Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Griffin Reinhart’s Edmonton Oilers career might be over even before it really begins

2016-17 Edmonton Oilers: No. 8 LD Griffin Reinhart

Griffin Reinhart played in a single game for the Edmonton Oilers in 2016-17. To be fair to the player, he played rather well in a difficult situation, stepping into the lineup out of necessity in a playoff elimination game and holding his own, even picking up an assist.

Even so, it was less than the team expected when it acquired him from the New York Islanders two years ago, and there’s every possibility that Reinhart will leave the Oilers organization this summer much the way he entered it: as a defenceman with pedigree, potential, but still little in the way of NHL results.

This was never the plan. Although Reinhart cannot be held responsible for the price paid to acquire him (two early picks in 2015, including the first-rounder used on Mathew Barzal) he certainly failed to live up to development path outlined by GM Peter Chiarelli at the start of training camp in 2015-16:

He has to make our team. We’ve got eight or nine D who are challenging. I believe he is. I know his year last year wasn’t great and there’s reasons behind that and that really is, not excuses, but there are reasons that explain it. But what I saw in the Memorial Cup is that you’ve got a player here who can dominate, that can lug the puck, and that can make plays and for a bigger sized man, he can move well. I would expect him to be in the top-four at some point.

Reinhart split his first year in Edmonton between the AHL and NHL, playing 30-odd games at each level. Although he entered the organization in a similar position to fellow left-shot defenders Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson, he was passed by both players.

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This season, he wasn’t given the same chance to make an impression. The salary cap worked against his bonus-laden entry-level deal (teams are allowed a rookie bonus cushion, but Edmonton had so many young players that they were at risk of exceeding it) and his play was not so remarkable that the Oilers were forced to find a place for him.

Superficially, Reinhart’s offensive numbers improved in the minors, but that was largely due to a power play push at the AHL level. That’s a problem because Reinhart won’t be a power play option in the NHL, and it’s hard to make a case for him as a playmaker when he’s getting outscored 2-to-1 at evens by Mark Fayne:

At this point, it seems unlikely that Reinhart will ever evolve into the top-four defenceman that Chiarelli projected him to be. That doesn’t mean he can’t still have an NHL career in a lesser role.

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AHL coach Gerry Fleming praised the evolution of Reinhart’s game in a January interview with 630 CHED’s Bob Stauffer:

Griff’s had maybe two bad games all year. He’s been solid for us, his compete level in practice has been good, again that’s carried over to the games. He’s doing things with a lot more intensity. One-on-one battles, he rarely loses them, he’s been strong in front of his net, he’s making guys fight for their ice and their boxed out. He’s joining the rush, although his point productivity isn’t where he’d like it to be, but he’s getting some good looks at the net and eventually he’ll start to get some points. He’s played well. The things that we’ve asked him to do, the things that we’ve asked him to work on he’s taken to heart and he’s really focused on those areas.

Even without a real offensive dimension, Reinhart is a 6’4”, 212-pound defenceman with the ability to play physically and intelligently in the defensive zone. He’s played both the left and right side extensively over his pro career, and that kind of versatility can make all the difference for a guy trying to win a third-pairing job in the majors. If he can make a competent first pass at NHL speed, that might be enough for him to have a decent career despite his limitations as a skater.

Ordinarily, we’d be talking about Reinhart as an obvious fit for the seventh defenceman role on Edmonton next year, as a cheap, versatile fill-in option who still has some untapped potential. Complicating that is the expansion draft.

Edmonton could theoretically protect four defencemen, but that would likely mean exposing Jordan Eberle and Zack Kassian, something which is difficult to justify in the name of shielding a 23-year-old who played one game this season. Assuming they don’t make that choice, Reinhart would be exposed to Las Vegas.

It’s not a lock that the Golden Knights will take Reinhart if he’s available. Edmonton will have some other interesting players on offer; certainly Laurent Brossoit, and likely one of Jujhar Khaira/Mark Letestu. What makes Reinhart interesting to Vegas is that team’s need to play the long game, to take some risks on a bunch of young players in the hopes that one or two of those gambles pays off with a long-term asset. Reinhart’s pedigree makes him an obvious possibility.

