Ranking The 5 NHL Teams That Should Trade for Blues Center Ryan O'Reilly
If it feels like we've been picking on the St. Louis Blues a bit this season...well, maybe we have been. After all, it wasn't that long ago we looked at how the Blues could trade UFA-to-be Vladimir Tarasenko.
Since winning seven in a row, they have lost six of their next seven games, and tempers are up again.
Jordan Binnington has started so many petty fights that coach Craig Berube wants him to knock it off and just worry about the whole puck-stopping thing. They've allowed a ton of goals and haven't scored nearly as much, given the talent in their lineup.
The Blues are indeed quite blue, and, again, it feels like they need a shakeup. Trading Tarasenko is one thing they could do; trading team captain Ryan O'Reilly is another.
Like Tarasenko, O'Reilly is in the final year of his contract. O'Reilly's seven-year, $52.5 million contract he signed with the Buffalo Sabres oh, so long ago is at an end this summer, which turns him into the perfect candidate to trade to a serious Stanley Cup contender.
But where? Surely there's a market for the 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner who regularly scores 50-60 points and is also one of the better defensive forwards in the league, not to mention an outstanding faceoff winner.
There should be a ton of teams after him, but I'm narrowing it down to five, given those teams' current situations, future outlook and hopes to win it all this year.
As the guy who asked the question that (accidentally) aided O'Reilly being traded out of Buffalo, I think I've got some rather unfortunate expertise in this department.
5. Colorado Avalanche
Everyone loves a feel-good story, right? If the Colorado Avalanche brought Ryan O'Reilly back to the franchise, it would have to qualify as one.
When the Avalanche traded O'Reilly to the Buffalo Sabres at the 2015 draft, it ended what was a semi-tumultuous time in Denver for O'Reilly. If you don't recall, O'Reilly signed an offer sheet with the Calgary Flames in late February 2013 after a stalemate over a deal with the Avalanche caused O'Reilly to miss the first half of that season.
Colorado almost immediately matched the two-year, $10 million offer, and the clock began ticking down to when O'Reilly would likely move on from the team.
That time came in the summer of 2015 when O'Reilly was a year into his next contract of two years, $12 million. The relationship was never quite the same after the offer sheet, and they were happy to send him to the Sabres for a package of prospects, including J.T. Compher, who remains with the team now.
Time heals all wounds, and former Avs GM Greg Sherman is long gone after Joe Sakic took control of the position. Since then, both O'Reilly and the Avalanche have won a Stanley Cup, and both sides have thrived. Reuniting Colorado and their 2009 second-round pick would be a hatchet burial worth smiling about, and it would give Colorado a vastly improved chance to repeat as champions.
Center is one position where things are a little dicey for the Avalanche, and bringing back O'Reilly would vastly strengthen them up the middle behind Nathan MacKinnon. A bonus to adding O'Reilly would be insurance in case of a MacKinnon injury. The Avs' center left Monday's loss to the Flyers with an upper-body injury, and while there's no word yet for how long he'll be out, it's something that bears watching.
If bygones can be bygones, a reunion in Denver could go a long way to hosting another parade through the Rockies.
4. Dallas Stars
Trading within the conference is usually hard enough to do, and doing so within the division is even less likely. However, if there's a team in the West that would benefit greatly from Ryan O'Reilly's presence, it's the Dallas Stars.
The Stars are amid a changing of the guard of sorts from Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn to Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson. Benn and Seguin are having strong seasons, but Hintz and especially Robertson are on another plane of existence at the moment.
But the center spot could use some reinforcement, and with the Stars atop the Central Division in a battle royale with the Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche, they're going to need reinforcements.
Adding O'Reilly to the Stars' lineup would deepen them up front dramatically and allow them to have an even better three-line attack. Coach Pete DeBoer has been good with spreading the wealth throughout the lineup, but O'Reilly would give them a player who has been through the battles and excelled.
He would also relieve some pressure on 38-year-old Joe Pavelski to be the guy at center to handle anything and everything in big moments.
Dallas is missing its first- and third-round picks in the 2023 draft, but they have some interesting young players scattered about the NHL and AHL lineups. The cost to get O'Reilly from a divisional rival could be a little higher than it would be to, say, an Eastern Conference team, but when the goal is to win the Stanley Cup, any opportunity to give your team the best possible chance has to be explored.
