3 potential free-agent destinations for Maple Leafs’ centre Ryan O’Reilly
Photo credit:Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
By Shane Seney2 months ago
According to hockey insider Pierre LeBrun, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving has contacted Ryan O’Reilly’s agent to inform him the team has interest in bringing back the veteran forward. O’Reilly is a pending unrestricted free agent who is free to sign anywhere on July 1.
The Maple Leafs will need to create some more cap flexibility if they’re going to re-sign O’Reilly as there’s a number of glaring holes on the roster. Treliving also has the market to worry about as there’s going to be plenty of interest. The 2023 free-agent class is rather thin this summer and O’Reilly could choose to wait until the market opens up to see what kind of offers come his way.
If it’s not the Maple Leafs, here’s three potential free-agent destinations for the 32-year-old:
St Louis Blues
While the door hasn’t closed on a return to Toronto, the same can be said about St Louis. O’Reilly sounds open to considering his options this offseason and it’s expected the Blues are going to have interest in bringing back their old captain.
General manager Doug Armstrong is loaded with ammo. He has three first-round picks next week in Nashville, however Armstrong does not have interest in using all of them, according to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli. With Armstrong looking to retool on the fly and not rebuild from scratch, O’Reilly will have to wait to see how the chips fall in St Louis after the draft.
Money is a factor here as St Louis currently has a projected $7.5 million in cap space, meanwhile it’s likely O’Reilly sees his average annual value fall around $5 million per season. With some other glaring holes in St Louis, it could take a defenseman getting traded before the team commits to bringing back ‘The Factor’.
The Penguins will look much different next season as Kyle Dubas and Jason Spezza look to refresh the roster in Pittsburgh. There’s a glaring hole at the third-line center position and O’Reilly would be an ideal candidate. The Pens are also in tough to re-sign Jason Zucker so there could be an opportunity to play some left wing alongside Evgeni Malkin, which could spark O’Reilly’s interest.
There’s no doubt Dubas and O’Reilly have a good relationship and expect to see the Penguins at least kick some tires here to see where the player’s interest lies. It’s not going to come down to just money, the opportunity to win another Stanley Cup will also have some influence on his decision.
The Penguins have goaltender Tristan Jarry to worry about as Dubas and Spezza continue to evaluate his game to make a final decision whether the team is going to re-sign the netminder or let him walk to free agency. If Jarry walks and Pittsburgh needs a new starter, O’Reilly may have to wait to receive a contract offer while Dubas looks for some new talent in his crease.
Lots of variables involved here, but you can circle the Penguins as a potential destination. They need help down the middle and O’Reilly is the best of this upcoming free-agent class.
Back in 2009, the Avalanche drafted O’Reilly with the 33rd pick in the second round of the draft. He went on to make the team out of camp and ended up living with Darcy Tucker during his rookie year. He enjoyed his time in Colorado before a mega-deal to the Buffalo Sabres, and after all these years, his career could be coming full circle.
The Avs are desperate for help up front after it was announced captain Gabriel Landeskog would likely miss the entire 2023-24 season. O’Reilly would fit in perfectly as the team’s number two center.
O’Reilly finished last season with 30 points in 53 regular season games and another nine points in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He battled through a broken foot and broken finger. During the playoffs he wasn’t thrilled with the amount of offense he was able to create, but in Colorado it’s his two-way game that they could use more of.
The same can be said for all of these teams. The secondary offense is a bonus, as O’Reilly’s ability to influence the outcome of the game in so many different ways is why he’s such an attractive player. He’s a proven winner who could give the Avs’ dressing room another Stanley Cup champion and someone who could help them get back to the top of the mountain.
As for the Maple Leafs, Treliving is in tough to get pen to paper here. Yes, O’Reilly had nothing but fantastic things to say about his time in Toronto and how much the organization cares about the players and their families. But, there’s a number of questions which will need to be answered in the coming days including how much cap space can Treliving create? Will Matt Murray get bought out? And, will another team overpay to poach O’Reilly from the Leafs on July 1?
It’s great to see Toronto has interest, now we wait to find out how much.
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