NHL trade notes: Maple Leafs get Ryan O’Reilly, their possible ‘missing piece’

NHL trade notes: Maple Leafs get Ryan O’Reilly, their possible ‘missing piece’

The exchange

The Maple Leafs get: Ryan O’Reilly (50% of salary retained by Blues, 25% by Wild), Noel Acciari and Josh Pillar

The Blues get: Mikhail Abramov and Adam Gaudette, Toronto’s first-round pick in the 2023 draft, Ottawa’s third-round pick in the 2023 draft and Toronto’s second-round pick in the 2024 draft

Get wild: Maple Leafs fourth-round pick in 2025 draft

Eric Duhatschek: So what looks like a messy three-way trade between the Leafs, Blues and Wild — which officially included nine separate pieces — really comes down to this: Toronto spent big to pick up 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Ryan O ‘Reilly, in an effort to end one of the most confusing, frustrating and time-consuming examples of playoff futility. An inability to win a round since 2004. An inability to win a championship since 1967.

Is O’Reilly the missing piece? Based on the evidence from this season alone, maybe not. He’s had his ups and downs, with just 19 points in 40 total games, making it seem like the years are taking their toll on a player at heart and soul who bleeds the team and oozes leadership.

But he’s been better of late, recovering from a broken foot and returning to the Blues’ roster after a 14-game absence, and he’s had three points in three games. Ultimately, the Leafs are banking on the fact that when the playoffs begin, pedigree matters.

With O’Reilly on board, the Leafs are regaining some ground on the vast lead the Tampa Bay Lightning have in the playoffs – and who’s kidding who? With two months left in the season, it would take a miracle for Toronto’s first-round opponent to be anyone other than the battle-tested Lightning. It could be argued that Toronto has issues in goal and defense, in addition to being a little soft on offense.

O’Reilly balances the scales a bit and the helpful and experienced Noel Acciari is a useful addition of depth, though it’s not worth overestimating what he brings either. In 54 career playoff games, Acciari has seven points. He’ll fight for the Leafs in the trenches, but his contributions will mostly be providing unseen minutes and the ability to push back when players like Pat Maroon and Corey Perry try to flex their muscles against a Leafs team with a soft low six. .

The acquisition cost — not just to land O’Reilly, but to get the Minnesota Wild to soften the financial blow — ends up being four draft picks: a first, second, third and fourth, spread over four years. The third pick originally belonged to Ottawa, which Toronto acquired when they agreed to drop Matt Murray and his contract from the Senators. It could still be said that Toronto’s biggest question mark remains in goal and when they face the Lightning, the gap between Andrei Vasilevskiy and Ilya Samsonov will be cavernous.

There’s only value in giving up that much provisional capital if you win. Not so much if you lose. Could the Leafs have spent that elsewhere? Maybe. It all depends on what O’Reilly ultimately brings to the mix — and whether his presence ends this long, long playoff drought.

The Blues get a player, Adam Gaudette, who almost scored a point per game in the AHL but no longer really projects as an NHL player, as well as 2019 fourth-rounder Mikhail Abramov. Minnesota is essentially buying a fourth-round pick to keep a quarter of O’Reilly’s salary.

Maple Leafs Rating: B
Blue rating: B-plus
Wild Grade: B

Luszczyszyn House: Four years ago, O’Reilly won the Selke Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup. This O’Reilly probably isn’t coming through the Maple Leafs’ door, not after his weakest season in years. The idea of ​​the man is a little bigger than the man actually is, but the Leafs are still in the process of acquiring a strong, smart player with a playoff pedigree. He just needs a lesser role.

If you’re expecting a frontline center, like what O’Reilly has been for the past half-decade, chances are you’ll be disappointed. At 32, O’Reilly’s game has fallen below that level this season as he struggles to produce near his usual pace. But the Leafs don’t need O’Reilly to be a top center; they already have two of the best in the game. They need someone who can lead the supporting cast, and that’s a role O’Reilly should be able to thrive in.

O’Reilly’s value has dropped every year since 2018-19, but he’s still expected to be worth 1.2 wins. It may even be modest, given the bad luck he has faced this year compared to previous years and the context of his minutes. O’Reilly’s minutes are tougher than 97% of the league this season, but they surely won’t be in Toronto, where he’ll play either on one of the top two lines or in a reduced role in the last six. . Either way, he should put up better numbers with the Leafs.

There are concerns with O’Reilly at both ends of the ice this season, which makes his acquisition a bit risky. He’s allowing chances and goals at the highest rate of his career and although he’s creating plenty of chances the other way, they don’t come in. Compared to his teammates, his impact on goals has been negative for two consecutive seasons. It might be bad luck, but it’s a reason to be careful before calling the move a certified slam dunk.

The Leafs need it because they paid a huge cost in draft picks to get there. Toronto shipped first-, second-, third-, and fourth-round picks to grow the money — a high price — and also added Acciari. St. Louis has been very successful in getting so much for a declining asset and should be commended for recouping the big prize despite a low season for O’Reilly.

That huge cost won’t matter if it works, and O’Reilly could very well be the play that puts Toronto above. But it’s always a risk to go all-in on a 32-year-old who has just been injured and is playing well below his usual standards. O’Reilly’s reputation is strong enough to make him a worthy target, and his playoff resume is obviously attractive to a team like the Leafs, desperate to finally take the next step. It’s time to see if he lives up to the hype and gets them there.

Maple Leafs Rating: B
Blue rating: A
Wild Grade: B

(Photo by Ryan O’Reilly: Bob Frid/USA Today)

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