O'Reilly as a pure rental would give the Stars a chance to fight off the torrid competition from within the division and make a legit run at the franchise's second Stanley Cup.
3. Edmonton Oilers
It seems like we're always trying to find that one player to help put the Oilers over the top and give Connor McDavid an even better chance to lift the Stanley Cup.
After all, the Oilers haven't been able to figure it out for themselves, so providing pointers seems like the noble thing to do.
Playing defense across the ice is often an issue for Edmonton. In previous seasons, it was the blue line that gave the Oilers headaches and contributed to earlier-than-anticipated playoff departures. The Oilers have offense for days with McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman.
Three of those four are capable of playing center, although Draisaitl is back with McDavid for now, giving them an all too unfair top line.
Still, offense isn't the problem, even with Evander Kane out indefinitely after a gruesome skate cut. The Western Conference is a wicked time to get through the postseason, and even the Pacific Division is proving to be difficult, with the Vegas Golden Knights back from injury doom, the Seattle Kraken stunning everyone and the Los Angeles Kings a dangerous young team.
What was supposed to be the Oilers and Calgary Flames fighting to the death atop the division is suddenly a little too exciting for last season's Western Conference finalists.
Adding O'Reilly into the Oilers forward group to be an offensively strong defensive forward would give them the perfect player to deal with the likes of Nazem Kadri, Anze Kopitar or Jack Eichel in the playoffs, should those be their battles to handle.
The Oilers aren't in a position to keep messing around with McDavid's prime years dominating the NHL. The time to win it all is now.
2. New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils do not need a lot of help with the way they're playing right now. Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt are off to torrid starts, and other young players, like Dawson Mercer and Yegor Sharangovich, are thriving in coach Lindy Ruff's system.
Hughes is a No. 1-A center star, and Hischier is a bit under the radar (for now) as one of the better two-way forwards in the NHL but is New Jersey's No. 1-B up the middle. There are very few teams in the NHL with a one-two punch like that.
Behind them, however, things are a little bit more up in the air. That's where O'Reilly comes in.
Michael McLeod and Jesper Boqvist are two young players the Devils developed from within, so there's a sense of commitment to them and allowing them the opportunity to continue growing and improving the way they have with the Devils the past couple of seasons. That's doing development the right way, after all.
But New Jersey is one of the best teams in the NHL right now, and the Eastern Conference will be a slobberknocker to get through the rest of the season and throughout the playoffs. Veteran savvy goes very far, and O'Reilly has already shown he's beyond capable of leading the way in St. Louis.
The Devils have plenty to offer to make a deal, be it picks or other prospects. Having O'Reilly be the ace in the hole for defensive matchups, key faceoffs and clutch ability would be a huge boost to the Devils, even though it seems like they don't need such luxuries right now.
1. Florida Panthers
The Panthers might seem like an odd choice, but stay with me here because there's a good reason for it.
Florida is in a win-now window for the next two to three seasons. The Panthers traded away their first-round pick in the 2023, 2024 and 2025 drafts in deals that look rather regrettable in hindsight.
They've put up a ton of money for Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk for the foreseeable future. They have Sergei Bobrovsky against their cap for $10 million per season through 2025-2026, and backup/maybe starter Spencer Knight's three-year extension kicks in next season at $4.5 million per year against the cap.
The Panthers started pushing all their chips to the middle of the table last season, and they're pot-committed until they go bust, which they cannot afford to do.
The Panthers have a load of talent up front, but they lack depth due to, well, trades and giving away draft picks. The best time to win a Stanley Cup is right now, because why punt to next season when you know what you have?
Adding O'Reilly to the Florida lineup would have them set down the middle through the rest of the season and into the playoffs...if they get there. The battle in the East for the postseason is going to be wicked, and the Panthers need to find a way to get an edge any way they can.
With Barkov, Anton Lundell and O'Reilly up the middle, they would have an outstanding top three at center. That would allow them to create mixes of scorers and two-way players to both produce more on their own and shut down opponents.
The cost to acquire O'Reilly may be out of Florida's range because of its dearth of top-end picks and prospects. Along with the first-round picks they traded away the next three years, they're also without their third-round pick in 2023 and their second-round pick in 2024.