In late July, the Edmonton Oilers shocked the hockey world when they sent Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Adam Larsson. It’s safe to say that Oilers fans were unhappy with this move; the term “worst trade in history” was thrown around by Oilers fans as well as hockey analysts all over social media.
While this trade clearly benefitted New Jersey, it appears Edmonton had some logical motivation to go through with this deal. Edmonton had a gaping hole in their defense last year, one that they hope Larsson, a solid first pair defender, could fix immediately and cheaply. This trade also freed up enough cap space to allow Edmonton to sign Milan Lucic this past off-season.
Even though Edmonton was able to solve its short-term defensive gap and add a quality player in Milan Lucic, the deal seems too short-sighted and the price seems too high. After all, they traded Taylor Hall, a potential once in a generation player.
This trade was obviously bad for Edmonton. But exactly how bad was it? Let’s analyze!
Taylor Hall, who will turn 25 this season, is widely considered one of the most promising rising stars in the NHL, as he has already established himself as a prolific goal-scorer at such a young age. Hall recorded 65 points last season, effectively placing him 23rd in the league among all skaters. Hall also finished with a respectable 5.8 Offensive Point Shares last season.
Hall was simply spectacular last year, as he was only one of seven players under 24 to record 65 or more points. What’s even more impressive is that he didn’t even perform his best last season; he finished with a stunning 80 points in the 2012-13 season when he was just 22 years old!
Despite this being a poor trade for Edmonton, Larsson is by no means a bad player. In fact, he was one of the best defenders in the NHL last year, making him the perfect addition to Edmonton’s weak defensive group. Larsson’s performance last year was very respectable, as he finished 45th in Time on Ice per game, 60th in hits, and 27th in blocks among all skaters. Additionally, Larsson finished second in the league with 6.6 Defensive Point Shares, just behind Drew Doughty’s league leading 7.1 Defensive Point Shares.
Lucic, 28, was not nearly as productive as Hall or Larsson last season, but still, put up respectable numbers. Last year, Lucic recorded 55 points, which placed him 63rd among all skaters. Lucic finished last year with an unreal +26 in +/-, which was 9th among all skaters, as well as a mediocre 4.6 Offensive Win Shares.
Based purely on last year’s stats, it’s apparent that the Oilers got the short end of the stick in this trade, as they traded a prolific goal-scorer for a solid defenseman. Prolific goal-scorers are much harder to come by than solid defensemen, making this a costly mistake for Edmonton. In addition, the Oilers could have potentially signed Lucic without the trade, as they only cleared about $2 million in cap space in the trade.
However, if you look at the long-term picture for Edmonton, it becomes much more obvious why Oilers fans are referring to this trade as “the worst in history”. While Larsson is a solid, young defender, he has likely hit his ceiling in terms of productivity. On the other hand, Hall is a rising young star, who is on track to become a prolific goal-scorer in a couple of years.
While the future is unpredictable, Hall appears like he is a once in a generation player, while Larsson is only an average first-pair defenseman. Edmonton either should have traded a lot less for Larsson or demanded a much bigger return for Hall. While Lucic might have been a nice signing, he certainly doesn’t make up for the damage done in the trade.
But why should this trade hardly come as a surprise? Look no further than the man below: Peter Chiarelli.
Since Chiarelli became the Bruins GM in 2006, there have only been 55 players in the NHL who averaged more than 0.77 points per game (minimum of 200 games played). Only 4 players from that group were traded at age 26 or younger: Ilya Kovalchuk, Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, and Phil Kessel.
Kovalchuk was traded by Atlanta during the 2009-10 season after it became apparent they didn’t have enough cap space to resign him at the end of the year. The other 3 players (Hall, Seguin, and Kessel) were traded by the current Oilers GM, Peter Chiarelli. In conclusion, players with Hall’s age, skill, and potential simply don’t get traded unless Chiarelli is the GM.
So let’s take a look how the other trades turned out:
In 2009, Boston (Chiarelli as GM) sent Phil Kessel to Toronto for 2 first-round picks and 1 second-round pick.
These draft picks turned into Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, and Jared Knight. Seguin has obviously blossomed into one of the best players in the NHL. Hamilton is a mediocre defenseman and Knight never made it to the NHL because of injuries. Since being acquired by Toronto, Kessel has averaged 0.61 points per game and has been a crucial veteran in the playoffs for Pittsburgh.
This would have worked out very nicely had the Bruins not traded Seguin 4 years later, which we will discuss below.
In 2013, Boston (Chiarelli as GM) sent Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, and Ryan Button to the Stars in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Joseph Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser.
Since being acquired by Dallas, Seguin has averaged 1.05 points per game along with 10 powerplay goals per season. Seguin is only 24 years old and has plenty of room to mature and become an even better player. Meanwhile, Eriksson’s performance has dipped substantially and none of the prospects panned out.
Let’s be generous and say these trades didn’t exactly turn out well for Chiarelli.
In conclusion, this trade was downright terrible for Edmonton. Barring a major injury to or drop-off in Taylor Hall’s performance, the Oilers will come to regret this trade for years. Not only will Hall become a superstar, but he also has a very reasonable contract. However, given Chiarelli’s history, this trade should not come as a surprise. He traded Seguin and Kessel, both nearly identical to Hall in terms of age and potential when traded, and came to deeply regret those decisions years later. Every piece of evidence points towards history repeating itself, hence the title “Déjà Vu, Chiarelli”.
Data Courtesy of Hockey Reference, Spotrac, ESPN, CBS Sports, thehockeynews.com, and NHL.com. Thanks for reading!
Written by Jason Platkin
Photo Credits: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports, THE CANADIAN PRESS/Amber Bracken, theoilersrig.com, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America, Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports, oilers.nhl.com, mgrptylerseguin.weebly.com, GENE J. PUSKAR / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)