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The rumoured asking price for Ryan O’Reilly should have the Leafs looking elsewhere

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Photo credit:Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
14 days ago
The Athletic featured an interesting article featuring Jeremy Rutherford (Blues reporter), Jonas Siegel (Leafs reporter), and Shayna Goldman (evidence provider, voice of reason) examing Pierre LeBrun’s column from this week stating that Ryan O’Reilly and the Leafs looked like a match. This week wasn’t the first time ROR and the Leafs came up, as Toronto’s interest was reported just before the holiday trade freeze.
Now there is a lot of good stuff in this article that I will get to in a bit, but I want to jump to the part where Rutherford identifies the rumoured asking price from the Blues.
Armstrong will want something that helps his club sooner than later, and certainly, Toronto won’t be trading something off its current roster. When I asked an NHL scout what the Blues might ask for, the response on the condition of anonymity because he’s not permitted to discuss other teams’ rosters was: “First-round pick plus (Matthew) Knies or (Fraser) Minten.”
Before going much further on that there are a couple of things of note right away. Jonas Siegel identifies Knies as off-limits about two paragraphs later and suggests that a young roster player might be the better alternative.
And secondly, in December/January/anytime pre-deadline, you can ask for whatever you want and while you might look crazy in the process, the only benefit to starting negotiations from a reasonable place would be if they wanted to get something done quickly, in December the Blues weren’t in any rush and now it would be pretty much close to a fireable offence to pull the trigger on a deal for Ryan O’Reilly while he’s not going to be reevaluated for his broken foot until mid-February. (We’ll get to that red flag in a minute.)
On our side of things at The Leafs Nation, we recently had Ryan O’Reilly as a top trade for the Leafs. it’s safe to say this article and this potential asking price has shifted some of that belief. O’Reilly as a name brand top six forward, who can play center and provide depth behind Matthews and Tavares was somewhat important (at least to me in my selection of him.) The idea of a strong playoff performer and a two-way star had appeal. Now I can concede my mind is changed by some of the red flags in The Athletic article.
Let’s start with that broken foot, that’s a pretty big concern, especially since O’Reilly had supposedly lost a step even before the injury. The injury pretty much pushes O’Reilly’s return until just before the trade deadline and there is going to be a very limited look at what he’s like post injury. The combination of a small sample of games and a high asking price should make O’Reilly too risky for a team that if paying a high asking price needs a blue chip return. Not being far removed from the Nick Foligno experience puts a certain emphasis on this point.
The next thing that needs to be heavily considered is that O’Reilly wasn’t finding success with new linemates this season. He was given Kyrou, a top flight offensive option, but O’Reilly, despite being labeled as a strong defensive forward wasn’t able to offset Kyrou’s deficiencies in that area. When given Josh Leivo as an option, well… we know what Leivo is and O’Reilly despite being billed as a star, and the Blues having the asking price like he’s a star, wasn’t able to elevate Leivo or succeed in his role despite of Leivo either. To put a hasty conclusion on it, O’Reilly doesn’t look like he was driving his lines and his success the past couple of years might have been more dependant on David Perron than people where fully giving Perron credit for. (Perron is still doing well in Detroit, by the way.)
The final red flag for me is that the Blues aren’t really looking to do a full tear down if they are missing the playoffs. The fact that they want to move on from their captain but keep the rest is something that I’d take as a sign that O’Reilly is on a decline. He might have enough in the tank for a playoff run, but he doesn’t seem like an option that the Leafs, or anyone should be over the moon about locking up beyond this season. He’s strictly a rental, and admittedly I get shades of Vinny Lecavalier’s career trajectory when looking at O’Reilly’s decline.
To me and I’m assuming most of you, Ryan O’Reilly looks like a pass, at least at the asking price the Blues are looking for. If you drop the round of the pick down a round, and move down a prospect tier level and O’Reilly might have some appeal still, but for now his numbers are worse than those that have Ryan Strome labeled as a bust in Anaheim. There are better options out there.

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