal, CHL free agent. Rode a hot training camp to an NHL entry-level contract but he hasn’t been able to find the range as a pro player.
- March 13, 2016: Signed W Jere Sallinen. One year, $792,500 (same AAV). The Oilers have been signing outlier European players for about one decade now and the success rate is very poor. Sallinen couldn’t get much done in the AHL, never got close to Edmonton.
- April 7, 2016: Signed G Nick Ellis. Two year entry level, college free agent. Chiarelli was very aggressive in procuring goalies, and Ellis looks like he might have some NHL potential. His first pro season puts him on a trajectory similar to Laurent Brossoit.
- May 6, 2016: Signed F Drake Caggiula. Two-year entry level, college free agent. Caggiula had to deal with injury and playing out of position (I don’t think he’s a center) but by the playoffs he was using that speed to make plays in all disciplines. He may get a long look on a skill line this fall.
- May 9, 2016: Signed R Patrick Russell. Two-year entry level, college free agent. The least successful of the college signings of 2016, he shot the puck a lot but couldn’t score for the Condors. An improved shooting percentage seems likely this year.
I think the two major free agents from year one have proven to have impacted things in a positive way. The AAV for Sekera is dear but in full free agency, you pay in full. For me this was a successful year in free agency. Caggiula was playing a significant role by the end of the season and could be a long-term solution in the top 9F. Ellis is an interesting prospect.
PETER CHIARELL FREE AGENTS 2016-17
- July 1, 2016: Signed L Milan Lucic. Seven years, $42 million ($6 million AAV). Chiarelli’s biggest free-agent signing to date, probably the biggest we’ll see during his time as Oilers general manager. Lucic is a unique player, he posted a season with expected boxcars but did not score well at 5×5 (normally an area of strength). He’ll be under a microscope this winter.
- July 1, 2016: Signed G Jonas Gustavsson. One year, $800,000 (same AAV). A strange signing from the beginning but a harbinger of the ‘small bet’ activity we saw July 1, 2017. Gustavsson is the least successful free agent of the Chiarelli era.
- July 1, 2016: Signed D Mark Fraser. One year, $575,000 (same AAV). Another depth signing, the rugged defender didn’t see the NHL during the 2016-17 season.
- August 27, 2016: Signed RD Matt Benning. Two-year entry level, college free agent. This may end up being the best free-agent signing of the Chiarelli era. Former Bruins draft pick when PC was in Boston, Benning was not only a perfect fit but he delivered a stunning rookie season.
- Oct 7, 2016 Kris Russell: One year, $3.1 million deal. A training camp invite, who signed a value deal. He was part of the solidification of the defense and in particular, part of Chiarelli’s massive overhaul of right defense. His coverage is the subject of some controversy, but Puck IQ shows him as a good defender.
- April 10, 2017: Signed G Shane Starrett. Two-year entry level, college free agent. Nick Ellis version 2.0? We’ll have to wait and see but the college goalie signing idea has a lot of merit. Starrett’s college numbers were excellent and he could be another plug-and-play for the Condors.
The Lucic signing doesn’t look brilliant after one year (I was in favor of the signing and remain hopeful ML has a strong season, but the first one wasn’t close to good enough). Matt Benning signing was a stroke of genius, need to get him signed to that second deal before the cost is too dear.
PETER CHIARELL FREE AGENTS 2017-18
- March 28, 2017: Signed LC Joe Gambardella, two-year entry-level deal, college free agent. I expect his offensive potential will limit his pro career, but I am intrigued by his forechecking ability and look forward to seeing if he can score enough to make the NHL.
- March 1, 2017: Signed RD Ryan Mantha. Three-year entry-level deal, CHL free agent. PC hasn’t had a lot of success so far with CHL free agents (Christoffer) but this is an area worth pursuing. Mantha has a somewhat unique skill set (Bear will be his competition) for the Oilers pro depth chart.
- July 1, 2017: Signed R Ty Rattie. One year, $700,000 (same AAV). This is a sneaky good signing and I wonder if we look back on the addition as being more important than it appeared on first blush. He has a $225,000 minor league salary but $275,000 is guaranteed according to CapFriendly. (All numbers via CapFriendly).
