At what point did Peter Chiarelli take the gift of talent that given to him and turn it into the ambling clunker of a team we have now? What was his worst move, when the wheels fell off and the die was cast?
June 29th, 2016.
Some will say that the Reinhart deal was worse because the returning player turned out to be not even NHL-capable while Adam Larsson is at least a 2nd pairing defenseman.
But when Taylor Hall was traded he was signed for several more years and was at the peak of his performance, which was as a top 5 winger in the entire league.
Not many teams have one player who can claim to be a league-leader at their position and the Oilers had two before Chiarelli pulled the trigger on a deal that not only diluted their skill but also failed to return real value on any comparable level.
Larsson is a fine player and filled a roster need, but Taylor Hall was the sort of player teams spend decades trying to acquire. Nobody is untradeable in the NHL, but trading players at their peak when you aren’t facing immediate salary cap concerns or looming free agency is just flat-out wrong.
The reason that the Hall trade was the first step towards the decline and challenges now faced by the Oilers under Chiarelli is because the earlier Reinhart and later Eberle deals involved either draft picks or, in all fairness, lesser talents.
Even if we allow that the Oilers would not have taken Matthew Barzal at 16th overall in 2015, it is highly unlikely that any player taken there would have become as impactful a player as Taylor Hall was by June of 2016. And Jordan Eberle, for all his consistency on offense, has never been the kind of one-man force that Hall was virtually from his first NHL game.
A team may struggle through losing trades like those involving Eberle and the eventual Barzal pick, but they can find ways if they retain enough talent and skill in their lineup. But when deals like those get lost behind even bigger mistakes that forfeit even greater skill, then you are headed for disaster.
There is a time to trade players like Hall and even McDavid, but that time is when you are down and out, the player has requested a trade or is a pending free-agent and has expressed no interest in re-signing or you are faced with an immediate salary cap problem and have ready replacements waiting in the wings.
None of those things realistically applied to the Oilers that June. They had had a very poor end of the season which was caused by serious injuries to all of Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom and made worse by the early struggles of Cam Talbot. Trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson was not going to address the loss of two key centers and goaltending problems.
The Reinhart deal bled draft pick assets which, even if they’d taken Joel Eriksson-Ek, would have helped to re-stock a prospect system that is one of the worst in the league.
The Eberle deal sold a consistent secondary scorer when he was at his lowest value but returned a useful bottom-six player.
But the Hall deal started this organization into a tailspin that, despite one playoff run, looks to haunt them for the foreseeable future.
After all, if you can’t trust your hockey team to be able to see with their own eyes the value of a player like Taylor Hall, then how much trust can you have in them doing anything else right?
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