The Oilers made the correct pick at #1. They happily selected Connor McDavid, and then presented him with the new orange jersey. The Jersey looked great, and the Oilers even put McDavid’s number on the back, a sign they’ve known for months they were taking the Erie Otter star. Peter Chiarelli informed us he told McDavid prior to the draft they were taking him, but Chiarelli was happy to see McDavid was a bit nervous on the stage.
He is only 18 and he just fulfilled one of his dreams, being drafted, and goals, going first overall, and the excitement of the moment wasn’t lost on him. I saw McDavid in our hotel lobby hours after the draft and he was still beaming. He was elated to go first overall.
That move was expected, but what the Oilers did with their 16th pick overall pick was not.
Chiarelli said he would not trade the #16 for a goalie, but I was surprised when he traded the #16 and #33 for Griffin Reinhart. I don’t mind the player. I believe he will be an NHL player, but his best-case scenario is that that he will be a #3 D-man. Realistically he seems more likely to be a #5.
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I was stunned they gave up two picks in the top-33 for a player who didn’t dominate the AHL this year. When you compare what other teams received for picks around #16, the Oilers got the least proven return. It was a horrible trade. The players available at #16 included Matt Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot, Travis Konecny and a few more. I’d bet they are all become better NHLers than Reinhart.
Boston made just as bad of a trade, sending Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for the #15, #45 and #52 picks. I didn’t expect the Oilers to get an equal return for their 16th pick, but Boston traded a proven player away, while the Oilers added a question mark.
The Oilers actually offered a better package for Hamilton, #16, #33 and #57, but the Bruins made the mistake of letting emotions get in the way. Bruins fans should be livid that their GM turned down a better deal. It seems the Bruins didn’t want to trade Hamilton to a team that employed their former GM.
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It’s like the Oilers panicked after Boston didn’t accept their deal, and decided they have to get a D-man rather than just keep their picks.

DID OILERS IMPROVE THEIR D?

They improved their organizational depth, but Reinhart is not a proven NHL defender yet. He gives them another big body who is used to playing big minutes, but only in the WHL and AHL thus far.
As I wrote earlier, I don’t mind the player — I don’t like what they gave up to acquire him. It looks like a massive overpay to me when you compare it to all the other trades involving top picks for NHL players. There is no arguing Reinhart is the least proven of Hamilton, Milan Lucic or Robin Lehner.
I also don’t care that he was drafted 4th overall in 2012. Once you are in the NHL, where you were drafted is irrelevant. Top picks will get second, third and sometimes fifth opportunities, but his value today isn’t higher in my eyes just because he was the 4th pick three years ago. It is about how you play now, not where you were drafted three, four or five years earlier. And every draft year is different, and a #4 pick in 2012 is not equal to a #4 in 2010, 2011 or 2015.
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Reinhart’s development has been a bit slower than most top-five picks, but that doesn’t mean he won’t become a solid NHLer. I think he will, but only as a third pairing defender, and I believe they gave up more for him than most teams would have. The Oilers really like him, especially Bob Green, and many scouts, GM and coaches like to have players they know. Green knows his personality and his potential.
“He has great hockey sense, he’s big and can play forever. He needs to improve his lowerbody strength.I’m a huge fan,” Green told me Friday evening.
The knock on Reinhart is his footspeed. His conditioning is supposedly off the charts, however. He has tested incredibly well in that department. He can improve, but he’ll need to work on his leg strength in the summer. He can get there (to space on the ice), but he needs to do it more consistently. He has shown he will work hard (cardio), but he needs to work just as hard getting stronger.
He is still young, and I believe that is why the Oilers made this move. They feel he can be a regular on the blueline for years. The Oilers believe in him and that should help. Reinhart and Green have a great relationship and the trade should show him how high they are on him. Players want to reward a team for showing confidence in them, so we’ll see if Reinhart rewards the Oilers by putting in the hard work necessary for him to play in the NHL.
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Time will tell.

