Ryan O’Reilly Staying in St. Louis Would Be Good News for the Blackhawks
The closer we get to February, the harder the trade winds continue to blow. And one of the hottest areas of interest around the NHL is teams looking to improve their center depth. Big names swirling, and plenty of teams are looking to add someone to help at the dot.
The biggest name on the market is Vancouver’s Bo Horvat, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Because of his age and production, Horvat will also be the most expensive player to add at the market — especially if the acquiring team wants to re-sign him long-term.
But other names have been floated out there. Interest in Montreal’s Sean Monahan has increased lately, and St. Louis captain Ryan O’Reilly also fits a need for many teams. Both are also UFAs this summer.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews still hasn’t made a decision on his future, but Chicago could also have Max Domi as a potential trade piece on the market.
With all of these players, there is still a possibility that any of them re-signs with their current team. And there’s a chance the market won’t bear the level of assets any of these teams desire to move the player. Every indication is that someone, somewhere is going to pony up the ransom to get a top-nine center, however.
So when I read an interview O’Reilly did with The Athletic this week, it grabbed my attention.
Entering Friday, the Blues are sixth in the Central Division and have limped to a 4-6-0 record in their last 10 games. They haven’t been able to climb out of their funk consistently all year despite locking up future core players Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas with long-term extensions before this season.
O’Reilly, who turns 32 on Feb. 7, could provide a nice return for the Blues — if he hits the market. He arrived in St. Louis via trade in the deal that sent Tage Thompson to Buffalo, a deal that has worked out marvelously for both teams. O’Reilly won the Conn Smythe when St. Louis won the first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history in 2019 and has been a solid all-around center for years.
In his interview with Jeremy Rutherford, O’Reilly makes it pretty clear that he would prefer to stay in St. Louis. And talks to keep him in a Blues sweater could pick up steam soon.
“Yeah, we’re starting to get a little dialogue going,” he said. “I think there will be some talks kind of going forward here, but yeah, there’s no timeline or such. That’s kind of all I can really give you on that.
“This is where I want to be. I hope I don’t get moved, but I think things will probably progress, especially with the deadline coming up and the talks with that. We’ll see how it goes. We’re starting to get into that.”
O’Reilly hasn’t had a good season by his standards; he’s scored 10 goals in 37 games and is currently on IR. So the big question for St. Louis — as it is with Toews in Chicago — is what role O’Reilly could play with the next generation for the Blues.
If O’Reilly does balk at a trade — and if he re-signs — that could benefit the Blackhawks both the rest of the way this season and into the coming years.
What we don’t want is the Blues climbing the draft lottery odds more than they are right now.
As it stands entering Friday’s action, the Blues have the tenth-best odds of winning the draft lottery. The problem from a Blackhawks’ perspective is five of the top six teams in the Connor Bedard Sweepstakes are in the Western Conference. Bedard winding up in the Western Conference would be a terrible scenario if it isn’t in Chicago.
Chicago is “keeping pace” with Arizona for the best odds in the Central Division and three teams — Anaheim, San Jose and Vancouver — are also near the bottom.
With Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon already in the West, there’s plenty of young star power for the next generation of Blackhawks to overcome in the next decade. Bedard being part of the Hawks’ competition would be another nightmare on the schedule.
If O’Reilly stays in St. Louis, he should make them better down the stretch this season — hurting their odds. If he re-signs, that’s more money out the door for a team that is trying to re-capture their contender status from the last decade.