Whether or not he’s selected in expansion, Reinhart will need to make the jump to the NHL next year. Both his entry-level deal and his waiver exemption are now concluded, so he’s going to come into 2017-18 with a cheap contract and no ability to be hidden in the minors. At that point, he’ll need to win the job that has so far eluded him or risk being written off entirely as a prospect.

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Bottom line: Largely forgotten this year, Reinhart needs to establish himself as an NHL defenceman in 2017-18. The only question is whether or not he’ll be doing that with the Oilers.

Previous year-end reviews:

    • That's My Point

      TJ Oshie (UFA) tied for the goal scoring lead on the Caps with Ovie and scored his 33 goals in only 68 games (Ovie needed 82 games), I think this is an upgrade from Eberle. Oshie was also +28 and had 95 hits, Edberle only +3 with 26 hits. Oshie will sign for probably only $5,000,000 so the Oilers get a better player for less money. Can’t understand the trashing.

      • Sir Dudeinstein

        One thing to consider if you going to throw +/- (81 differential team vs 35) is time on ice. (I dont have the stats for even strength or points/60) Oshie did have close to 18 minutes per game played (13 power play points) and eberle played a minute less per game (14 power play points) While I agree oshie is more of a “complete” player compare to Eberle, before anyone mention I using complete as if he doesnt score he tries to play a different role like hit or grind not float around.
        One thing we can consider, Eberle has taken 60+ more shots than Oshie so Eberle is shooting (maybe not capitalizing) and if 2017 is a “down” year for Eberle, maybe he can actually get a shooting coach that doesn’t excel in golf?

      • OriginalPouzar

        Oshie is going to cash in on his 26.5% shooting percentage from this past year.

        Very very doubtful he will continue to score 33 plus goals when that shooting percentage regresses closer to the norm – even with a McDavid bump.

        I think his contract will be very expensive and this organization can’t afford it.

      • Oilerchild77

        The trashing is because they’re not trading Eberle just because he isn’t producing consistently, it’s to free up cap space. So how does signing Oshie to another $6M contract accomplish that?

      • Bagged Almond Milk

        Oshie is Way better than Ebs… I’d love Oshie on the team. However, it may be (probably) will be that neither are on the team next season….. Oshie will be expensive and long term, for how old he is, and the Oil already have too many of those guys (Lucic), but I think the writing is basically on the Wall that Ebs is heading out of town…. The main difference I see between Oshie and Ebs, is that Oshie cares about winning, and Ebs doesn’t

    • Jordan88

      Oshie is going to get 7.0 7.5 on the low end. Edmonton would be better off pursuing Shattenkirk and TRADING eberle.

      Yeah l really want him to go to vegas. 20 goals just gone… for nothing. And this is why yall ain’t GM’s

    • Field Marshal

      Regardless of Eberle’s uninspiring playoff performance, he has value. He scored 20 goals through a season in which most would agree that he struggled and underwhelmed offensively. Sure, his $6M off the books would allow for flexibility to devote towards a pending RFA, but the Oilers would be foolish in allowing an asset to be taken for nothing.

  • testyesty44

    If eberle isn’t exposed chiarelli needs to be fired. Letestu exposed Willis? Aka our 2nd leading point getter in the playoffs for pennies on the dollar? Cmon.

    • Spydyr

      I want Eberle gone more than most here but the only way I expose him is if no one in the NHL will deal for him. I think some GM will take a chance on Eberle. The return may be underwhelming unless Chia can make the three for one deal with the one coming here.

      • That's My Point

        The return could be a UFA with the money freed up if Las Vegas bites on taking an exposed Eberle. That would essentially be equivalent to a one for one trade. Oilers get Eberle’s salary off the books and can sign a better player with Eberle’s salary, what’s not to like? I think some UFA’s may even take less money for the chance to play with McDavid or Draisaitl.

