Maybe Mikko Koskinen will turn out to be Peter Chiarelli’s Tim Thomas.
Chiarelli confusingly was allowed to sign the 30-year-old goaltender with just 27 games of NHL experience to a three-year contract extension worth $4.5 million per season for the Edmonton Oilers on Monday. Late Tuesday, after a 3-2 home loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Chiarelli was fired as general manager with the Oilers 23-24-3 on the season.
The move by Oilers management to make a change was reminiscent of what the Bruins did with GM Mike O’Connell in the spring of 2006. On March 18 of that year, O’Connell signed Thomas to a three-year extension worth $1.1 million per year. Five days later O’Connell re-upped with P.J. Axelsson for three years at $1.85 million per season. Both contracts drew laughs from the peanut gallery and then two days later, in an obvious effort to stop him from making moves if he wasn’t definitely going to be the GM beyond that season, the Bruins fired O’Connell
Well Axelsson turned out to be a key veteran role player, well worth his contract, during the Bruins’ revitalization. And Thomas? Well he was 31 at the time he signed the extension and in the third year of that contract he won the Vezina Trophy for the first of two times in his career. O’Connell never gets enough credit for his two parting gifts (probably because he traded Joe Thornton).
The end of the O’Connell era, of course, led to the Chiarelli era. Nine years after he was hired in Boston, Chiarelli was fired after the Bruins missed the playoffs in 2015 and then by the Bruins and wound up with the Oilers in no time flat. Unfortunately for the Oilers, didn’t duplicate his efforts in building the 2011 Stanley Cup champions (not to mention the 2013 Eastern Conference champions and the 2014 Presidents’ Trophy winners). Chiarelli’s tenure in Edmonton more resembled the parts of his Boston career when he drafted terribly, put the team in salary-cap jail and then got canned.
Chiarelli started well in Edmonton. The Oilers had already won the Connor McDavid lottery when he took over, and after missing the playoffs in 2015-16 they reached the second round in 2016-17. But since then it has seemed that every decision Chiarelli made was the wrong one. The much-criticized Taylor Hall-for-Adam Larsson trade didn’t look terrible when the Oilers were a playoff team and Larsson played like a top shutdown defender. Larsson hasn’t matched that season’s performance since and Hall won the Hart Trophy last season for New Jersey.
Chiarelli signed Milan Lucic for seven years and $42 million. Lucic scored 10 goals last season in the second year of that deal. Chiarelli traded Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for Ryan Strome. Eberle has 36 goals in 126 games for the Isles, while Strome scored 13 goals last season and this season was traded to the New York Rangers after scoring one goal for the Oilers. In exchange for Strome the Oilers got Ryan Spooner, who has two goals, was waived on Monday, and Tuesday played just 6:56 in the loss to Detroit.
Big-money contracts to Andrej Sekera, Cam Talbot and Kris Russell haven’t worked out for the Oilers. If Chiarelli wasn’t the orchestrator of the Tyler Seguin for nothing trade (which is what the Bruins had left the day Joe Morrow walked out the door in July 2017), the vast number of his Edmonton deals would be competing for the top spot on his list of screwups. But no matter how bad things were with the Oilers, he’ll always have the Seguin trade around his shoulders.
The Bruins wound up getting a second-round draft pick from Edmonton as compensation for Chiarelli, who was still under contract to Boston at the time of his firing. That draft pick was used in 2017 on Jack Studnicka, who’s currently tearing up the OHL with 42 points in 36 games for Oshawa and Niagara. He’s widely seen as the heir apparent to Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci as a top-two center for the Bruins.
So in a way Chiarelli left the Bruins a parting gift, and now the Oilers are hoping he did the same for them.