The day the Edmonton Oilers signed up new GM Peter Chiarelli it cost Edmonton a second-round draft pick in compensation to the Boston Bruins. This Friday at the NHL draft, Chiarelli paid off that debt and then some with his astute negotiating.
Chiarelli should have paid dearly for Columbus’ third overall pick and the right to draft the consensus third overall pick Jesse Puljujarvi. Instead, due to his correct reading of the situation, Chiarelli paid nothing, likely saving himself the price of a high second and a high third draft pick.
How do I arrive at that specific price for Columbus’ third overall pick, which was definitely on the block, with Kekalainen later confirming he had hoped to move back one spot in order to select his target, Pierre-Luc Dubois?
If we go by Blue Bullet Brad blogger Brad McPherson’s chart where he values draft picks based on the historic production of NHL players taken in each draft slot, the first pick when used on a forward has a value of 103.7 points, the second pick 84. 2, the third pick 68.4 and the fourth pick 57.4. That means to move up from fourth to third, on average, a team should pay with picks worth 11.0 points. Fair compensation from the Oilers to Columbus to move from fourth to third should have been the 4th and 24th picks in the draft, with the 24th having a value of 11.2.
The Oilers did not have that late first round pick but they did have the 32nd pick, which has a value of 8.2. Edmonton also had the 63rd pick, which according to McPherson’s work has a value of 3.3. So a fair price for Edmonton to move up from the fourth to third overall would have been the fourth overall, the 32nd and the 63rd picks.
Now it could well be that Edmonton was so keen on drafting either forward Matthew Tkachuk or defenceman Mikhail Sergachev that Chiarelli wasn’t prepared to meet Kekalainen’s ask on those grounds. At the same time, however, Puljujarvi’s value on draft day was not in doubt. He was clearly a cut above every player in the draft save for Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, and he was certainly a player that the Oilers badly wanted. It could also be that Kekalainen was pushing the Oilers to take on a bad contract in return for the right to move up in the draft.
If Chiarelli had been over-anxious, he might well have paid Kekalainen’s price. In the heated moments before the draft began, there were reports from credible sources that Kekalainen was meeting on the trading pit with both Chiarelli and Calgary GM Brad Treliving. As TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported from the front lines on Twitter: “CGY GM Brad Treliving and CBJ GM Jarmo Kekalainen deep in yet another conversation just off the draft floor….Treliving, Kekalainen and Chiarelli now deep in conversation…Chiarelli, Treliving, Kekalainen: Round Two of discussions….EDM staff consulting with GM Peter Chiarelli at table. Something significant is being contemplated.”
Kekelainen later told Sportsnet the price wasn’t right to make a trade down: “We were just trying to find out what the market was for the third overall pick. We were never going to move back far if we were going to do that. At the end of the day the deal didn’t happen… This (Dubois) is the guy we had third on our list.”
Chiarelli himself referred to the nature of these deliberations in his presser on Friday night, noting that the Oilers had considered moving down in the draft, but backed off on that plan when it became apparent that Puljujarvi might be available at fourth overall. “We got the sense that maybe Puljujarvi would drop so we kind of backed off. And you kind of know what the other team’s needs might be and while there’s some speculating, it happened (Puljujarvi) was available, so we were fortunate.”
Columbus Dispatch columnist Michael Arace criticized Kekalainen for his apparent failure here to exploit a market, writing,” There was a deal to be done…Kekalainen with the prime trading asset in the draft, the No. 3 pick. He talked all afternoon. He did nothing… They didn’t even swing a deal where they could get some pieces — other picks, anything — by trading down to an area where Dubois would have still been available.”
As anyone knows who follows the Oilers closely, Chiarelli has already come under fire here and in other places for a number of his deal, including the Griffin Reinhart trade and the Boyd Gordon trade. But it’s only fair to measure a GM on the sum total of all his deals. This one is definitely a credit to Chiarelli.
P.S. Over at Puck Daddy, writer Greg Wyshynski had this to say about the deal in his Draft 2016 Winners and Losers post:
LOSER: Columbus Blue Jackets
Still stuck in salary cap hell, the Jackets were unable to leverage their No. 3 pick into a way to send some toxic contracts to another team. And what if Dubois’s short-term success at center doesn’t translate to the NHL?
WINNER: Edmonton Oilers
Puljujarvi fell into their laps at No. 4. They snagged three solid defensive prospects in the third round as well. Now if they could just land a puck-moving defenseman already playing in the NHL like Cam Fowler.