SUNRISE, Fla. — Armed with a stockpile of picks acquired by predecessor Craig MacTavish, general manager Peter Chiarelli turned NHL draft weekend into a transformative one for the Edmonton Oilers.
Connor McDavid was the prize but the Oilers also got their goaltender in a trade for Cam Talbot and improved their defence with deals for Eric Gryba and Griffin Reinhart. And they did it all without giving up much of their current roster.
“I’ve got to give MacT some credit here because we had a lot of picks here, and we were able to shift some picks around and we were able to use the picks to get some players,” Chiarelli said Saturday. “You’ve got to make hay when the sun shines, so this was a good time to do it.”
In Talbot, the Oilers get a 27-year-old with just 57 games of experience but the potential to blossom into a legitimate starter. All it cost was the 57th, 79th and 184th picks in the draft, and Edmonton got the 209th selection back.
Talbot’s play late in the regular season when Henrik Lundqvist was injured stood out to Chiarelli.
“I think he’s really come into his own,” Chiarelli said. “With a goalie like that, there’s a smaller sample size with these guys, so you never know.
“It’s such an inexact science as goalies. He played really well for the last two years and he really played well in crunch time for the Rangers.”
The Caledonia, Ont., native has one year left on his contract at a cap hit of US$1.45 million. Chiarelli is taking some risk in acquiring a goalie who could be an unrestricted free agent next summer, but he told Talbot once he lives and plays in Edmonton, “I betcha you’re going to want to stay here.”
McDavid sat at the Oilers’ draft table Saturday morning and had nothing but good things to say about the move for Talbot.
“He’s a great goalie, stepped in great when Lundqvist was out and did a great job,” the No. 1 pick said. “That was something Edmonton wanted to do was go out and get a goalie, and they did that.”
They also checked off a box by getting Reinhart on Friday night from the New York Islanders for the 16th and 33rd picks and then Gryba from the Ottawa Senators for prospect Travis Ewanyk and the 107th pick. That selection came from the Maple Leafs in another deal which sent defenceman Martin Marincin to Toronto for minor-league forward Brad Ross.
Gryba, 27, is expected to be a third-pairing defenceman in Edmonton.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for Gryba,” Chiarelli said.
“I think he’s a good, strong D, he plays a heavy game, he hits, he’ll back up his teammates.”
The Senators originally drafted Gryba with the pick they received as compensation from the Boston Bruins for hiring Chiarelli, who said “might as well come full circle.”
Edmonton paid off on its compensation for coach Todd McLellan in the form of the 86th pick and took defenceman Caleb Jones 117th, defenceman Ethan Bear 124th, defenceman John Marino 154th, goaltender Miroslav Svoboda 208th and defenceman Ziyat Paigin 209th.