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Winners, losers from blockbuster 3-team Ryan O’Reilly trade

Ryan O'Reilly

As the NHL inches closer to the trade deadline, we have another blockbuster deal. On Friday night, the St. Louis Blues sent 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari to the Toronto Maple Leafs for two prospects and multiple draft picks. 

The Minnesota Wild got into the mix as the third team associated with the trade, sending prospect Josh Pillar to Toronto in exchange for their second-round pick in 2024, while absorbing $3.75 million of O’Reilly’s salary on their payroll. 

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On top of retaining 50% of O’Reilly’s salary themselves, the Blues fleeced the Maple Leafs for prospect Mikhail Abramov, AHLer Adam Gaudette, and Toronto’s first-round pick in 2023, Ottawa’s third-round pick in 2023, and Toronto’s second-round pick in 2024.

Ryan O’Reilly trade details

  • St. Louis Blues receive: Mikhail Abramov, Adam Gaudette, 2023 TOR 1srt, TOR 2024 2nd, OTT 2023 3rd
  • Toronto Maple Leafs receive: Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari
  • Minnesota Wild receive: 2025 TOR 4th

Concurrently, many Blues fans will be upset at how disappointing this season has been, 26-25-3 record, but the team is raiding the lineup to kick start a rebuild just a few seasons removed from winning the Stanley Cup in 2019. Even though this season has been a mess, the future is bright, so let’s break down the winners and losers of this blockbuster deal. 

Winner: Toronto Maple Leafs’ playoff aspirations

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Dallas Stars
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The Maple Leafs have a dark playoff history that only gets darker with each passing season. Currently, the franchise maintains the longest Stanley Cup drought of all time, last winning in 1967, the year before expansion out of the Original Six Era. Interestingly, the team has yet to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final since then, losing every time they advanced to the final four. However, what makes matters even worse, is that in every campaign the team has qualified for the playoffs since 2004, they have yet to advance past the first round. 

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After acquiring a former playoff MVP (O’Reilly), the Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas is going all in to break the curse this year. Ultimately, he’s sacrificed the future for a get-rich scheme hoping to advance his team loaded with young stars like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner to this year’s Stanley Cup Final. Unfortunately, despite the upgrades, the Maple Leafs face an enormous challenge in the Eastern Conference this year, with the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes battling for the top spot in the league. Additionally, the Tampa Bay Lightning are not going away quietly and will look to head back to their fourth consecutive Final appearance. 

This blockbuster trade is a bold move by a desperate team looking for a deep playoff run. Sadly, the move came at the wrong time, as many teams in their division boast deeper rosters. Should the Maple Leafs fail in their quest for the Stanley Cup in 2023, their sacrifices tonight will not sit well with fans as O’Reilly and Acciari are free agents this summer and could easily walk away. 

Loser: Maple Leafs sacrifice their future

NHL: NHL Awards and Expansion Draft
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If anyone was excited to watch the Maple Leafs make some picks at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, they better cancel their plans because the draft cupboard is almost empty. 

Recently, the team has handed out draft picks like candy, trading away their first, second, third, and fourth-round selections in the upcoming draft. Even though this year’s class is deep in talent, it will be the fifth round by the time the Maple Leafs call a name. Additionally, they currently have one other pick, a sixth-rounder, and until they execute another deal, they will walk away from the next draft with just two low-level prospects.

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Although the future is brighter in 2024, when the team still clings to their first-round selection, all bets are off since they have already traded away that year’s other-round picks. After dealing away their second and third-round picks, the team has several chances left in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds. 

Eventually, star players like Matthews, Marner, and William Nylander will need expensive contract extensions. Furthermore, management will try to keep the band together, but the money will be elsewhere, meaning cheaper prospects will replace these star players. Whether the Maple Leafs will have these replacements is a question many have to ask since the team is giving away draft picks with their win-now mentality.   

Winner: Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari get a fresh start

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Vegas Golden Knights
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The Maple Leafs acquired two veteran playoff performers, O’Reilly and Acciari, who played against one another in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. Acciari was a member of the Bruins at the time and a vital member of the bottom six that lost to O’Reilly and the Blues in a grueling seven-game series. Eventually, he moved on to the Florida Panthers and scored a career-high 20 goals in 2019-2020. Even though he only has ten goals and 18 points this year, Acciari is a valuable asset to any team’s bottom six, thanks to his versatility.

O’Reilly has played in Colorado and Buffalo before making his mark in St. Louis as a gritty power forward who will score 20 goals and rack up the penalty minutes. He was a vital member of the Blues when they won the Stanley Cup in 2019; however, injuries slowed him down in 2022-23. Thus far, through 40 games, he’s only got 12 goals and 19 points with an awful minus-24 rating. 

Despite being the leader in the dressing room, the Blues have been a mess this season, with starting netminder Jordan Binnington in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. As a playoff hero himself, his on-ice antics have been a distraction, and with insufficient statistics, he is a significant reason behind the Blues’ lackluster season. 

Thanks to this deal, O’Reilly and Acciari get a fresh start, leave the drama in the midwest, and jump into an intense playoff battle in a tightly wound Atlantic Division. Even if both players fail to live up to expectations, playing meaningful games again should go a long way toward building their confidence as they look to rebound after poor starts this season. 

In the end, many people will wonder how the Wild fit into this blockbuster deal, but they didn’t do much to warrant being in the winner and loser conversation. Although they lost nothing but cap space and an unsigned prospect, the franchise walks away with another draft pick for agreeing to help a team in the opposite conference financially.

Ultimately, Wild general manager Bill Guerin had no big plans to blow up his roster or retool it for a playoff drive. Moreover, he agreed to take on an additional $1.87 million in salary because he’s content with how successful his team is this year. Meanwhile, his two counterparts, Dubas in Toronto and Doug Armstrong in St. Louis, are dabbing at the sweat on their foreheads as they try to fix their current situations and get back to the winner’s circle sooner rather than later. 

Loser: St. Louis Blues dismantling 2019 Stanley Cup lineup

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche
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At the time of the trade, the Blues currently hold a 5% chance of winning the NHL Draft Lottery, a slim opportunity to select first overall in the upcoming draft. Conversely, any team that doesn’t have a solid chance of making the playoffs will consider blowing up their roster for a future star like Connor Bedard, the consensus top prospect. Even though the Blues only sit eight points out of a playoff spot, recent trade activity signals the team is ready to write off the 2022-23 season and look to the future. 

In the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft, St. Louis will have three first-round picks to either select prospects to develop or flip for new players. Furthermore, it can present other teams, like the Maple Leafs, Lightning, and New York Islanders, with opportunities at the draft since none of them have a first-round draft pick. 

Ultimately, it won’t matter what the Blues do in the coming weeks since management has confessed to the public that the rebuild is here, and the plan is to load up on prospects and draft picks. Even if recent franchise icons Vladimir Tarasenko and O’Reilly return as free agents in the summer, the Blues dressing room will be much different, and that won’t be bad. 

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