In the past few days, what seems like a two-year buildup of a potential Ryan O’Reilly trade has really started to reach a new level. You know things are getting serious when Bob McKenzie writes up 2000-plus words on the subject.
Something new regarding O’Reilly’s situation will likely pop up every other day until the trade deadline, but to date, we know a few things. First off, the Avs certainly are shopping this guy, as it’s clear neither he or his contract is in their long-term plans. It’s also come to light that the Sabres and Leafs have been two teams expressing interest in making a move for him. And finally, Colorado is seeking help for their blueline in exchange.
It’s easy to see why the Leafs would be linked to these rumors, as they desperately need help down the middle and have a couple players on the back-end who, for a variety of reasons, might be due for a change in address.
Just this morning, Elliott Friedman threw some more brush to the fire with some information regarding the Avalanche’s wants/needs going forward with a trade:
— Sportsnet590 The FAN (@FAN590) January 23, 2015
For Leafs fans, the first names that likely come to mind here are Phaneuf and Gardiner. Two players with term on their contracts, but at totally different points in their careers. They’re quite distant from each other in style-of-play as well.
Gardiner comes with a cap hit of 4.05M through 2019, while the Leafs are on the hook with Phaneuf for 7.0M until the sun burns out. Considering neither is particularly good, you probably want to move out the older and declining Phaneuf.
Friedman “the Avs want defenseman with term & the thing is, if you give up a D with term, you want to know ROR is committing to you”
— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) January 23, 2015
The risk of not being able to lock O’Reilly in long term and having him walk for nothing in 2016 is obviously a big concern for anyone involved. That’s why it’s tough to envision the Leafs unloading a true asset like Rielly in this sort of situation. The Avalanche can’t expect a team to totally mortgage their future, and since they likely consider themselves a “win now” team, Phaneuf or Gardiner make sense as targets.
There’s obviously a lot to consider here. We don’t know how the Leafs value Phaneuf and Gardiner, and from a fan’s perspective, opinions on those two are all over the place. Personally I’m fine with dumping Phaneuf’s contract for nothing, if that was possible. It isn’t because I think he’s a terrible player, but it’s difficult to gauge what he is, and he’s only getting older with a Leafs team that isn’t winning soon. His price tag is just too high. Others might feel differently.
I think it’s fair to assume the Leafs will be in on this until the trigger is pulled. They’re in need of just this type of center and the management group is surely aware of it. Get used to seeing these names floating around until the deadline or perhaps into the summer.