DAY TWO…

It began with multiple goalie trades.
The Hurricanes traded Anton Khubodin to the Ducks for James Wisniewski. It is interesting to note Khudobin makes more, $2,25 million, than Anaheim’s current two goalies, Freddie Andersen and John Gibson, combined. There were reports the Ducks are looking to move Gibson, which seems risky to me, and the Khudobin trade only added to the speculation.
The Canucks traded Eddie Lack to Carolina for the 66th pick this year and a 7th rounder next year.
The Stars acquired Antti Niemi’s rights from San Jose for a 7th rounder.
Oilers fans were getting a bit nervous, but Chiarelli landed the goalie he wanted all along, Cam Talbot. The Oilers acquired Talbot and the 209th pick (selected Ziyat Paigan) from the Rangers for the 57th, 79th and 184th picks. I’ve written before that I felt Talbot was the best option between Lack, Lehner, Markstrom and Jones, so I like this trade.
When given the opportunity to be the every day starter last season Talbot proved he could do it. While Henrik Lundqvist was injured Talbot started 23 of 25 games between February 4th and March 26th. He played both games in back-to-back three times going 2-0-1 in the second game while posting an equal or better sv% than the previous night, which is rare.
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In those 23 starts, Talbot had a record of 16-4-3. He stopped 655 of 703 shots (.931sv%) and had a 2.04 GAA. He faced an average of 30.5 shots/game. I don’t expect him to have the same numbers with the Oilers, because Edmonton isn’t as sound defensively as the Rangers, but I don’t agree with the theory Talbot’s numbers are only good because of who plays in front of him. I’ve never heard anyone suggest Henrik Lundqvist is only good because of his defence.
There are no guarantees, especially with goalies, but Talbot has shown, albeit in a small sample size, when given the opportunity he can be a solid starting goalie.
Chiarelli wasn’t done trading.
He sent Martin Marincin to Toronto for Brad Ross and the 107th pick. He then sent that pick along with Travis Ewanyk to Ottawa for Eric Gryba. He acquired a better defensive defender. Ross signed in Germany last December, after testing positive for steroids while playing in the AHL. He is a aggressive, gritty forward, and if he re-signs with Edmonton he is likely destined for the AHL.
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Gryba is a pure defensive defender. He is big, strong and reliable in his own zone. He does not possess Marincin’s puckhandling skills, but the Oilers need to start building a team that has players who excel in specific areas. Marincin didn’t produce offence and was not stellar defensively. Gryba will be a third pairing defender who kills penalties, but he is big and strong enough to break up a cycle and push people around in the defensive zone. He only has one year left on his contract, $1.25 million, so he is paid accordingly to his skillset.
I see Gryba as a defensive upgrade. He isn’t a sexy acquisition, nor is he the top-pairing defender the Oilers need, but he’ll be steady.

QUICK HITS…

  • Reinhart shoots left, but he can play the right side, and likely will next season. When I asked Chiarelli if he expected Reinhart to play in Edmonton next year, he answered yes, without hesitation.
  • If the Oilers traded David Perron and a second round pick for Griffin Reinhart and Rob Klinkhammer, most would suggest they lost the deal. That is what the Perron trade looks like now. I wrote in January I didn’t like it, mainly because it made the Oilers worse at that time, and now six months later I still don’t think they won the deal. Reinhart will need to become a solid #4 for the Oilers to win that deal.
  • Mark Fayne is currently their best option on the right side, and the Oilers are hoping Schultz puts in the necessary work in the offseason so he is strong enough to engage in a battle. Andrew Ference is likely the third pairing left defender. I’m curious what the Oilers do with Nikita Nikitin. He can’t possibly be as bad as he was last year, and they are hoping he gets off to a better start and can at least contribute something. I’m skeptical. The Oilers have eight D-men signed for next year, including Nurse, so signing a UFA defender would likely coincide with a trade or buyout.
  • The Blackhawks didn’t shed any salary, at least not yet. Pittsburgh and Washington want Patrick Sharp, and some other teams might try to acquire him if they strike out in free agency.
  • Unless the Oilers add another forward, my top-two lines would be:
    Hall-McDavid-Purcell
    Pouliot-RNH-EberleUntil Yakupov improves his defensive awareness, I wouldn’t put him with a young McDavid, and if he plays with Lander he can get some favourable matchups. Purcell is a veteran, and he has proven he can produce when playing with skilled players. He is next year’s option, but I wouldn’t re-sign him next summer.

Weekend winners and losers…

Winners…
Buffalo Sabres. They improved their team the most over the
weekend. They drafted Jack Eichel and traded for Ryan O’Reilly, Jamie McGinn, David Legwand and
Robin Lehner.  They had lots of areas to
improve, but GM Tim Murray improved his goaltending and centre ice issues and he has two veteran centres to protect his young ones rather than have young guys force fed tough minutes.
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The Oilers. They drafted McDavid — that alone makes them a winner. They acquired goalie Cam Talbot
and added some size on the blueline in Eric Gryba and Griffin Reinhart.
Calgary Flames. Dougie Hamilton was an excellent
acquisition, especially because they didn’t have to give up a roster player to
obtain his rights.
Carolina Hurricanes. James Wisniewski gives them a good
puckmover and Eddie Lack will push Cam Ward and could easily be their starter
of the future.
Florida Panthers.They did a great job on draft day. The
building was energetic and their in-house highlights and big screens were
top-notch.
Losers…
Boston Bruins. They traded Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic
and replaced them with draft picks and a backup goalie in Martin Jones.
Toronto Maple Leafs. They drafted Mitch Marner and eight other players, but they were unable to move Phil Kessel or Dion Phaneuf. Marner will help them down the road, but the Leafs didn’t make any significant changes to their roster. We’ll see what Shanahan/Hunter can accomplish in free agency.
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