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The Albertan Magician

How Peter Chiarelli made an asset… DISAPPEAR

On January 21st 2019, Peter Chiarelli, the former General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers completed his greatest trick to date: he made one of his most valuable assets disappear. This wasn’t Taylor Hall (albeit he undoubtedly lost that trade with Hall’s MVP win this past June) because the return he got, defenceman Adam Larsson, is not only still with the team, but continues to be one of their top defencemen (though this is no ringing endorsement).

This is about Jordan Eberle. The man who captured all Canadian hearts with his tying goal in the dying seconds of a semi-final game against Russia at the 2009 World Juniors. The man who after this, was likely the most searched member of his draft year (which included Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson and future-leaf Alex Pietrangelo). THE MAN who scored one of the nicest first career goals in recent memory.

With the waiving on recent acquisition Ryan Spooner, there is no iota remaining of Eberle’s time with the Oilers.

Although magicians never reveal the secrets to their tricks, let's look at the steps Chiarelli took to complete this one.

Eberle Extended out of ELC

On the 20th of August 2012, Steve Tambellini (not even the most recently fired Oilers GM- yikes), signed Eberle to a 6-year extension out of his Entry Level Contract to a cap hit of 6 million per year. While this was not Chiarelli’s overt move, I am suggesting that he advised Tambellini to do this DESPITE Chiarelli running the Bruins at this time. No not actually. This simply helps set the scene for an Oilers cap crunch that would soon be Chiarelli’s excuse to start his incredible magic trick.

No More(dan) Jordan

On the 22nd of June 2017, Chiarelli shocked the hockey world with a lopsided trade – one that did not fare well for his club. Jordan Eberle was traded to the New York Islanders for Ryan Strome. Despite being picked fifth overall in the 2011 NHL entry draft, he never truly panned out on the Island. In September of 2016, Strome was handed a 2-year extension at 2.5 million per year, making him significantly cheaper than Eberle.

This was the excuse that Oilers’ management made for the one for one trade that had hockey twitter convinced that there had to be more heading the Oilers’ way. But there wasn’t.

Never a prolific scorer in the NHL, Strome was a possession machine on Long Island, consistently posting very high Corsi For %s in each of his first four seasons. Furthermore, his first season in Edmonton was a relative success, as he posted another high possession season and maintained his point totals (often in the 30s). It was his second season with the Oilers that was his undoing.

At this point, patience would have been a virtue for Oilers management, and Chiarelli in particular. Over the next two seasons, in which he would only play 65 of 164 games, he would post 8 goals and 7 assists for 15 points. While overcoming an injury, it is reasonable for a young player to struggle early in his career against a setback of this kind. Generally, this is where organizations preach time as the key, and give a young player a chance to climb back to their standards before giving up on them (See: William Nylander).

While this would have been important to know at the time, it seems as though Oilers management were unaware of this fact. Strome was gone the year after.

Ryan S. for Ryan S.

On November 16th, 2018, the Oilers sent Ryan Strome off to New York – this time to the Rangers – for a different Ryan, this time Spooner. Talk about a shake up, didn’t even change initials. Boom, roasted.

Nevertheless, this seemed like quite a meaningless trade. For the Oilers, the acquired Spooner carried a cap-hit of 4$ million, but with the Rangers retaining 900’000$, the cap-hit is a wash. This trade was purely to shake things up.

The Oilers were 9-8-1 at the time of the trade, and were looking for scoring depth to compliment McDavid’s do-it-all attitude (by necessity). In Spooner, they had a young player (age 26) who had a slew of nice seasons across his time with the Bruins, posting 49, 39 and 41 points in his three years prior to arriving in Edmonton, including 16 in his first 20 games with the rangers to close out last year.

But when the new season rolled around he matched the same production as Strome: no high praise. But like the Oilers, Rangers management seemed trigger-happy and void of patience, and sold low on a player that had proven their offensive abilities throughout his young career. Nevertheless, the trade seemed to be a wash. But there was an important caveat that the public would soon find out… the coach had an expiration date that was coming up QUICK.

Oilers’ Coach Todd McLellan was fired 5 days later. Chiarelli replaced him with Ken Hitchcock immediately.

This was by no means an ideal opportunity for Spooner. Switching teams is difficult enough, but then having to adapt to a new coaching system on top of that? Fat chance. Needless to say, Spooner did not fit into Hitchcock’s schemes. Former GM Chiarelli made quick work of finalizing his long-winded disappearing act.

Waive Good Bye

On the 21st of January 2019, the trick was completed when Spooner was placed on waivers by Chiarelli. Posting just 2 goals and 1 assist in 29 games with the Oilers, he was simply a deck chair on the Titanic.

By waiving Spooner, Eberle was gone. Totally vanished. Any potential value that was acquired from trading Eberle was non-existent.

And like a great magician, that was it. OR WAS IT?

Shortly after completing his biggest trick (I promise it was the worst of his moves), Chiarelli added one, final layer. He, himself, disappeared.

Peter Chiarelli was fired by the Edmonton Oilers two days after waiving Ryan Spooner. And in that, it seems as though any vestige of the Eberle trade was gone. And another dramatic saga in Edmonton came to a close.

Stay tuned for scenes from their next episode. Because you can be sure this will not be the last time the Oilers make the news.

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