  • TKB2677

    I think there is going to be a lot of decent dmen for Vegas to choose from. I have done the Vegas expansion draft thing on capfriendly a few times and I don’t have a lot of problems picking out decent dmen. I have a hard time picking out very many forwards who I would remotely called a top 6 forward. Lots of 3rd and 4th liners but not many guys I would call a lock to be a top 6 forward on any team other than Vegas. So I think they are going to have a lot more problems finding forwards who can produce offense. Perhaps its wishful thinking – to a degree it probably is – but Pouliot would have scored well over 20 goals each of his first 2 seasons as an Oiler if he stayed healthy. He’s big, can skate, has some physical edge to his game, kills penalties, does have offensive abilities. He had a horrible year this year but if he has close to 20 goals again while doing all of the other things he does, that 4 mill looks not too bad. It might take a sweetener like a pick or prospect but I see there as being way better dmen available than Reinhart.

    • Leaking5w-30

      I don’t understand the logic that leads to valuing a perennial 20 goal scorer as having “negative value”. I’d be all for dumping his contract if it guarantee the signing of Oshi to a contract less than ebs. The problem is (unless oshi is taking the mcdiscout) I don’t think oshi will come that cheep.

    • Dan 1919

      I agree, there will be tons of Reinhart type D men (7-8 guys) for Vegas to choose from, finding 6 players to fill the top 6 forwards is going to be their biggest challenge. Assuming Letestu is protected, I honestly don’t think it’s a huge stretch that Vegas takes Pouliot. Keeping in mind $4mill isn’t a complete boat anchor, they will still need to hit the cap floor, and there’s no denying he is a competent NHL forward that can play as a second liner… definitely not close to the best second liner in the league, but Vegas can’t pick those guys any way.

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    Griffen really impressed me coming into Game 6 of the second round this year and handling his ice time like an old pro.

    That said before then I would have said his time with the Oilers has been savagely disappointing and that the draft-day trade that Chia Pete made to land him remains one of the few blunders of Chiarelli’s moves.

    With guys like Bear and Jones coming up through the ranks I view Rinehart as completely expendable if Vegas or another team wants him..

  • Ivan Drago

    Why do some people want to keep ebs? With the expansion draft we have a golden opportunity to flush a bad contract. Ebs is a one trick pony and when it mattered most he couldn’t even do that. The most telling example of why he should be exposed happened right in the playoffs when he refused to take a hit to get the puck out, instead he turned it over (for the 2nd time) that shift and Anaheim scored. We don’t need that type of player. He proved instinctively that he won’t do whatever it takes to win. Then at end of year interviews he says he watched video and didn’t play bad, was just unlucky, what a load of crap. He has never been known to go into an off season and work on things like strength and speed either. He hasn’t performed well since he got that contract. Expose him, protect someone else, and use his 6 mill on someone else. Or keep him, he has another bad year, worth even less than now. Then what? Cause he’s a UFA in 2 seasons, his value will be even lower because of that. Now is the time to say bye to him. Vegas will take him but next yr there’s no expansion draft, strike while you can PC.

  • Spiel

    This was Chia’s worst deal.
    The moment this trade was made and Barzal was the selection for the Islanders, many people thought the Oilers lost the trade. Throw in the the additional pick and it just gets worse.

  • Ivan Drago

    @spydyr I get it and don’t disagree one bit. I just wonder what kind of player you get for him. All 29 GMs have seen him and I don’t want another teams castoffs instead. You still lose another player in your org if you trade ebs. Expose him, save the money and keep a diff player you otherwise expose. All in all I just hope we don’t see another poor season, followed by the season after he becomes a UFA and we’ve lost a player we could’ve protected and we lose ebs anyways.

  • madjam

    Doubt Vegas would be interested in Griffin considering they have many better options on defence , and they’d take Russel long before Griffin given the opportunity , just like we would do . . Broissoit is also very unlikely considering the better options Vegas has . Letestu and Pouliot may not be safe however .

