For a hypothetical expansion team, it’s hard to imagine a
much better target than Griffin Reinhart. The 2012 fourth overall pick is still
finding his way in the NHL, but has the potential to play for a decade or more
in the league.
It’s also difficult to imagine the Oilers protecting
Reinhart in the expansion draft.
Options: 1. No expansion; 2. Expansion but deferred to later date; 3. Expansion by 1 team; 4. expansion by 2 teams.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 30, 2016
At this point, we still don’t know if or when the league
will choose to expand. As Bob McKenzie notes, there are four possible avenues
open to the NHL and no assurance as to which one Gary Bettman and the 30 team
owners will choose to take.
If the league plans to expand immediately, though, the new
team(s) wouldn’t be able to play until the 2017-18 season, which means that the
expansion draft itself wouldn’t take place until the summer of 2017. That’s
soon enough to worry about, but far enough out that things could change between
now and then.
We also aren’t entirely sure of the rules under which any
expansion draft would take place, though at last report it seemed NHL teams would have their choice of one of two protection options:
- Seven forwards, three defencemen, one goaltender
- Eight skaters, one goaltender
Assuming that is in fact the process, Edmonton would be
hard-pressed to protect Reinhart, especially if it adds one or two good
right-shot defencemen this summer.
Oscar Klefbom, obviously, would be protected. Andrej Sekera’s
no-move clause means Edmonton will in all likelihood have no choice but to
protect him as well. That leaves one or two spots (depending on
which option the Oilers chose) for other defencemen, at least one of which is
likely to be reserved for whoever the team adds to the blue line this summer.
All of which leaves a maximum of one spot for Brandon
Davidson, Griffin Reinhart, Mark Fayne and the rest (Darnell Nurse, by virtue
of a lack of pro experience, should be exempt). At this point it’s hard to
argue that Reinhart is more deserving of protection than Davidson.
The NHL’s new expansion rules should make new team(s) more
competitive right out of the gate, but it’s highly likely that any expansion
team would struggle in its first year. One simply doesn’t build a contender by
taking the 10th-best player off every NHL roster. That in turn suggests a
strategy: to the degree possible without overly sacrificing quality, drafting young
players with room to grow makes sense.
As far as Oilers defencemen go, that means Reinhart or
Davidson turns 25 this summer and has a range of skills;
after three full seasons in the minors he has emerged as a defenceman who plays
a polished defensive game and is capable of moving the puck. He climbed into
the top-four at points last season and if he can do it again there’s no way
Edmonton could justify exposing him to an expansion team.
Reinhart is less proven and less mobile, but he’s knocking
on the door of regular NHL employment. He looked capable of taking on third-pair
minutes in a 29-game cameo last season, though the Oilers’ logjam on the left
side and Reinhart’s own development needs may mean a return to the AHL to start
next season. He’s big, he’s smart and he’s only 22 years old. Skating remains
an issue, but if he can bring a physical dimension/competence with the puck on
a more regular basis he could still enjoy a long career in the majors.
Given that he’ll still have four more years under club
control when his entry-level deal expires in 2017, he’s an easy add for our
hypothetical expansion team and would certainly make more sense than a year or
two from a pricier veteran.
General manager Peter Chiarelli could, of course, make a
trade to remedy the situation. As previous general managers facing expansion
have done, he could bribe the league’s newest team(s) not to select Reinhart,
though that would certainly cost the Oilers something else of value.
Alternately, he could deal Reinhart to another team, though one imagines most
NHL clubs would have difficulty protecting the defenceman and that difficulty
would be reflected in the trade return.
Every team is going to have expansion draft headaches if the
league decides to go ahead with adding a team or teams, and Reinhart just
happens to be Edmonton’s.
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