Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli prepared to match any offer sheet on Leon Draisaitl

Jordan Eberle joins the media over conference call to talk about being traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the New York Islanders.

CHICAGO – Offer sheets may not be a tool used by NHL general managers too often these days, but the possibility of one was certainly in the back of Peter Chiarelli’s mind when he dealt away Jordan Eberle and his $6-million salary.

With pending restricted free agent Leon Draisaitl coming off a 77-point season at age 21, the Edmonton Oilers GM didn’t want to leave anything to chance.

The Eberle-for-Ryan Strome deal with the New York Islanders immediately frees up $3.5-million in cap space for next season. It also puts Edmonton almost $24-million under the upper limit, according to capfriendly.com, which leaves it in no danger of losing Draisaitl even if a rival team comes calling on July 1.

"There’s always the chatter and I want to be firm and clear that we have a significant amount of space and will match anything," Chiarelli said Thursday.

Only five players have signed offer sheets in the last decade and in each case the contract was matched. No one has attempted one since Calgary inked Ryan O’Reilly to a $10-million, two-year deal in February 2013 that Colorado ended up assuming.

Draisaitl is in line for a huge raise on his second NHL contract after finishing eighth in league scoring. He and Connor McDavid, who is almost certain to sign an extension this summer as well, look poised to be a dangerous 1-2 punch down the middle for years to come.

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From a cap perspective, Chiarelli is confident that he has enough room to lock them both up while still retaining defenceman Kris Russell – a pending unrestricted free agent that Edmonton would like to keep.

That helped make dealing Eberle away more palatable.

"It’s the whole picture," said Chiarelli. "I want to be in a position that we can one, pay these players, which we are, and two, fend off any suggested predatory offer sheets – which we’re comfortably in that position now.

"If and when we sign Kris, we’ll continue to be in that very comfortable position."

When you have superstars, difficult decisions need to be made almost every summer. Just ask the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Oilers GM downplayed Eberle’s lack of production in the playoffs as a prime motivation for the trade. In Strome he feels he’s getting a good young player and by making the transaction he’s freed himself up to take care of other areas.

"This is about cap management and this is about replacing good players with good players and this is about long-term thinking," said Chiarelli.

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