The Edmonton Oilers are now Peter Chiarelli’s Team

Heading into the draft last weekend, the Edmonton Oilers and Peter Chiarelli were guaranteed a superstar in Connor McDavid. A franchise that has picked first overall four times in the last six years, it’s been a wonder to Oilers fans when this team would turn it around. Chiarelli was brought in to be the new general manager and suddenly, the air changed dramatically.

Accountability, something Edmonton’s management has lacked for too long, was brought back. This was no longer a country club of the same faces switching chairs and trading jobs.

As a former GM of the once-great Boston Bruins, Chiarelli had the experience and the credentials to take a team like the Oilers and build them back up into where they should be, much like he did in Boston. His first move went under the radar, but was an important one, signing 21-year-old prospect Anton Slepyshev to a three-year entry-level contract. The 88th overall pick in 2013, Slepyshev has spent the last four years in the KHL. Chiarelli stated he wanted the team to get bigger on the wing, and that movement began with the 6’2 winger signing with the team.

After selecting a franchise-saver in McDavid at first overall, Chiarelli wasn’t done impressing fans in Edmonton and league-wide. Normally picks 16 and 33 can bring two promising kids into your prospect pool, especially in a deep draft, but Chiarelli had different plans. He packaged the two picks and sent them to the New York Islanders in exchange for defenceman Griffin Reinhart, drafted 4th overall in 2012. The 21-year-old played just eight games with the Islanders and spent the majority of last year in the AHL, where he put up 7 goals and 22 points in 59 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He also embodies the Chiarelli mold of a big, puck-moving defenseman that can play physical and is sound defensively in his own end. Should he make the team, he would be one of the youngest blue-liners on the roster, with Oscar Klefbom also at the age of 21.

After clearing up a roster spot by dealing defenceman Martin Marincin to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for prospect Brad Ross and a 4th-round selection, Chiarelli flipped that same pick and sent it to the Ottawa Senators along with bruising prospect Travis Ewanyk for defenceman Eric Gryba. The 6’4, 214 pound blueliner fell down the depth chart in Ottawa, but his services could be utilized on Edmonton’s bottom-pairing. He’s a big, mobile defenceman that can lay out big hits and is intimidating on the ice. If management can steer him away from a top-four role, they’ll get the most out of Gryba. At most, he’s excellent depth to have at a 5th, 6th or 7th spot and fills a need on the blueline.

Possibly the biggest splash outside of McDavid came via trade, when Chiarelli addressed a long-time concern of the Oilers between the pipes. Edmonton has been somewhat of a revolving door of goaltending miscues, like Devan Dubnyk, who couldn’t do the job he was expected to do, followed by the likes of Ben Scrivens, Richard Bachman and Viktor Fasth. Chiarelli packaged the 2nd-round pick they received in the Jeff Petry trade, along with a 3rd-round and 7th-round selection and acquired goaltender Cam Talbot and a 2015 7th-round selection. Considering what Robin Lehner went for earlier, Chiarelli’s package looked like a respectable package to acquire a goaltender that impressed the world last season.

Known primarily as a good back-up behind Henrik Lundqvist, Talbot was tested last season when Lundqvist went down to injury. The 28-year-old appeared in 36 games and managed a .926 SV%. His five-on-five save percentage was .931 and his numbers took a dip due to an average showing on the penalty kill. While it was expected that the Rangers would take a fall from grace after their starting goaltender couldn’t play, Talbot held the fort down and provided stability in goal until Lundqvist could return. In two seasons, Talbot has appeared in 57 regular season games and two post-season games, so the sample size is limited at best. Chiarelli is banking on a strong showing from last year and hope to catch lightning in a bottle. Best case scenario, Talbot comes in a performs up to expectations. If not, his $1.45 million is off the books and he becomes a UFA.

There’s still a few needs that need to be addressed on July 1st.  They need some top-pairing defencemen and decisions need to be made regarding Reinhart and Darnell Nurse. The elite level of talent up front needs some veteran guidance, especially with McDavid coming in. Rumors have been circulating around a trade involving one of Jordan Eberle or Leon Draisaitl, which if one is traded, the return could bring in some pieces that Chiarelli needs to complete the overhaul.

Work still needs to be done but in one weekend, we have seen the Edmonton Oilers become Peter Chiarelli’s team.

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