Tainted ex-0ilers hockey boss negotiated two of best contracts in NHL for Edmonton

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Former Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has not been able to get another GM job in the NHL since his release from Edmonton in January 2019.

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Maybe he’s not looking for the hottest seats now. After all, he ended up in St. Louis as Vice President of Hockey Operations.

But I will suggest, at least in Edmonton, that Chiarelli’s reputation as a top-flight hockey player is tarnished. Many fans can’t get past his trades and signings that didn’t work out, like the long-term signing of Milan Lucic and the move from Jordan Eberle to Ryan Strome to Ryan Spooner. Then there was the controversial deal between Taylor Hall and Adam Larsson. It still divides Oilers fans.

But Chiarelli had some good moments too, like making good use of his draft picks and building Oil’s player development system, not to mention the two big contracts he handed down that have given Oil good value since they were signed and now one represent great value to the team.

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The eight-year deals Chiarelli negotiated with his star centers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the summer of 2017 are the foundation upon which the burgeoning Oilers are built, with McDavid making $12.5 million a year and Draisaitl making $8.5 million. this for the best player in the NHL in McDavid (damn you Hart Trophy voters) and Draisaitl in the top 5 year after year.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the McDavid and Draisaitl deals are the best singles deals in the NHL, although Draisaitl’s could come close and McDavid’s would be close if there weren’t a cap on what an NHL player can be paid. 20 percent of his team’s total cap is hit each year. Draisaitl is underpaid at $3 or $4 million a year based on his performance.

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However, some other top NHLers are also underpaid.

In my back-cover survey of top-value contracts in the NHL for this upcoming season (and this upcoming season only), I looked for a few things: First, whether the player in his position is a star in the league is , the kind of player who moved the needle big for his squad in 2021/22, as McDavid and Draisaitl certainly did; Second, how much was he paid compared to the other top 50 or so players in his position. Was there a big gap between his brilliant performance and his mediocre pay? If so, I considered that player to be the greatest asset to his NHL roster.

If I had to pick one player who towers over the charts in this regard, it’s Devon Toews of the Colorado Avalanche. Looking at a range of statistical indicators surrounding a player’s time on ice (essentially a measure of how much his coach trusted him in offensive and defensive situations) as well as point production on balanced strength and power play, Toews was the Best D-Man in the NHL, ahead of Victor Hedman at #2, then Adam Fox, Roman Josi, Cale Makar, Aaron Ekblad, Drew Doughty, Kris Letang, Darnell Nurse, and Brent Burns (If you can come a better list with numbers only I’d like to hear how you compiled them and who identified them as top D men (I’m happy with my own list for now).

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While the relatively unknown and grossly underrated Toews was clearly one of the NHL’s best D-Men last season, he wasn’t paid like a top 10 guy. If you compare him to other top D men in terms of pay, his $4.1 million cap hit this year puts him 45th overall, a 44 ranking difference.

Toews could be making $9 million a year right now and not be overpaid I suggest. Best of all for Colorado, Toews has one more season after this season with his $4.1 million cap hit.

Ranking player performance in the NHL isn’t an exact science, but I think I’m getting close to the forwards here as well, where I take their total time on ice and their total points per 60 rate to rank them all centers on my top 50 list to move up five spots because they have a far more difficult defensive position than wingers. Under this system we find Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl as the top two forwards in the NHL, with Auston Matthews in third, Nathan MacKinnon in fourth and JT Miller in fifth.

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Of that group, MacKinnon with his $6.3 million cap hit and Miller with $5.3 million are grossly underpaid, as is Calgary’s Jonathan Huberdeau, who is a 17th forward but capped. Hit by just $5.9 million next season.

The Flames have a year to come with Elias Lindholm, 20th in performance for forwards with a $4.9 million cap hit, and MacKenzie Weegar, 19th in performance with a $3.3 million cap hit US dollars, two other important contracts.

As for Chiarelli, he did very well with the Oilers locking up the two Edmonton superstars. It’s even possible he still has a job in Edmonton, if not for D-Man Oscar Klefbom’s ongoing, career-ending injuries.

Klefbom went on to become one of the best left-handers in the NHL, maybe even a top 10 defenseman. He sure looked like that kind of star defender early in the 2017 playoffs. Even better for the Oilers, at least at this point, was the fact that in September 2015, Klefbom signed a seven-year contract that began for the 2016-17 season and capped Klefbom at $4.17 million a year.

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If Klefbom had played at his 2016-17 level for the next six years of this deal, his value would have been similar to MacKenzie Weegar or Devon Toews. It would have been a grand slam home run of a deal for Chiarelli and the Oilers, a game changer, especially with Darnell Nurse backing up Krefbom at left flank.

But don’t be.

Klefbom’s injured shoulder initially prevented him from playing his best and then forced him out of the NHL.

The Oil’s defense has never been the same after both he and Andrej Sekera suffered injuries in those 2017 playoffs. It was an ugly price for all parties, Klefbom, Sekera and Chiarelli himself.

This is high stakes hockey. That’s the risk of long-term contracts in the NHL.

For now, at least Oilers fans can be happy that Draisaitl and McDavid are still locked in at a great price.

At the cult

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