Could the Capitals Acquire Ryan O’Reilly?

Given the recent revelation from CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley that defenseman Mike Green and forward Eric Fehr will move on from Washington, will the Capitals now spend big on a young talented top-six forward like Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly? Craif Oser, agent to both Green and Fehr, spoke to Gormley:

Ryan O'Reilly
Avalanche must trade Ryan O’Reilly (center) or risk getting nothing for him. (Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)

“The Capitals have been open and transparent and honest and I think both players were clear in terms of their willingness and intention to stay if it was going to make sense,” Oser stated to Gormley. “At the end of the day, it’s a decision by [the Capitals] as to how they make their best team and based on all the factors it wasn’t going to work out for Mike or Eric or the organization and both sides will continue to move on.”

It’s apparent that right wing Joel Ward will also test free agency on July 1. However, Fehr is the interesting variable in the Capitals’ latest behind-the-scenes movement. The crowd favorite, who has spent all but one of his 10-year NHL career in Washington, is coming off one of his better seasons for the franchise. The decision to not offer him a new contract is intriguing—and it might mean that GM Brian MacLellan is looking to swoop for a big-contract star.

Other Options Include Patrick Sharp

I offered up some ideas about who the Capitals might wish to acquire in a trade deal, including Chicago’s Patrick Sharp, the Blues’ T.J. Oshie or the Islanders’ Kyle Okposo. Yes, they’re somewhat far-fetched but not all together outlandish. A younger player is the best option for the Capitals, however, and that brings us to O’Reilly.

O’Reilly is reportedly looking for a long-term deal worth around $60 million to stay in Colorado, and management is saying a big ‘no’ to that. A year ago, O’Reilly signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Avs that left him a pending unrestricted free agent after the 2015-16 season. If Colorado cannot re-sign him to a suitable extension (and it seems that they will not), then they absolutely must trade him – or they’ll lose one of the NHL’s rising stars for zero dollars.

In O’Reilly, the Capitals would gain one of the best puck possession players in the NHL ranked second in the league in takeaways for the season that just ended. It would be a breath of fresh air in D.C. to introduce a player who takes away the puck. On top of his possession game, he was also the Avs’ best faceoff participant last term. On top of all that, he tallied 17 goals and 38 assists for 55 points. And – he has his so-called ‘peak’ seasons ahead of him. He’s a top-six forward — which MacLellan promised us he was seeking — and he’d become a useful player on the power play.

A Deal for O’Reilly

So, could the Capitals acquire the 24-year-old center – and at what cost? A deal might feature Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich, the Capitals’ upcoming 22nd Draft pick and a prospect – and cash.

Some might scoff that the Avs would be crazy to offload the young O’Reilly to Washington for a pair of aging (yet, still very good) forwards, an unknown draft candidate and a prospect. However, letting O’Reilly go for no money a year from now is outrageous, let alone crazy.

Bringing in O’Reilly as a center on the Capitals’ second line would put Evgeny Kuznetsov on the second-line right wing. Andre Burakovsky (currently a left wing) is more than capable of switching to the right – and he’s already good enough to be on the first line. The Capitals would likely need to promote a player to left wing during training camp or acquire a third- or fourth-line left wing through free agency, but it could be done.

If, and it’s a big if, O’Reilly ended up in Washington via a trade, the new Capitals’ lines next season might look something like this:

Ovechkin – Backstrom – Burakovsky

Johansson – O’Reilly – Kuznetsov

[UFA gain] – Beagle – Chimera

Galiev – Latta – Wilson

Ultimately, O’Reilly will leave Colorado in the coming days. There are other teams, of course, who could lure him (including the Detroit Red Wings), but if MacLellan is serious about improving the Capitals, he can’t make his new Washington omelet without cracking a few eggs.