Oilers’ latest moves show a team and GM fighting for survival

Peter Chiarelli addresses the potential issues acquiring Brandon Manning may have had on Connor McDavid considering their history of bad blood. The Oilers' GM reveals his conversations with McDavid and Manning before making the trade.

The Edmonton Oilers added a third defensive pairing, moved out the popular Drake Caggiula, and took on the guy Oilers fans blame for breaking Connor McDavid’s collarbone in his rookie season. Not bad, for a Sunday.

That’s a lot to digest. Even more when you throw in a third-round draft pick, plus Jason Garrison, Chris Wideman and one Robin Norell, a J.D. Dudek wannabe who we suspect may never arrive from Sweden.

So, let’s break this down, and see if we can make some sense of a pair of Sunday transactions that had Oilers fans wearing out their Twitter apps.

Deal No. 1: Edmonton dealt a third-round pick and defenceman Chris Wideman to Florida for Alex Petrovic. The Oilers have two third-round picks in 2019 — theirs and the Islanders (for Brandon Davidson). The Panthers will receive the more valuable of the two on draft day.

Deal No 2: Edmonton sends winger Drake Caggiula and defenceman Jason Garrison to Chicago for defencemen Brandon Manning and Robin Norell, who currently plays for Djurgardens of the Swedish Hockey League.

With Oscar Klefbom (broken fingers) out another month, and Kris Russell (groin) not yet ready to play, the Oilers need to stop the bleeding. They’ve lost five in a row and are a mess in their own zone, completely overpowered by opponents night after night.

Petrovic and Manning are third-pairing guys, but they have been brought in to defend. They’ll eat up 17-18 minutes dependably, minutes that neither Garrison (who we expect to see on waivers Monday morning) nor Wideman could handle.

Manning, of course, gained fame in these parts when, as a Philadelphia Flyer, he was involved in the collision that broke McDavid’s clavicle in 2016. Oilers fans blame him for the wreck, which fans are wont to do. But I loved the way he wore the black hat and never backed down, coming back into Edmonton with his head held high, ready to rumble.

Our opinion on that play is this: Manning was just a defenceman being beaten wide by McDavid’s blazing speed, and he did what he could to get in McDavid’s way. That opinion is strengthened by the fact that, upon his return, McDavid has ceased to attack the net as recklessly as he did in that rookie season.

That’s a dangerous play that he had to change, and you’ll notice he does not end up inside the net or in a pile with the goalie anymore, the way did when he arrived in the NHL. McDavid glides behind the net now to avoid the collisions that some blame Manning for, but frankly, were inevitable.

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Just in case, GM Peter Chiarelli sought McDavid’s blessing on the trade. It was granted by the Oilers captain, perhaps as long ago as last season, when the Oilers first considered acquiring the quiet, Prince George, B.C. native.

Losing Caggiula costs Edmonton a well-liked, injury-prone winger who to this point is about a 20-point player. He’s a friendly, well-liked teammate who should improve, but where players like Patrick Maroon (27 goals) and Alex Chiasson (16 goals in 31 games this season) have become uber-productive on McDavid’s wing, Caggiula never managed to score enough there to hold the position.

After a nice career, 34-year-old Jason Garrison is no longer an NHL defenceman. And the tiny Wideman is that small defenceman who simply does not produce enough offence to compensate for what he gives up with the inability to defend at his size.

So, what is Chiarelli trying to accomplish here?

Survival would be the most accurate term. Both for the team and his job as general manager.

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The Oilers need to keep pucks out of their net while waiting for Russell and Klefbom to return, and honestly, if the goaltending continues to trend downward none of these moves will have an impact.

Chiarelli is still in the marketplace in search of help on right wing, we are told. Ryan Spooner, acquired earlier this season for Ryan Strome, is being made available by Chiarelli.

The theme in Edmonton back in training camp was how players like Ty Rattie, Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto were going to turn a weakness at the right-wing position into a strength. Well, fast forward to today, and those three players have six goals between them.

They don’t have the forward depth necessary to outscore opponents, so the focus has to be on keeping the puck out of their goal.

It’s a place to start, for an organization that is perpetually in search of some traction.


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