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GM Chiarelli puts his stamp on Oilers roster at draft

by Dan Rosen

SUNRISE, Fla. -- In the two months and three days since Peter Chiarelli was hired as general manager to steer the Edmonton Oilers back to relevancy, he has overseen changes across the hockey operations department, including a new coaching staff and scouts.

Chiarelli finally got a chance to put his stamp on Edmonton's roster at the 2015 NHL Draft and he did some serious work.

"You gotta make hay when the sun shines," Chiarelli said, "so this was a good time to do it."

Chiarelli made the obvious selection of forward Connor McDavid with the No. 1 pick. It's a game-changer for the Oilers and could go down as one of the most important moments in their history. It was also the easiest thing Chiarelli may ever do as Edmonton’s general manager.

What Chiarelli did after selecting McDavid was the real chore.

He started Friday by helping bolster the defensive depth by acquiring 21-year-old Griffin Reinhart from the New York Islanders for the No. 16 and No. 33 picks.

Reinhart should be able to grow with Edmonton's roster of core young players, which for now includes McDavid, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle, Leon Draisaitl, Anton Lander, Justin Schultz, Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse.

"He's a big, strong man," Chiarelli said of Reinhart. "He thinks the game well. He moves the puck well. He's the type of [defenseman] that we need. Now, he's young, and you've gotta give these guys time, but I was excited to get him."

Chiarelli continued to fill out some needs Saturday, acquiring goalie Cam Talbot from the New York Rangers and defenseman Eric Gryba from the Ottawa Senators. Edmonton had to give up draft picks and a prospect.

Talbot cost the Oilers picks Nos. 57, 79 and 184. Gryba cost them the No. 107 pick and forward Travis Ewanyk. Edmonton previously acquired the No. 107 pick and prospect Brad Ross from the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade for defenseman Martin Marincin.

Gryba essentially replaces Marincin, except he's four years older and has played in 80 more NHL games than Marincin.

Ironically, the Senators acquired Gryba with the compensation pick (No. 68 in the 2006 draft) they received from the Boston Bruins when Chiarelli left Ottawa to become Boston GM.

Chiarelli said Gryba will likely slot in as a third-pair defenseman with the Oilers.

"I've always had a soft spot for Gryba," Chiarelli said. "I think he's a good strong [defenseman]. He plays a heavy game. He hits. He'll back up his teammates. I've seen a lot of him over the years in Boston."

Getting Talbot was key because the Oilers went into the weekend hoping to acquire a goalie who could be their No. 1, or at least compete for that spot with Ben Scrivens.

Chiarelli targeted Robin Lehner, who was traded by Ottawa to the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. Chiarelli turned his attention to Talbot on Saturday because he was impressed by his performance this season when Henrik Lundqvist was injured.

Talbot went 16-4-3 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 23 starts while Lundqvist was sidelined with a vascular injury.

Chiarelli said he was hesitant to acquire a goalie who can be an unrestricted free agent following next season, but ultimately wasn't concerned enough to not make the trade.

"I'm new to the organization, new to the west, and I said [to Talbot], 'In my short time here it's been outstanding, I've loved it,'" Chiarelli said. "I said, 'You're from the east, get out here, let's get you going, you'll see the people, the rink, the fans and I bet you'll want to stay here.'"

Chiarelli made five more picks, all from the fourth round on. He would have had more, but he traded them so he could put his stamp on the roster now. In doing so, he said it takes some of the pressure off him to make major moves once the free agent market opens Wednesday.

"It certainly changes things for free agency," Chiarelli said. "There's still some needs we have. Free agency, you never know if you're going to get the player you want, and I'm actually pretty good with where we're at now so if we can't get those things it lessens the pressure a little bit. We'll still be on alert."


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