As per Frank Seravalli, contract extension talks between the St. Louis Blues and Ryan O’Reilly’s camp have been cordial, but nothing is close and both sides are losing hope that a deal will get done. While O’Reilly says he would like to stay in St. Louis, Seravailli writes, “…the smart money is still betting on the 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner being on the move.”
Suggesting O’Reilly will come back from injury and play for about two weeks before teams have to make a decision on how useful he could be for a playoff run, Seravalli argues that the center’s injury may actually enhance his value since he’ll be a well-rested player. If he comes back and plays better than he’s played thus far this season, his competitive nature and desire to win could make him an attractive option for a few teams.
When you factor in the fact that his cap hit is the only real hurdle (not the actual money owed on his deal), and he holds no trade protection in his contract, he becomes even more attractive. Who might be looking at O’Reilly over the next three weeks?
Seattle Kraken Have Cap Room
The Kraken are a team that could make an unexpected move before March 3rd. For months, fans have wondered if this franchise will buy ahead of their first post-season berth, but GM Ron Francis has yet to pull the trigger on anything flashy. Would O’Reilly qualify?
With just shy of $5 million in deadline cap space, the Kraken only need the Blues to retain about 35% of his salary to make this work. They won’t need a third team to come in as a third-party broker, even if that’s ultimately how something plays out. They are also a team that could also some center depth if Shane Wright isn’t in the picture and there’s any concern about Matthew Beniers’ injury or how he’ll perform under the bright lights of the playoff stage.
Should they use a third team, this becomes even easier and the Kraken have all sorts of draft capital that would entice the Blues to talk about a deal.
Minnesota Wild Are Going For It
Another team with the cap space to acquire O’Reilly is the Minnesota Wild. But, unlike most teams, they have enough room to take his deal straight up with no need for salary retention. This is not to say the Wild won’t ask, but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. If the Blues were willing to retain (and they likely would be), the Wild then have the space to go out and make other moves, potentially upgrading their defense in a Matt Dumba trade.
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The Wild aren’t terribly deep at the center ice position. They’ve got Joel Eriksson Ek, who is playing well with 40 points in 48 games, and Ryan Hartman can play both center and wing, but he’s having a down season after breaking out with 65 points in 82 games for the Wild in 2021-22. O’Reilly could fit nicely on a team that sees this season as their best window to push their chips in on players who don’t have term on their contracts.
Vegas Golden Knights Have Newfound Cap Space
The Golden Knights are a team that likes veterans with a proven track record. Some of their trades don’t pan out, but they like to make a splash, and with Mark Stone now out indefinitely, should the Golden Knights put him on LTIR, they’ll have over $12 million in cap space with which to play.
What makes O’Reilly intriguing is that the ask won’t be as high as some other rentals and the Golden Knights don’t have a ton of draft capital to make a move. They traded away a conditional second-rounder in the Jack Eichel deal, plus they don’t have their fourth-round pick this season. If they can use the third-round pick to get O’Reilly and maybe throw in a prospect or another pick in the 2024 draft, that could be enough to get this done.
One thing worth noting is that O’Reilly has a history with Jack Eichel which can’t be discounted. Whether it’s a good history or a bad one is up for debate.