Elliotte Friedman has an engrossing story on the “23 Minutes That Shook The Hockey World” from Sportsnet Magazine, pulling back the curtain on the Taylor Hall and P.K. Subban trades, as well as Steven Stamkos re-signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That sound you just heard was Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli desperately trying to yank the curtain back over him…
Chiarelli is featured in the sections on the Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson trade and the P.K. Subban for Shea Weber trade, having pulled the trigger on the former and kicked Subban’s tires on the latter. If you’re someone that believes Chiarelli is the right surgeon to mend the Oilers, it’ll give you pause; if you’re someone that believes Chiarelli is an overhyped empty suit, Merry Christmas.
In both trade journeys, Connor McDavid was a huge factor.
In the Larsson trade, it certainly appears that Taylor Hall was in play for Adam Larsson, but not necessarily anyone else. The Oilers’ targets were limited: We’ve known for months that they didn’t want to deal for someone like Kevin Shattenkirk or Tyson Barrie out of fear they would bolt when unrestricted free agency hit in the next year. Which speaks to a complete lack of confidence in their team’s attractiveness, from building a winner to getting a chance to play in their pretty new building.
Amazing how the CONNOR MCDAVID EFFECT can get your Milan Lucic but can’t help you retain Tyson Barrie.
The biggest issue many had with the Larsson trade was that it was one-for-one, and by that we mean no one in their right mind could understand how Peter Chiarelli traded an all-star, top-three-in-his-position player for Adam Larsson without the pot being sweetened.
“Peter asked for more, of course, but the way the cap works, we had to stand strong,” Shero said, since New Jersey added $1.8M of a hit with Hall’s larger number.
“He did his homework, he knew what was out there. It’s hard to find a young defenceman with term and a $4M cap hit. People want to decide winners and losers right away, but you have to build a team. That’s what we are all trying to do.”
Shero’s saying that Chiarelli had to make a completely lopsided trade because he had no other options to land a defenseman like Larsson, with “like Larsson” meaning “at that age, salary and contract term.”
But hockey trades aren’t like casting a movie. What the Oilers did in the Hall trade was acquire someone who “fit the suit,” to use an line from “The Brady Bunch” when an untalented Greg Brady became Johnny Bravo. This isn’t to say that Larsson isn’t a solid player, because he is, and there’s upside there. But this was a trade make not from the wish list but from the depth chart.
He fit the suit. And since the Oilers had nowhere else to turn, and were offering TAYLOR HALL in this trade, Shero smelled desperation and capitalized on it by refusing to budge.
It was also a trade made out of another kind of desperation, because Hall apparently was too loud a voice in the locker room.
In Hall’s case, a couple of Oilers believe the organization wanted to make it easier for McDavid’s influence to grow in the room. “Taylor’s a dominant personality,” one said. “That’s not a criticism. That’s who he is.”
First off, some of the NHL’s most successful teams are a melting pot of big personalities. Didn’t they pair Hall and McDavid because of that personality?
Second, while lamenting the idea that dominant personalities might hinder McDavid’s development as a player … didn’t they just sign Milan Lucic?
Of course, this is probably just all code for “Taylor Hall was a locker room cancer,” although who knows how much winning could have changed that outlook.
Trading a top-flight player because you don’t like his personality … what idiot does that?
Speaking of which: Moving on to the Subban trade.
The Subban situation with the Oilers is just as frustrating, with regard to McDavid.
I’m not sure Colorado ever got past Subban’s contract. Same with Edmonton. Chiarelli wouldn’t comment, but multiple sources said conversations between the Canadiens and Oilers did not last very long at all. The Oilers did not like the ask, and they know McDavid could become the highest-paid player in the NHL. They were not interested in pairing whatever that number will be with Subban’s $9M. An Edmonton-Montreal deal was never close.
Now, the Oilers certainly have a blessing of riches when it comes to talent. Leon Draisaitl goes RFA next summer. McDavid, the summer after that. Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are locked in at $6 million annually, with Eberle up in 2020.
They all cost plenty, and none will cost more than McDavid. Except, how much will he actually cost? It’s his second contract. That’s a lot of RFA years the contact will cover, even if you go eight years with him.
And to further the point: If this is McDavid’s team, and after the Hall trade there’s no disputing it: Wouldn’t he take a little less in the second contract if it meant P.K. Subban was patrolling the blue line behind him and sending him Hail Mary passes down the ice? Isn’t that what star players do? Isn’t that what Sid did?
Look, the Oilers might not have had the assets Montreal wanted for a Subban trade anyway. It’s the philosophy on display here that’s bothersome.
On the one hand, Chiarelli knew the Oilers needed to do “major surgery” to get better, to the point where he was willing to trade Taylor Hall in a lopsided deal to fill a need on defense. But compare that to the addition of P.K. Subban, and it’s like comparing an eye-lift to a heart transplant. It’s the difference between “solid footing” and a giant leap forward. And if the concern was an economic one for McDavid and Subban being on the same payroll, the NHL is littered with Stanley Cup contenders that have the same “problem.”
Look, the sheer presence of a healthy Connor McDavid means the Oilers are going to turn things around. But when we finally see how high this group can climb, it’ll be time to think back to those 23 minutes in June and assess whether Chiarelli’s decisions hastened or hindered that climb.
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