Tracking Swaps: The Best General Manager of 2016-2017

We just found out yesterday that Edmonton’s Peter Chiarelli, Nashville’s David Poile and Ottawa Pierre Dorion were named finalists for the General Manager of the year award. Many will point to the big trades Poile and Chiarelli made within minutes of each other on June 29th as deciding factors. Nashville boldly acquired P.K. Subban from Montreal in exchange for franchise cornerstone Shea Weber, while Edmonton traded Taylor Hall to New Jersey in exchange for Adam Larsson. Anaheim GM Bob Murray has received little to no recognition for his excellent contract negotiations this year with players like Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell and Sami Vatanen, while Arizona’s John Chayka has received no mention for showing the NHL how to rebuild without a first overall pick on their draft resume. Let’s break down these GM’s 2016-2017 track record:

David Poile: Nashville’s playoffs push, with P.K. Subban playing a pivotal shutdown role, would lead many to believe that Poile not only won the Weber trade, but is hands down the best GM in the league. I would certainly agree that Polie’s trade record over the last few years has been the envy of the NHL. Trading an aging Martin Erat to Washington for top prospect Filip Forsberg, shipping out defenseman Seth Jones for coveted center Ryan Johansen and the acquisition of James Neal for Patrick Hornqvist are just a few examples of Poile’s insane track record. However, many individuals forget that Poile was also unsuccessful in many instances, such as his attempt to sign top prospect Jimmy Vesey, who was ultimately traded away for a 3rd round pick. His team certainly took a step forward this year, but this is mainly due to the emergence of young players like Ryan Ellis, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. In terms of actual input into this season, Poile certainly took the biggest gamble and seems to have won his bet, but the result of his team cannot simply act as the measuring stick of his success this season, as they finished 8th in the Western Conference this season.

Peter Chiarelli: Let me first begin with saying that its extremely easy to have a competitive team when your top players are Connor MacDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The addition of defenseman Adam Larsson and Kris Russell certainly helped in making the Oilers are better overall team. In my estimation, Chiarelli walked into his tenure in Edmonton with an embarrassment of riches up front and leveraged said riches into defensive help. His signing of Milan Lucic this summer paid dividends this season, but Lucic did not perform to the same statistical level as he did in prior years, which can be alarming considering he just signed a 7 year deal worth $6 million. Although McDavid putting up 100 points, with Draisaitl following up with 77 points, the drop off in production after these players was extremely high. Jordan Eberle finished third in team scoring with 51 points, which indicates that the offensive hole left by Taylor Hall’s departure was never truly addressed. As of July 1st, McDavid and Draisaitl can be signed to extensions, due to their expiring rookie contracts, and this is where we will see what Chiarelli is made of. With both youngsters set to make over the 7 million mark respectively going forward (with McDavid possibly signing a Crosby-esque $9.7 million contract), Chiarelli will have to continue to mortgage his forward depth by trading Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Unfortunately for Chiarelli, those two players have lost most of their value as the season wore on and it plummeted with an abysmal playoff performance.

Pierre Dorion: Let us be frank here. The only reason this man is on this list is because of Erik Karlsson, as he notably gave up budding prospect Jonathan Dahlen for an aging Alex Burrows (with a two-year contract to boot). Furthermore, he traded away Curtis Lazar for defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka, who has played for Ottawa for less time than it took for you to pronounce his name. Furthermore, Dorion’s summer deal sending center Mika Zibanejad to New York for Derrick Brassard was ultimately a loss for him, as Mika went on to have a solid overall season for the Blue Shirts. His best acquisition was undoubtedly back-up goaltender Mike Condon, who kept the Senators in the playoffs race while Craig Anderson tended to his ailing wife. He had a far from perfect season, and can easily be eclipsed by about 50% of the NHL’s GM list, with the following two managers well beyond him.

Bob Murray: I still cannot believe this man doesn’t get the recognition he ultimately deserves. Anaheim is absolutely on fire this season and it all stems from Murray’s dealings with his younger players. In recent NHL trends, young budding superstars (Johnny Gaudreau, Rasmus Ristolainen, Alex Galchenyuk, etc.) have started a trend of holding out on signing their second professional contract in an effort to sign a long-term, lucrative deal. In as such, defenseman Hampus Lindholm and forward Rickard Rakell both held out on Murray until the beginning of the regular season this year in order to sign more lucrative contracts, but Murray got them both to sign for less than they had originally asked for. As if that wasn’t enough, both players, especially Rakell, went on to have the most productive seasons of their respective careers and propelled the Ducks to the top of the Pacific Division. Murray’s deadline acquisition of Patrick Eaves certainly proved to be excellent value prior to the forward’s untimely injury in the second round of the playoffs. He continues to acquire valuable assets for his Salary Cap casualties (Frederik Andersen comes to mind), while keeping the core of this team cap compliant for the foreseeable future. Garth Snow in Brooklyn should certainly be taking notes on Murray’s exceptional asset management.

John Chayka: This here is my pick for GM of the year, not simply on how his club is doing, but on his ability to acquire assets in his short stint with the Coyotes. Arizona has never had a proper rebuild, but this young stats prodigy started his reign as GM with an absolute bang on that front. Acquiring the rights of veteran defenseman Alex Goligoski from Dallas for a 5th round pick, Chayka ended up signing him to a long-term contract with the Coyotes, which shored up Arizona’s left defense position behind star Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He followed that up a week later by moving up in the draft (20th overall to 16th overall) in exchange Detroit’s contract of KHL-bound Pavel Datsyuk. The pick was used to draft defenseman Jakob Chyhrun, who made an immediate impact on their roster ahead of higher picked defensemen like Mikhail Sergachev or Olli Juolevi. He then acquired former Tampa Bay first round pick Anthony DeAngelo in exchange for his 2nd round pick and the young defenseman performed quite well for the Coyotes down the stretch. He then further used his free cap space to facilitate a trade with Florida for David Bolland and former first round pick Lawson Crouse, who also partook in a full season with the Coyotes.  Finally, at this year’s trade deadline, the young GM traded coveted center Martin Hanzal for a first, second and fourth round pick from the Minnesotta Wild, who were ousted by the Saint Louis Blues in the first round.

In one season, Chayka acquired the assets to ultimately create a cap era dynasty with the likes of first round picks Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome, Max Domi, forwards Christian Dvorak and Lawson Crouse, along with defensemen Chychrun and DeAngelo.  The future is now bright for this often ridiculed organization, and that is primarily due to Chayka’s vigilant work. Now sit back and relax, as we witness what a rebuild looks like when you don’t have access to the Auston Matthews or Connor McDavids of this world.

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