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The Most Dangerous Game

May 17, 2018, 10:57 PM ET [297 Comments]
Matt Henderson
Edmonton Oilers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
There has been a lot of speculation about these Oilers and what General Disappointment Peter Chiarelli is trying to do. It goes without saying that Chiarelli’s job is on the line this year and yet he’s mismanaged the cap and assets so badly that he lacks non-roster trade chips and Cap Space. He’s under the gun in a way he hasn’t ever been as the Oiler GM, which is scary because he’s already doing a poor job and the added stress probably wont help.

So when Ryan Rishaug comes onto TSN 1260 to say he believes the Oilers are “Big Game Hunting” on the defense and the conversation gets drawn towards some kind of swap with Buffalo for Rasmus Ristolainen, the clenching begins. Without going into his entire career as a General Manager for the 100th time, Chiarelli has lost every major trade he’s ever made. It’s almost admirable how terrible he is at his job and has been forever. Wheeler, Seguin, Hall, Eberle, Barzal pick, it’s just a laundry list of pathetic talent evaluation.

The only Oiler reference we have for Chiarelli “Big Game Hunting” is the Hall trade, which will go down as the worst 1-for-1 trade in Oiler history. He traded his leading scorer, a former 1st overall pick, and would-be MVP candidate for a 2nd pairing stay-at-home defender. Even if you like Adam Larsson, who is a slightly more talented Mark Fayne, it’s pretty scary that a man employed at the highest levels of hockey could ever think the trade would help his team.

Now, before this blog spirals into a rage-filled tirade I’ll just switch to dealing with the reality of Edmonton’s situation. The team doesn’t have a lot of money to work with this year. If we assume that Montoya will be buried in the minors at a bare minimum, then the Oilers have 15 roster spots filled and just roughly $11M to fill 8 positions. Nurse is an RFA. So is Matt Benning. Ryan Strome has to be offered at least $3M a season in order for the Oilers to retain his rights. And lord only knows what this team is willing to pay Drake Caggiula.

The idea of the team going after a high profile right shot defender (who obviously won’t be cheap) is hard to imagine because there’s just no money to pay this player. You’ll recall that the Oilers already spent their money last summer when they gave McDavid the largest contract in NHL history at $12.5M (deserved), Draisaitl at $8.5M per year ($2M more than any other comparable player), and $4M per year to 3rd pairing/replacement level defender Kris Russell (Don’t do drugs, kids). The year before that Chia had committed $6M per year to Lucic and $5.5M to Sekera.

The trio of Lucic, Russell, and Sekera all have No Movement Clauses which means they have full control of whether they are leaving the Oilers. In other words, $15.5M dollars (or 21% of the Cap) is devoted to a group of players who are 30 or older and spent the majority of the last season either injured or on the 3rd line/pair and the Oilers are stuck with them until they tire of the city or their contract restrictions change.

It’s not a great financial situation for the Oilers. It’s why the Oil have gone out and tried to get creative taking gambles on a Russian backup and a Swedish 7th defenseman in Joel Persson. This club is desperate for homeruns from deep in the batting order.

That said, Rasmus Ristolainen for Klefbom plus (as has been discussed around the twitterverse) is exactly the kind of insane deal that makes Edmonton worse which Chiarelli has specialized in. It checks all the boxes. Ristolainen is not a favorite of the fancy stats crowd, he’s more expensive, he has success on the PP but not 5v5, Klefbom had a poor year by PDO, we know he was playing through an injury to his shoulder all year, he’s Edmonton’s top defender, the pick will probably yield someone good at 10th overall. This has all the makings of a Chiarelli deal.

It doesn’t matter that a sane person would think it’s an extreme overpay for someone who has been described as quite poor in his own zone and gets his points by playing huge minutes on the PP. Chiarelli has shown that he will destroy the cap and decimate his own roster to get a player he likes. There is no price that is too high to pay.

So it’s absolutely true that the Oilers do not have the money to go Big Game Hunting and yet we should all still be concerned about what this management team is capable of doing when faced with a choice that will make the team worse.

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