Chiarelli weighing trading draft pick, letting Oilers ‘evolve naturally’

Oilers' General Manager Peter Chiarelli spoke with the media about what his plans are ahead of the draft this weekend and if he would consider moving the 10th overall pick.

The Edmonton Oilers were just screwed up enough two summers ago that you could find a way to see why they would trade Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. Today, as Hall becomes a Hart Trophy winner, we look back and think, only an organization as crippled with ineptitude could knead the dough that would produce such a loaf.

We even got Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome. It was a straight contract dump, with production numbers that, give or take, mirror the difference in what they are paid.

Griffin Reinhart? Okay, nobody gets the Griffin Reinhart deal.

But anyhow, today Peter Chiarelli’s Edmonton résumé is best described with this chestnut: “There isn’t room on the scorecard for a story.”

It makes you wonder if he ever gets gun shy to make a trade. So we asked him exactly that.

“You have to see things clearly, separate things. And by all means, the golf match isn’t over yet,” Chiarelli said over the phone from Dallas on Thursday. “I’ve learned from what we’ve done before, and that’s not saying one thing or another about past trades. But I understand how they look now, or at least how some of them look now. But there are reasons for doing things, and you have to operate on a clean slate. You have to be professional.”

So do we. And we would be remiss to mention the Cam Talbot acquisition, the Patrick Maroon and Zack Kassian pick-ups, and the Oscar Klefbom contract, which is excellent.

But let’s face it: With his team coming off a nosedive last season, nobody’s talking about Chiarelli’s victories.

When it comes to making the playoffs, this isn’t a Tragically Hip song. In Edmonton, everybody cares about something you didn’t do.

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“Every day is filled with pressure. Every day your job is being evaluated — the same can be said for coaches and players. The same applies to me,” Chiarelli said. “There’s pressure to win; there’s pressure to build it properly.

“I obviously know what people are saying and writing. You know, (in 2016-17) we were geniuses. The year before, maybe not. The year before that, maybe not. The year before that? We were…

“It’s a long journey.”

Well, he’s got that half right.

It is a long journey indeed for Oilers fans, whose team has missed the playoffs 11 of the past dozen seasons. But it won’t be so long for Chiarelli if he doesn’t win some trades and put his club in the playoffs — pronto.

The irony, of course, is that the key to fixing Edmonton this season might be staying out of this roster’s way. This is a 103-point team two seasons ago that watched three quarters of its roster have brutal campaigns last year. It will get better as players simply revert to the mean, so Chiarelli has to figure out how to help that process, yet also let players repair themselves.

“I know it may not be the answer that people like to hear, that we would let this thing evolve naturally. But it is certainly one of the variables that I am looking at going forward, and it is certainly one of the variables in the past that has proven out successfully,” he said. “Oftentimes, when there are a number of performances below a level where they should be, oftentimes they come back. To ‘right themselves’ is not the right verbiage — there has to be some tweaking — but they end up correcting. Because the level of player should dictate where the level if play should be.”

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In a conversation with reporters in Dallas, the GM said he would trade his 10-overall pick if the right offence-minded defenceman could be acquired. But that D-man — preferably right-handed shooting, but not a necessity — could also fall to him in the draft with no acquisition cost, and on an entry level contract.

So Chiarelli will either deal the pick Friday for a live body, perhaps sit on a trade until he sees which players are available at No. 10, or possibly even move up to seven or eight to draft the guy he wants.

In the mean time, his answer to the question, “Has Milan Lucic asked for a trade?” was interesting. Chiarelli said he wouldn’t comment.

Of course, you can surmise that if the story were false, he’d be quick to say that Lucic loves it in Edmonton and does not want to leave. He did not say that.

Given a do-over on our phone call, Chiarelli said. “I’m not commenting on speculation. That stuff is internal, and I’m not going to comment on it. You can do the plausible deniability or whatever you want. I won’t comment on it.”

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