- July 1, 2017: Signed LD Ryan Stanton. Two years, $1.4 million ($700,000 AAV). The minor league portion is $300,000 and that suggests to me we are going to see Stanton as a recall over the next two years. The high minor-league salary should be enough to keep teams from claiming Stanton when he is moving between Bakersfield and Edmonton.
- July 1, 2017: Signed R Mitch Callahan. Two years, $1.4 million ($700,000 AAV). I think Callahan has a chance to play with the Oilers this coming season. His minor league salary (average) is $250,000 which is a little higher than Rattie’s. Fascinating set of contracts.
- July 1, 2017: Signed R Brian Ferlin. One year, $700,000 (same AAV). Chiarelli drafted him for the Bruins, Ferlin has shown promise but is coming off some significant injury issues.
- July 1, 2017: Signed G Edward Pasquale. One year, $700,000 (same AAV). AHL backup is my guess, he’s there in case Nick Ellis falters or is needed at the NHL level.
- July 1, 2017: Signed LD Keegan Lowe. One year, $650,000 (same AAV). Lowe has had a good pro career so far, don’t know where he lands on the depth chart but it could be slightly above or below Dillon Simpson.
- July 1, 2017: Signed LC Grayson Downing. One year, $650,000 (same AAV). There is $215,000 guaranteed at the minor league level, his AHL salary is listed as $175,000. I don’t know enough about this player to properly project him, but expect he’ll be in the minors for the entire year.
- July 3, 2017: Signed LC Brad Malone. Two years, $1.3 million ($650,000 AAV). Malone has landed in a very good spot, one occupied by Anton Lander one year ago. I think he may end up making the team out of training camp based on current PK options.
- July 7, 2017: Signed L Jussi Jokinen. One year, $1.1 million (same AAV). I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest there’s a chance this ends up being Chiarelli’s best NHL free-agent signing. This has a change to be a ridiculous value deal.
- July 10, 2017: Signed LD Yohann Auvitu. One year, $700,000 (same AAV). This is a one-way deal, so Auvitu gets the full salary no matter where he plays. I like his chances based on current roster makeup and wonder if the club makes room for him in 2018-19 if this season goes well.
A terribly unusual free-agent year so far, the Jokinen and Auvitu signings are astute and may have extreme value. I like the Rattie and Callahan signings, we’ll have to wait and see on the others.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
It’s tempting to say Peter Chiarelli’s free agents are identical to his trades: The big moves cost too much for what they bring and the smaller deals end up being the value moves. That’s not strictly speaking true, as Andrej Sekera has delivered value and we’re just one (disappointing) season into the Milan Lucic deal. Maybe the most interesting item is there are only two deals over $2 million dollars through three summers of activity.
I rank the best deal so far as being Matt Benning, with Jussi Jokinen, Sekera, Auvitu and Caggiula also showing well. The value UFA signings of summer 2017 may be the template for coming seasons, when money’s too tight to mention because of the big money contracts at the top of the depth chart.
OPENING NIGHT 2005-06
- L1: Smyth—Horcoff—Dvorak
- L2: Torres—Peca—Hemsky
- L3: Moreau—Stoll—Pisani
- L4: Harvey—Reasoner—Laraque
- D1: Pronger—Staios
- D2: Ulanov—Smith
- D3: Cross—Bergeron
- G1: Ty Conklin (Jussi Markkanen)
This is the last roster that came close to balance, the goaltending was not quality but the rest of this roster was beyond splendid. I could stare at this roster all day. ALL day.
POSSIBLE OPENING NIGHT 2017-18
- Talbot (Brossoit)
I have Nuge on RW and split up the Swedish pairing. Thoughts? This is probably my least favorite possible lineup, so book it for opening night!
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260. Things get a little loose in the summer, that’s when the fun begins! Scheduled to appear:
- Darcy McLeod, Because Oilers. Nuge at RW? Cap for Leon and ideal pairings with Andrej Sekera on IR.
- Jesse Spector, FanRag Sports and The Score. MLB Trade deadline.
- Don Landry, CFL.ca. CFL Week Six on the way.
- Guy Flaming, Pipeline Show. Oil Kings changing out goaltenders.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!