BUFFALO, NY – The phones are ringing, and Peter Chiarelli is answering.
As we enter the 2016 NHL Draft weekend in Buffalo, talks around the League are heating up. General managers, such as Chiarelli, are exchanging proposals and gauging interest.
“As it is with every year, there’s a lot of calls,” said Chiarelli.
The Oilers president of hockey operations and general manager has made no attempt at disguising his top priority.
“It’s no secret we’re in the market for a defenceman, and we’re fully engaged and we’ve got a pretty high pick,” said Chiarelli. “It’s actually been exciting and it will ramp up (Friday).”
Chiarelli and the Oilers are hunting for a top-end, right-shot defenceman. Although the player doesn’t necessarily have to be a right-shot, as the GM says he’s got his eyes on some who are left, but can play the right side.
The challenge for the Oilers is what they need isn’t very easily attainable. A number one defenceman is hard to come by.
“It’s an exercise I’ve done with our group and past groups,” said Chiarelli. “How many number one D truly exist in the league? Maybe there’s 12, maybe there’s 15, but there’s not 30. So you’ve got a shortage of number one D, so to even think you can acquire a number one D is a tough task. The whole thing is tough.
“D are valuable components, but we’ve got some good players, we’ve got some good other assets and that’s what you look to deal when you try and do it. If we don’t get it done by the draft, we’ve got a lot of time to do it.”
However, there isn’t a ticking time clock counting down for Edmonton to acquire what it needs. The deadline that does exist currently is the draft.
The Oilers currently hold the fourth-overall selection, a good asset that could be used to help secure the desired defence. However, Chiarelli indicated the chances they stay at four are “greater than 50%.”
That being said, it is possible the fourth pick could be used to help secure the defenceman Chiarelli desires, but he’s not bound to it nor does he feel rushed to pull any trigger.
“I’ve had discussions that include that pick,” said Chiarelli. “We’re looking at all different options including making that pick, trading down, including that pick in a trade for a defenceman. I’m looking at all those options. I’ve had discussions with teams on all those options.”
"The discussions have been both plentiful & productive." GM Chiarelli on #Oilers acquiring d-men via trade and/or free agency
There is no rush for Chiarelli to make a deal he’s not fully committed to. The talks will continue regardless of Friday’s first round.
“(Friday) has no bearing on it unless the pick is involved, or a pick is involved. But it just so happens that everyone thinks that’s a milestone or deadline for these deals,” he said.
Chiarelli also has players he could move, though he says he’s not bound to that either. There’s been plenty of talk about moving out a big-salary player to help secure a top-notch blueliner.
“You don’t have to do that,” said Chiarelli. “I think that just gets morphed into that thought because we didn’t have a good season. Everyone is talking about changing the culture. How do you change the culture? You have to move one of these other pieces, one of the young players that command a big salary. That may or may not be true. But there are different ways to improve your defence. We have other objectives we want to fufill leading into the draft and off-season. We’ll look at all options. That’s what I’ve been telling everyone. We’ll look at all options.”
Although Chiarelli says the team doesn’t have to move out a top-end player, that doesn’t mean that won’t happen either. Doing that would provide more of a permanent solution than a temporary band-aid.
“There are some situations where I think I can provide a temporary fix that might bridge the gap a little bit,” said Chiarelli. “I don’t know if that’s the route I’d like to go. I’d like to have a solid defender in there that can play a versatile game, that can play in the top four. It doesn’t mean we’ll fix it all in one fell swoop either. But I’d like to get some permanence to become the first step to fix it.”
Chiarelli and all his scouts arrived in Buffalo Tuesday, and have been locked in meetings most of the time they’ve been here. They’ve discussed value and hypothetical situations, and have listened to calls and offers.
“There’s been a lot of calls. We have some talented players on our team,” said Chiarelli, who adds you have to be weary of other managers undervaluing other teams’ players.
Stay put, move down, trade out, swap picks or players. With the goal of bolstering his defence, Chiarelli is considering all options and taking everything into consideration.The phones will keep ringing, and Chiarelli will keep answering until he finds the right fit.