  • dolenator

    I find it laughable that anyone thinks oshie will take any less then 6mill. With the contracts we have and the ones that will be signed over the next 12 months we cannot replace nuge or ebs with anyone paid over 4 mill. Even If we can get poo and fayn off the books it only buys a year grace until mcdavids big contract kicks in. We have some holes to fill in the lineup and unless a good trade comes along I think the safe bet is a 1-2year deal on a vet until we can fill t position internally.

  • RyanCoke

    I look at it like this. Wade redden made a ton of money and it got dumped in the minors. Eberle is in the same situation. He is a terrible player and getting paid big bucks. If we can compliance buy him out we would. So why is everyone so opposed to giving him to Las Vegas. They are ridding us of an albatross contract. If we dont expose him everyone will cry next year when he has less than 20 goal’s and dumps whatever perceived value he has left down the drain.

    • Dan 1919

      Eberle had 20G, 51Pts. I don’t doubt that plenty of GM’s aren’t interested in him, but someone out there would still trade a pick or swap one of their bad contracts with Chiarelli. I still think the Oilers will hold onto him and see how he rebounds next year if they can’t find a solid trade for him. Eberle does have it in him to be a great player, he use to drive the net on a nightly basis and find space for himself to make plays. He’s just hit the middle of his $6mill contract and thought he could just hit coast mode and it wouldn’t be this bad. I’d like to believe his pride kicks in now and he has a solid season next year.

  • OilRider

    I never understood why people keep comparing Reinhart to Barzal. I mean, I realize that he was the guy drafted at #16, but still. If I’m the Oilers, I wouldn’t have drafted him anyway. The last thing the Oilers need (especially at the time the trade was made) is another small, skill-type forward.

    Not that I’m defending the trade, mind you. As an armchair GM with the full benefit of hindsight, #16 and #33 in that draft would have got me Thomas Chabot and Brandon Carlo. Chabot essentially replaces Reinhart in the organization, and Carlo was playing, what, 1st-pairing RHD in Boston by the end of the season?

  • blark

    Are there any viable trade options for tams that have a player with a boat anchor contract that expires at the end of 2017-18? I feel like (without doing any actual calculations) that we should be fine signing Drai’s extension but it’s the season after where we might be in trouble. So trade Ebs for a bad contract that is expiring this year and then we’re laughing?

  • O.C.

    Hmmm. Barzal is player of the WHL Playoffs. I’m not making that point though… I still think PC needed to make something happen on D and not trying is worse than failing.

    But, how does Ethan not get the best playoff in WHL when he is a D man with better points in less games and better plus minus for those who like that stat?

  • Matty39

    Yes the Reinhardt trade was very bad no question. It would be terrible asset management if Reinhardt gets claimed. Especially looking back at what he cost in the trade.

    My biggest concern is if they (Oilers management) were really worried about losing Reinhart they would have never traded Davidson to Montreal for DD. DD was brought in to help with face offs and provide playoff experience. Minus a couple of good playoff games he failed.

    But trading Davidson for a UFA they had to realize they would lose Reinhart. Most people thought Davidson would be heading to Las Vegas. Oiler brass knew trading Davidson would put a target on Reinhart in the expansion draft. Not sure they are worried about it. It wouldn’t surprise me if a secret deal is in place to keep Reinhart so Vegas grabs another player. Which would mean an additional pick is used to keep Reinhart, say a 4th rounder.

  • Big Nuggets

    I’ve got it, Ebs and Griff to Winnipeg for Myers and a prospect(Lemiux). assuming Myers can still play hockey. i dont know what injuries he’s been dealing with. Winnipeg gets some offensive help to get them into the playoffs and edm gets a RD. Griff helps them offset the lose on D and we get a bonus prospect

  • Twitch

    Ebs still has value as a top 6 player and Vegas wont have many available at forward so instead of exposing him, trade Eberle for their 34th overall pick and the retention of the expansion pick…essentially Eberle for Reinhart and a 2nd. I think that’s still undervalued for a 50 point player but it solves 2 teams problems with one stone as the Oilers keep Griff and get a 2nd and Vegas actually has someone better than a mid range 3rd liner up front