Blues Have No Incentive to Trade Ryan O’Reilly at This Time

The St. Louis Blues have eight pending unrestricted free agents after the 2022-23 season. Among them is their captain, Ryan O’Reilly. Despite the center’s struggles this season, the Blues would be better off not trading their star player until he performs well enough to garner a package worthy of him.

There has been a lot of buzz about the Blues’ pending free agents, including sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. However, because O’Reilly is an NHL captain, many teams are interested in acquiring the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

After not signing him to an extension in the offseason, general manager Doug Armstrong looks like a genius. Of course, there was plenty of reason to offer him a new deal after another 20-goal season. Still, both sides decided to go into the season with O’Reilly’s contract expiring after the year.

There could not be a worse time for the Blues to trade him. He has not had the start he wanted, and his play could be attributed to the Blues’ poor start overall. O’Reilly has just 14 points in 27 games and a minus-19 rating.

Related: Blues Should Target Jesse Puljujarvi in Trade to Spark Offense

The Blues would not get any value in return for O’Reilly at this point. It would make more sense for the team to wait until the former second-round pick can turn it around and start producing. But, for now, the production is not there, and it’s not worth moving on.

With a critical three-game homestand starting Thursday in St. Louis, the Blues could either see themselves right back in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Central Division or entirely out of the playoff picture. So, Armstrong shouldn’t make any moves until after Christmas.

What Can We Expect From O’Reilly Moving Forward?

O’Reilly is going to be a big part of any possible turnaround for the team. Where the captain goes, the team goes, which he’s shown again and again in his five-year career in St. Louis; in 313 games, he has 94 goals and 263 points and led the Blues to their first Stanley Cup.

He has often been a point-per-game player and has put together seven 20-goal seasons and 10 seasons of recording at least 30 assists in his career. He also plays on both special teams and is one of the best faceoff men in the league.

Ryan O'Reilly St. Louis Blues
Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

At his best, O’Reilly is one of the top two-way players in the NHL, and he has received Selke Trophy votes in 12 of his 14 seasons in the NHL. He isn’t a superstar by any means – he has no All-Star game appearances – but he is still one of the most reliable centers in the league.

The Blues should expect him to get back to his career norm at some point during the season. Much of O’Reilly’s issues have stemmed from the departure of David Perron, which has left the O’Reilly line with a revolving door of forwards, and it wasn’t until the emergence of Josh Leivo that his line started to produce. With Brayden Schenn joining Leivo and O’Reilly, the three have taken advantage of their similar playing styles. All three are capable of playing at both ends of the ice and can lock down the opposition’s best forwards.

Schenn would be a perfect candidate to replace O’Reilly as the next captain of the Blues. The 31-year-old is in year three of an eight-year contract signed in 2019 and has done nothing but produce since being brought over from the Philadelphia Flyers in 2017. In six seasons with the Blues, he has 116 goals and 295 points in 369 games. Budding superstar Robert Thomas is close behind Schenn, if not in front of him, for the next Blues captaincy. The fan-favorite signed an eight-year contract worth $65 million in the offseason and leads the team in points this season.

Trading O’Reilly would not be the worst thing for the team. When he is at his best, he would be an asset on the second or third line of a contender, and the return could be anything from a top-nine forward to a second or first-round pick, depending on the market.

If the team does not turn it around by Christmas, or even the trade deadline in February, Armstrong could gain an impressive haul for O’Reilly and Tarasenko. Instead of a rebuild, the Blues could be looking at a quick retooling that would have them back in contention in the Western Conference in the next two years. For now, however, St. Louis is better off keeping their captain while exploring other options to boost areas of need. The Blues need O’Reilly at his best before moving him, but he and many of his teammates are still trying to find their footing this season.

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