Is Griffin Reinhart a long-term fit with the Edmonton Oilers?

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The trade which brought Griffin Reinhart to the Edmonton Oilers was controversial the moment it was announced. The player is a known quantity in Edmonton and inspires strong feelings thanks to his time with a very successful Oil Kings club. The price paid to acquire him was extreme. Finally, there are a number of complicating factors which make the situation even more difficult.

With most of his first season in the organization now in the rearview mirror it still isn’t clear if Reinhart is a long-term fit.

Those Niggling Details

Davidson, Brandon

There’s a line from one of my favourite novels that often comes to mind when I think about Reinhart: “That’s right, let yourself get mired down in facts. Never mind the simple elegance of the theory.”

The theory was simple and straightforward: Edmonton had obvious needs on defence, and adding a nearly NHL-ready prospect in Reinhart would address those needs far more quickly than trying to fix them through the draft.

There are, however, problems that extend well beyond Reinhart’s qualifications as a player.

First, Reinhart is a left-shooting defenceman on an almost entirely left-shooting roster. We all know the list at this point, but suffice to say that the combination of Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson is going to make like hard for Reinhart and the rest of Edmonton’s (again, almost exclusively left-shot) prospects. I imagine the original plan foresaw Sekera moving to the right side and missed the emergence of Davidson, but even so the field was crowded when Reinhart was acquired and it’s more crowded now.

Second, Reinhart carries a massive rookie bonus on his contract as a fourth overall pick, a problem detailed beautifully by Twitter’s @speeds on his blog. Teams are only allowed to exceed the cap by 7.5 percent due to bonuses and the Oilers have so many bonus-laden contracts to young players that had they kept all of them on the roster they would have cleared that threshold, thereby lowering the actual amount they were allowed to spend.

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That problem isn’t going away, either. Between Nurse, Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Anton Slepyshev and whoever the Oilers take with their extremely early first-round pick this year Edmonton is going to be loaded with rookie bonuses. This means that instead of Reinhart being a dirt-cheap young player, he’s effectively counting against the cap for the full value of his $3.213 million contract.

Third, Reinhart is another young defenceman on an already extremely young blue line. Nurse, Klefbom and Davidson are all locks (barring trade) for next year’s roster and have between them all of 228 games of NHL experience.

Put it all together and Reinhart is a challenging fit for the Oilers roster in many ways. He’s a natural fit for a position where they’re already stacked, he’s more inexperience on an already inexperienced roster and he carries a hefty cap hit to boot.

That’s before we get to who he is as a player.

Reinhart the Player

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Those awkward parts considered above are a small price to pay if the end result is a player who can handle top-four minutes for the next decade. The trouble is that there’s no certainty that Reinhart is that player.

When I looked at big defencemen drafted early over the 10-year span from 2001 to 2011 I found that almost everybody who went on to play top-four minutes in the NHL had established himself as a full-time major-league player by their Draft+4 season:

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There was pushback from readers, and a couple of exceptions from earlier drafts—Nick Boynton, Ron Hainsey, Bryan Allen—were pointed out. Let’s look at that trio.

Boynton was originally taken No. 9 overall in 1997, but re-entered the draft and was a first-rounder in 1999. Going from his original draft date he spent two years in junior and two in the minors before becoming a full-time NHL’er in his Draft+5 season.

Allen was drafted fourth overall in 1998. He spent his Draft+1 year in junior and then was hurt for pretty much his whole Draft+2 year. His Draft+3 and Draft+4 seasons saw him get some NHL time but mostly play in the AHL; he ultimately graduated to the NHL full-time in his Draft+5 campaign.

Hainsey went 13th overall in 2000, though under current rules he would have really been eligible in 1999. He didn’t make the jump to the NHL full-time until 2005-06, his Draft+7 season, but has been a pretty good player ever since. He is a cautionary tale to people like me who would proscribe only one route to NHL stardom for a high draft pick.

All three spent at least some time as top-four NHL defencemen, though Hainsey was the only one who was a long-term fit in the role. Even if we add that trio to my initial piece, however, it’s still looks unlikely (given development curve and comparables) that Reinhart is going to be a critical piece in Edmonton. Many players with similar career profiles flamed out entirely; others fall into the Jared Cowen/Keaton Ellerby range as pros.

My personal read is that Reinhart eventually evolves into a No. 4/5 defenceman, using his size and smarts to compensate for somewhat limited mobility and an erratic puck-moving game. If I’m right, that’s a player with real value.

The trouble is that he might have more value to a team that isn’t the Oilers. If we imagine a team with an experienced blue line, with fewer left-shot defenceman, that gets us partway there. If we further imagine that this team doesn’t have a bunch of players with massive entry-level bonuses, suddenly Reinhart looks very attractive as a young, cost-controlled defenceman who could be a long-term fit.

It’s going to be an interesting summer for Reinhart. I can imagine a situation where the Oilers find space for him, perhaps by dumping Fayne’s contract and popping him in on the right side of the third pairing. I can also picture a scenario where Reinhart starts a third year in the minors.

