Buckle up, Blackhawks fans. As Chicago prepares to begin interviews this week for their current vacancy at General Manager, at least one big name has been confirmed as a candidate. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that former Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli will interview for the Blackhawks’ GM job. In fact, the club sought out the experienced executive, currently the Vice President of Hockey Operations with the St. Louis Blues, and requested that he apply. Dreger adds that the interview process could move quickly with the NHL Trade Deadline approaching next month. If Chiarelli is deemed to be Chicago’s top option, he could be named leader of the front office within weeks.
Even after more than three years removed from his last GM job, Chiarelli remains a polarizing figure in the hockey community. As a young GM, he built a Stanley Cup winner (and shortly thereafter a finalist again) in Boston – and that is something that can’t be taken from him. Chiarelli built the core of that championship team from scratch and his fingerprints are still all over the current Bruins. His efforts included signing Zdeno Chara, Marc Savard, Andrew Ference, and Torey Krug; trading for Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk, Mark Recchi, Dennis Seidenberg, and Nathan Horton; and drafting Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Matt Grzelcyk, Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, and David Pastrnak. However, in building a winner he also made some questionable deals that cost the Bruins Blake Wheeler, Kris Versteeg, Boychuk, and most notably Kessel and later his return, top-ten picks Seguin and Hamilton. High-value picks he dealt away turned into the likes of Rickard Rakell, Jason Dickinson, current Bruin Derek Forbort and more. Chiarelli was also wrong more often than he was right in the draft, which wasn’t helped by his willingness to give up picks.
When Chiarelli arrived in Edmonton with plans on turning the historically bad club into contenders, he walked right in to drafting Connor McDavid first overall in 2015. While the book is still out on some of Chiarelli’s later draft picks, the obvious McDavid selection was one of his few hits, with Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, and Tyler Benson hardly living up to their draft billing. Chiarelli also struggled in free agency, giving too much to old friend Lucic and unproven Mikko Koskinen while failing to provide McDavid and Leon Draisaitl with suitable wingers. Yet, what Chiarelli is most infamous for are his trades in Edmonton, with none more talked about than the Taylor Hall–Adam Larsson swap. He also sent away Justin Schultz, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Strome in lopsided deals and gave away a first-round pick (Mathew Barzal) for Griffin Reinhart. Yet, the Oilers did improve under Chiarelli and his extensions for McDavid and Draisaitl now look like bargains. If he had just avoided a few of his mistakes, the Oilers might have made a run to the Cup just like Boston.
So is it time for another chance? Dreger notes that the Blackhawks do have many candidates and by no means does he insinuate that Chiarelli is already the front-runner. Current interim Kyle Davidson will get a look, as could Seattle Assistant GM Jason Botterill, who was reportedly the runner-up for the Anaheim job. Displaced interim Ducks GM Jeff Solomon could also be in consideration, as could a number of others who were in the mix for the recently-filled jobs in Montreal and Vancouver. However, there is no doubt that for entertainment’s sake, having Chiarelli back in the GM chair would be fun to watch.