It didn’t take Peter Chiarelli long to start digging the hole he would eventually end up burying himself in when he arrived in Edmonton.
Chiarelli was brought in to steer the ship shortly after the Oilers won the Golden Ticket at the 2015 draft lottery. The Old Boys Club got shoved aside and Chiarelli, who had Stanley Cup pedigree from his days in Boston with the Bruins, was hired to be the man to turn the struggling Oilers around.
The first order of business was simple. Walk up to the podium and draft Connor McDavid with the first-overall pick. After that, it was time for Chiarelli to start putting his fingerprints on the roster.
It was well-known at this time that the Oilers were a disaster on the blueline. During their tanking years in the early-2010s, they used virtually all of their top draft picks on forwards. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and Leon Draisaitl were top picks in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014, and the only time they bucked the trend was with Darnell Nurse, who was taken seventh overall in 2013.
Chiarelli’s first trade at the helm of the Oilers, in my mind, was his worst. He moved the No. 16 and No. 33 overall picks at the draft to the New York Islanders for Griffin Reinhart. The Islanders used the No. 16 pick to select Mat Barzal, who slid due to injury concerns, and they used the No. 33 pick to trade up into the first round to grab Anthony Beauvillier.
Reinhart was a name that Oilers fans were very familiar with. He had been drafted by the Islanders with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft after a couple of great seasons with the Edmonton Oil Kings. After helping the Oil Kings win the WHL in 2012, some fans even wanted the Oilers to take him with the first-overall pick in that year’s draft. When the Oil Kings won the Memorial Cup in 2014 with Reinhart playing a key role, there was talk about sending the Islanders the No. 3 pick in that year’s draft to acquire him.
Finally, the Oilers had their Oil King.
Unfortunately, it was starting to become evident that Reinhart wasn’t developing into the player that many expected him to when he was a rock with the Oil Kings. While other top-drafted defencemen from the 2012 class like Ryan Murray, Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba, and Hampus Lindholm had already established themselves as NHLers, Reinhart was toiling away for the Islanders’ AHL affiliate.
In 2014-15, Reinhart had a mediocre transition to the professional ranks, putting up 22 points and a minus-16 rating in 59 games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. His eight-game cup of coffee at the NHL level was also underwhelming. By the end of that season, he had been jumped on the Islanders’ depth chart by 2012 third-round pick Adam Pelech and 2013 first-round pick Ryan Pulock, so they decided to move on.
While the Islanders saw a defenceman that wasn’t going to live up to his potential, the Oilers saw the stud that had grown up in their back yard. Chiarelli said after the trade that the Oilers had plenty of intelligence on Reinhart internally and that it was important to acquire players that you knew.
Just like all of the other Oil Kings that the Oilers believed in, like Travis Ewanyk, Mitch Moroz, and David Musil, Reinhart was never able to live up to his potential. Reinhart would crack the Oilers’ roster to start the 2015-16 season, but only lasted until November before getting sent to the AHL. His play in Bakersfield was ho-hum, but Reinhart got called up again later in the season due to injuries. All told, he played 29 games for the Oilers, posting one point.
Reinhart would play only one more game for the Oilers after that season. That came in the 2017 playoffs when both Andrej Sekera and Oscar Klefbom went down with injuries. After that, the Oilers let him go in the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft. He hasn’t since played a game in the NHL and, most recently, he put up two points in 33 games for Kulun Red Star of the KHL.
Meanwhile, in New York, Barzal quickly blossomed into a star. He won the Calder Trophy in 2017-18 after putting up 85 points in 82 games. Kyle Connor and Thomas Chabot, the two guys drafted right behind Barzal with that No. 16 pick, are also excellent players. Any of those three would have been great additions.
Giving away two bullets in such a deep draft was a disaster for the Oilers. The whole thing was puzzling because, while the Oilers obviously needed to upgrade their blueline, they already had two young defenders on the left side in Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. What they needed was a good veteran defender, ideally one who played the right side, rather than another lefty prospect.
Since Reinhart didn’t turn into that guy, Chiarelli backed himself into making the panic decision of trading Taylor Hall in a one-for-one swap for Adam Larsson. If Chiarelli used these picks to acquire a better veteran defenceman, maybe the Hall trade doesn’t happen. Maybe Hall still gets dealt but there’s less pressure so the return is better. Or he could have just taken Barzal and trading Hall becomes much easier to swallow.
In a different world, we’re talking about this chain of trades as one of the best in Oilers history because the team managed to turn Magnus Paajarvi into David Perron and Perron into the draft pick that landed them Barzal or Connor or Chabot. Who knows. There are plenty of alternate timelines to think about when looking back on this trade and virtually all of them are better than the deal that Chiarelli made.
In terms of value given for value received, the Reinhart deal easily could have been higher on this list. But the next three that I’ll talk about over the next few days, in my mind, beat this one out for sentimental reasons.