Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari head to Toronto; cap space heads to St. Louis, Minnesota: Around the League
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
Welcome back to Around the League — the series here at CanucksArmy where we deliver you all the latest news and notes from around the NHL, oftentimes through a Vancouver Canucks-tinted lens.
We have a trade to announce, and it’s a doozy.
In a move so crazy that it could only be made late on the Friday night before a long weekend, the Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari as part of a three-way trade with the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild. The trade involves a lot of moving pieces including two more players, four draft picks and salary retention, and today we’ll be going over each team’s part in the deal.
Ryan O’Reilly is a player that needs no introduction. The former Selke and Conn Smythe winner has been one of the best defensive centres in the game throughout his career and was the headline piece during the Blues’ Stanley Cup victory in 2019.
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O’Reilly’s 2022-23 campaign has been a step back by the 31-year-old centre’s standards, with just 19 points in 40 games and missing 14 games due to injury. But the Blues’ captain was also playing on a Blues team in transition and dealing with shaky goaltending, two situations he — probably — won’t be dealing with in Toronto.
O’Reilly immediately makes the Leafs a lot more serious of a contender and gives them a ridiculous three-headed-monster down the middle with Auston Matthews, John Tavares and O’Reilly. If playing on a much deeper roster gives O’Reilly the time and space to recapture his playoff MVP-caliber form, the Leafs might finally break their first-round curse and then some.
Also arriving from St. Louis, Noel Acciari is a depth centre the Leafs are plenty familiar with from his extended stays in Boston and Florida. After signing a one-year deal with the Blues in the offseason, the 31-year-old Acciari has had a decent season offensively with 18 points, including ten goals, in 54 games. Acciari will provide the Leafs with valuable bottom-six depth, especially after the team lost Nick Robertson to season-ending shoulder surgery last month.
The Leafs are in a spot where anything but a deep playoff run will be considered an abject failure, and with so many forwards heading for unrestricted free agency in the offseason, this is their clear “go big or go home” year. And looking over their current cap structure, GM Kyle Dubas may have more business to attend to before the trade deadline.
Blues swimming in draft pick green
It wasn’t long ago that a young Adam Gaudette was supposed to be a crucial part of the Canucks’ future. Now, he’s joining his fifth organization in three seasons.
To be fair to Gaudette, some of that is due to happenstance rather than underperformance. His strong scoring season with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies is likely why the Blues are taking him in the return, and it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him play NHL minutes down the stretch for St. Louis.
The Blues also get Mikhail Abramov, a 21-year-old centre who gives St. Louis’ prospect cupboard another AHL project for an organization already stocked to the brim. But the real reward for the Blues is in the three draft picks they’ve added, including Toronto’s 2023 first-rounder.
After dealing Vladimir Tarasenko to the Rangers last week, Blues GM Doug Armstrong has clearly seen the writing on the wall and begun retooling a roster that won him a Stanley Cup just four years ago. That foresight could be a huge reason why the Blues return to contention sooner rather than later.
The Minnesota Wild also found their way into the mix of this deal, facilitating O’Reilly’s move to Toronto by retaining half of his $7.5 million cap hit and receiving the Leafs’ fourth-round pick for their troubles. With Minnesota hurtling towards a massive cap penalty next season for the matching buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Wild have a hefty chunk of cap space worth using while they’ve got it, and weaponizing it for assets is the best way to do so.
In a lot of ways, this is the part of the trade that the Canucks should keep an eye on. Wild GM Bill Guerin essentially bought a mid-round draft pick for $3.75 million, and with Patrik Allvin placing Tanner Pearson on LTIR on Friday, it’s possible that Vancouver could be gearing up to make a similar type of move. Regardless of the price involved, any way you can accumulate draft picks without having to trade a real asset away is a move worth considering, especially for a rebuilding franchise.
What do you think of this three-way trade? Are there winners and losers? Let us know in the comments below.
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