The search for Peter Chiarelli’s replacement is still in its relative infancy, but the Edmonton Oilers are expected to change that in the next two weeks. Although a new GM officially taking over likely won’t happen until April at the earliest, the Oilers have begun to narrow down their list of candidates and will reach out to teams and managers to ask for permission to interview candidates in the next two weeks.
It appears they won’t have much of a problem talking to who they want with two exceptions. Vegas GM George McPhee is standing firm on his stance to not allow teams to interview his assistant Kelly McCrimmon until Vegas’ season ends, while the Ducks may follow suit with their AGM Dave Nonis.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, both are on the list of OEG CEO Bob Nicholson. Nicholson, not interim GM Keith Gretzky, is representing the Oilers currently at the NHL’s GM meetings in Florida.
Gretzky has been running the show since Chiarelli was fired back in January, and has made a few moves since taking over. His best was dealing the corpse of Ryan Spooner to Vancouver for Sam Gagner, who has fit in quite well with the Oil. His other deal dumped the salary of Cam Talbot to make room for Andrej Sekera’s return from LTIR.
Although Gretzky didn’t make any moves at the NHL’s trade deadline, he did have extensive talks with teams about potential moves this summer. Some would relive Edmonton of some cap problems, while other deals were aimed at upping the overall skill level of his roster. Gretzky went about his business as if he would be running the show come summer time. I do believe at this point that he is the favorite to be named GM after the season.
I still firmly believe that if the Oil go outside the organization, that Kelly McCrimmon and Mark Hunter are their top two choices. Both were listed by Dreger and I’d expect Hunter to be one of the first that interviews for the job. Although I don’t think they consider it ideal, the Oilers appear willing to wait to talk with McCrimmon about the job, which could be in May or even June.
The name Mike Futa has also resurfaced for the first time since the New Year. There were rumblings in early January, as the heat got turned up on Chiarelli, that the club would fire him and hire Futa. Obviously only half of that equation happened, and Futa’s name hadn’t been brought up until very recently.
He’s always in the running for these jobs but never seems to be willing to leave LA. I don’t think that will change, and I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Kings prevented him from interviewing. Sources indicate they have blocked opportunity before.
Other names listed included Ducks’ AGM Dave Nonis and Montreal pro scout Sean Burke. Nonis is a big no from me, having failed miserably in his previous two spots, while Burke is interesting because of his work in Montreal. Give the Habs’ pro scouts some credit, they’ve been finding some diamonds in the rough the last few seasons.
I’d keep an eye on the name John Ferguson Jr for a front office job, perhaps Assistant GM if Keith Gretzky is in fact the man. I’d also suggest watching what happens in Detroit. If Ken Holland is moved along, there will be interest from his old pal Nicholson.
None of the names above really stick out to me, and to be honest I’m not in love with any of the candidates listed. Hunter is interesting because of his work with OHL London and the Maple Leafs, after all he had a hand in building one of the best teams in the NHL currently. Could he bring a similar, much needed vision to Edmonton?
I have time for McCrimmon, and I like Burke as a dark horse candidate but that’s about it. I have absolutely no time for Nonis and would be hesitant to give Gretzky the gig.
We’ll know more in the next 10-14 days in terms of who the Oilers will be interviewing, which will really shed some light on the candidates and potential direction of the club. The on-ice product is suddenly getting interesting, but there is work to still be done in the boardroom.