However, the scenario that makes the most sense involves using him as trade bait. Edmonton has multiple needs, Reinhart has value, and the key isn’t so much recouping what was spent last summer as it is making the best decision for the team for next year and all the years after.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

    • Petrolero

      worrying about sunk costs is a fallacy. A big part of the reason this team is where it is has been the previous regime’s inability to accept mistakes and move on.

    • Eberle should fetch Hamonic on his own. Hamonic has requested a trade. Immediately value drops. If Snow does not want Eberle for Hamonic (And I’d try for less) Screw him. Good luck on the open market!

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    I’m going to pretend we traded those draft picks last year for Davidson instead and that it all worked out. Lol x.x

    Would make it easier to swallow the fact that Reinhart I good trade bait

  • Morgo_82

    Next year will tell for sure whether he should / will be part of the long term plan, I still remain skeptical but optimistic considering the moves Chiarelli has made this year (he doesn’t do anything without carefully calculating his risks first).

  • Explicit

    Love this article!! I’ve been going on and on about Reinhart for awhile now and even I’m getting bored of calling that trade a bust.

    I think you’re right about Reinhart maybe turning into a 4/5 guy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. He could be a decent NHL defenceman, maybe. But with Klefbom, nurse and Davidson hes just not a fit with the oilers. You could play him on his offside, but I prefer the physical edge and experience Gryba brings, and I don’t think either of them can be played higher than the third pair

    I think it’s obvious chiarelli traded for him because he didn’t know what he had mainly in Davidson. But it’s often said that GM’s get stubborn with the players they acquire. I’m hoping that won’t be the case with Reinhart. I doubt chia could get anywhere near the value he gave up for him only a year ago, but hopefully he can take it off the chin

  • Max

    Good grief, dummy me – we got him from NYI, why the hell would they want him back in a trade? – oops! Still, perhaps they would take him back if Eberle goes too. Apologies to other commenters for my brain fart!

  • Explicit

    Or do you keep Reinhart in the AHL next year for depth and trade one of the other lefties? Can’t see sending Nurse to the AHL after nearly a full season in the NHL. And with Sekera, Klefbom and Davidson that still gives you 1 too many lefties. Maybe you play 1 on his off side, but can you really bring in Reinhart and play 2 lefties on the right? So maybe you keep Reinhart and trade one of the 3 more established guys like Klefbom, Davidson or Nurse? I don’t like that idea because I like all of them and they each bring diffrent qualities.

    I have no idea what the best option is, but it’s sure gonna make this summer interesting! Looking forward to it

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    I believe Chairelli trade for Reinhart should be the final nail in the coffin for MacTavish – Howson and Green.

    It was an awful price to pay at the draft and the cap structure should have been caught by those who influenced Chairrelli to make the move.

    Chairelli was brand new to the Oilers and had very little on Reinhart.

    Not to mention Reinhart had been passed by two other players on NYI.

    • Soccer Steve

      I remember thinking that this trade had MacTavish and Howson smeared all over it. Chia was in charge but maybe this was concocted before his arrival? Would make a bit of sense…in that it makes none at all.

    • For Pete's Sake!

      Sorry, I don’t think you can blame this one on MacT. Chiarelli is a big boy and he can shoulder the blame for the Reinhart deal all by himself.

      Besides, why wouldn’t he be skeptical of any advice from the just fired GM he has replaced? If Chiarelli was stupid enough to listen to the advice of the discredited MacT, that’s his own mistake.

      Chia has proven not to be bullet proof in his first year and we can thank Jonathan Willis for very ably pointing out his mistakes with regard to the Reinhart and Korpikoski deals.

      Everybody makes mistakes though. I don’t blame Chia for making a few. The real test is to see if he can admit his mistakes and clean them up. That’s something MacT never did.

      • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

        I’ll concede that Chairelli trading for Reinhart is partially at fault.

        However, when you have THREE hockey men telling you that this trade is a deal, that they have innate knowledge of this player from being in Edmonton for three years and would be a top 4 defender would you not have made the deal?

        Chairelli was going by what three GM’s were telling him, why wouldn’t he listen?

  • RJ

    If they did decide to move him, what’s his trade value?

    He couldn’t crack the line-up for the Islanders and saw other prospects pass him on the depth chart. Then he got traded to Edmonton and the exact same thing happened. He’s not even the best defenceman in Bakersfield, so maybe you sucker Benning to giving up a pick or prospect for it.

    Then fire whoever recommended this horrible trade.

  • 24% body fat

    He’s brutal.

    Matt Barzal
    2015-16 52gp 25g 58a 83pts 52pims +24

    The right shot skill player that could replace Eberle

    Brandon Carlo
    Defense — shoots R
    Born Nov 26 1996 — Colorado Springs, CO
    [19 yrs. ago]
    Height 6.05 — Weight 196 [196 cm/89 kg]

    The big Right Handed defenceman of the future.

    Chia took credit for this trade but it was not him, it was MacT who knows nothing about what an NHL defenceman is.

