The Edmonton Oilers possess a talented group of youngsters that is expected to the lead the team back into contention. New general manager Peter Chiarelli is doing his best to add reinforcements.
With an offensive attack that features Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle — all first-round picks, with the first three being drafted first overall — the Oilers have a nucleus that soon could dominate the league. They have lacked in other areas, however, but Chiarelli is in the process of addressing that.
Before beginning the transformation, he used yet another first overall pick on Connor McDavid, an 18-year-old center from Erie of the Ontario Hockey League who has all the makings of a superstar. McDavid recorded 97 goals and 285 points in 166 games over the last three seasons with the Otters and notched a league-leading 49 points in 20 games this past postseason.
“The guy has a lot of dimensions to his game, and what’s important is that he loves the game, too,” Chiarelli told the Edmonton Sun after selecting McDavid on Friday. “I saw that a lot in the playoffs. So that was an easy one.”
Finding help in two areas most in need of it will not be so easy. But Chiarelli showed he’s ready for the task as he sent the 16th overall pick, as well as a second-rounder, to the New York Islanders for young defenseman Griffin Reinhart.
The son of former NHL defenseman Paul Reinhart, the 21-year-old who was drafted fourth overall in 2012 made his debut this past campaign, registering an assist in eight regular-season games while also appearing in one playoff contest.
“He thinks the game well. He moves the puck well,” Chiarelli told reporters. “He’s the type of D that we need. Now, he’s young, and you got to give these guys some time. But I was excited to get him.”
A day later, Chiarelli made a deal to improve the team’s goaltending, acquiring Cam Talbot from the New York Rangers for three draft picks. The 27-year-old was superb as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup the last two seasons, going 33-15-5 with eight shutouts and a 2.00 goals-against average in 57 games.
“I think he’s really come into his own,” Chiarelli said. “He’s played really well for two years now. And he really played well in crunch time for the Rangers. … What he did when Lundqvist was out really swayed my decision.”
The GM wasn’t done, as he obtained defenseman Eric Gryba from the Ottawa Senators for forward Travis Ewanyk and a draft pick. The 27-year-old Gryba collected a career-high 12 points in 2014-15, his third year in the NHL.
Less than 24 hours before the start of free agency, Chiarelli added another offensive piece to the puzzle, acquiring Lauri Korpikoski from the Arizona Coyotes for Boyd Gordon. Despite being drafted 19th overall by the Rangers in 2004, Korpikoski has not lived up to expectations as he has yet to crack the 20-goal mark in seven seasons in the league.
The 28-year-old Finn came closest in 2010-11, netting 19 tallies in 79 games with the Coyotes. But he scored only six times in 69 contests this past season, leaving many to wonder if his best days are behind him.
Chiarelli still has plenty of work to do, but he’s on his way to helping the Oilers become a factor again. And with the free-agent market now open, he just may add more pieces.
“There’s some needs we have, but with free agency, you never know if you’re going to get the player you want,” he told the Sun. “I’m actually pretty good at where we’re at now. So if we can’t get those things, I’m OK.”