    • dougtheslug

      It has the lazy (hey, we saw him in Edmonton with the Oil Kings a few years ago, he was great!), poorly scouted (who else remembers chief scout Bob Green gushing about Griffin at the draft, then dropping the bomb that he “hadn’t actually seen him play in the AHL”- my blood ran cold at that moment), Craig MacT (“Norris Trophy, blah, blah, blah….”) feel to it. If it wasn’t the Old Boys, they definitely were in the room.

      I bet PC wishes he had a do-over.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      with all due respect waiting for Barzal to develop and replace established young vets like Ebs, or waiting for Carlo to replace whoever on defense, is just rebuilding the rebuild and that’s not completely necessary.

      we have to subtract the crap, and we’ve been doing that, and add better players to our core and THAT will help us win NOW. as much as i like Barzal and Carlo, we’ll live without them, but we should have gotten a better return for them than Reinhart.

  • toprightcorner

    Reinhart was over valued by Green who really pushed him to Chiarelli and the fact that his development was messy with the NYI, falsely increased his immediate potential. If Reinhart is not traded, he needs to play in the AHL. Chiarelli wont trade him as a single piece more to hide the loss of the mistake so i expect him to be in a package. Problem is that he will have to big of a cap hit to play on a cap crunch team.

  • Anton CP

    Chiarelli knew the Oilers bluelines need a major overhaul so he stack up as many as possible. It is nothing wrong with that because the previous managements never have tried to fix the issue. Idealy that Nurse should still be in the minor and Reinhart supposed to be ready, so the situation reversed but that is not a bad thing.

    Either way, we will know for sure next year when Reinhart will be on last year of his entry.

  • BlueHairedApe

    PC on the phone with Garth Snow: “Hey Garth remember last year when you bragged up that Reinhardt kid and squeezed out two draft picks from me? Well it hasn’t worked out the way you promised. Going forward here I could really use a more proven player like Hamonic and the way I see it you owe me here a little bit buddy. Now let’s make a deal. Here’s what I propose…”

  • Harry2

    Reinhart should stay in the AHL until he forces his way onto the roster. Theres no harm in that. Hes still very young and despite what JW’s forced numbers tell you, he still has time to become the NHLer that Chiarelli and Edm need him to be.

  • Copper

    Stop worrying about balance of RH and LH shooting players. Only 1/3 of NHL Defensive players are RH. The way a player shoots shouldn’t determine if the make it he team. Ideally you would want balance but does any team have that balance. I looked up Detroits roster and assess. According to The Hockey News, they have 62 players in their system. Only 13!!!!! are RH.

  • Mooseroni

    Reinhart has pedigree but is being exposed. If he could play with a veteran defenseman it would boost his game big time. Look for a Ufa in the summer (Kyle Quincey maybe)

  • OilCan2

    Reinhart will not be able to skate himself onto the Oilers roster. Yikes!! we actually have a bit of depth brewing back there.

    Perhaps an AHL start next year. If he can learn the system there then maybe a call due to an injury. Sadly he has almost zero trade value. I would love it if PC could pull a rabbit out of his hat and get a roster player or decent pick for him.

  • @Hallsy4

    Personally I thought he was pretty slow when still with the oil kings. Drafted too high. I’d trade him, too many on the left side, and we could trick ànother gm with him as a high end throw in prospect to get us a stud RH. #tradethemall

  • Oilerchild77

    Well, I see a lot of people on here calling Reinhart brutal. This is a fanbase that had to watch Justin Schultz for the last 4 years, so I think the term “brutal” has an entirely different meaning here. I think I’ve seen enough of Reinhart to know he isn’t nearly that bad.

    In fact, if you ignore the price paid for him, he can serve well as a depth dman. He will probably be replacing David Musil on the depth chart in Bakersfield next season because Musil is an RFA and I doubt the Oilers will bring him back. If you think Reinhart is slow, you should see leadfoot Musil play. WOW!

  • tallsamoan

    Give the guy a break. I expect him to develop into a no. 4/5 defenceman at the age of 24. Anything else is premature and wishful thinking. He has tons of upside, which needs to be refined first. A couple of years in the AHL is just about right, with the occasional call-up.

    Yes, his cap hit hurts, and we gave up a wee bit too much for him. But he is not a bust just yet.
    IF (an that’s a big IF) the Oil develop Reinhart properly, he could have a 10-12 year NHL career in your 2nd/ 3rd pairing.

  • Brandon Davidson was drafted in 2010. Reinhart in 2012. I’m completely willing to wait for 2 more years before considering the value of the asset. A wise man has said many times to wait at least 5 years from the draft year (possibly more for defensemen). Only Griffin Reinhart will determine the pace of his development, and this has nothing to do with the chiral needs of the Edmonton Oilers.

    • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

      You don’t find it a little disturbing that the Oilers used AHL Oesterle and are using both Nikitin and Clendening, meanwhile, they picked up Pardy on waivers and still havn’t given Reinhart a sniff

      I mean, if he’s just on the bubble then why is Nikitin or Clandening still playing? Both are awful at the NHL level.