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Avalanche Roundtable: Trading Ryan O'Reilly

AJ Haefele Avatar
June 14, 2015


We put it off about as long as we could justify but with Elliotte Friedman’s report yesterday that the Colorado Avalanche are listening to offers for Ryan O’Reilly, it’s time to talk about the merits of trading the star center. While everyone on the BSN Avalanche staff agrees that re-signing O’Reilly is the best outcome, the question of what he’s really worth inevitably comes up.

For the Avalanche, it appears their likely contract discussions with O’Reilly have them opening the phone lines to see if paying O’Reilly big money is really the most valuable route. The timing is the key here as the NHL Draft is now under two weeks away and teams are putting the finishing touches on their draft boards.

With that, the BSN Avalanche staff gathered hastily for a roundtable in which we discussed potential O’Reilly trade partners and returns. For those inevitably asking, this is the trade O’Reilly thread.

Two weeks before the draft, the Avs are likely just doing their due diligence but the timing is curious. Using the draft as the crux of any potential deal, which teams make the most sense as potential trade partners?

Andi:  Sign, trade, or shot into the sun – it’s time to make the divisive and frustrating O’Reilly drama go away.  If he wants to be here, great, but if not, it’s no secret the Avs need a #2 defenseman.  Someone youngish and left handed would be the best choice and it makes sense to try to remedy both problems at the same time.  Even if it’s for a highly touted prospect, using O’Reilly as a trade chip to fix the blueline could potentially catapult the Avs deeper into the playoff conversation as early as next year.  It’s a big decision that is going to define the team for quite some time, so Sakic has his work cut out for him this summer.

As far as trade partners are concerned, Buffalo is probably the best choice.  Even though he’s a right shot, Zach Bogosian is a great option that easily fits into the age-range of the Avs current core.  Nikita Zadorov is another intriguing choice and is a left-shot, even if he is on the younger side, and Rasmus Ristolainen is another strong option.  Their GM has made it clear that he is a fan of O’Reilly’s style of play, and even with Eichel likely on the team next year, O’Reilly’s two-way center or wing ability makes quite a bit of sense.  They’re also rebuilding, which means they have the cap space to afford him. It seems like a good fit all around.

Cole: Andi is right to mention the Buffalo Sabres. Speaking frankly, Tim Murray is more than a fan of O’Reilly’s type of player, he publicly covets Ryan O’Reilly himself. If the Sabres are as interested in O’Reilly as some reports from NHL Insiders like Bob McKenzie and Elliotte Friedman indicate, then they should be the last call the Avalanche make before they make any kind of trade involving their Selke-caliber center. If the Avalanche are forced to trade Ryan O’Reilly, creating a bidding war is an absolute necessity.

The other team that’s come up frequently in the NHL rumor mill when it comes to Ryan O’Reilly is the Toronto Maple Leafs. For an organization that is notoriously public when it comes to personnel decisions, there’s simply too much smoke for there not be at least a little fire behind those rumors. The problem with any trade to Toronto is that the Maple Leafs current roster is filled with either overrated and overpaid role players, or young talented players who Toronto will be loathe to remove from their own budding rebuild.

One thing is for sure, any deal involving these two teams is bound to be complex. Do the Avalanche try to build a deal around the 4th overall pick which Toronto is publicly listening to offers on? Do the Avalanche try to find a top pairing defenseman in the overpaid and much maligned Dion Phaneuf? Do they swing for the fences by freeing Phil Kessel from the Toronto media meat grinder? Or do they trade for an underwhelming pile of complementary players, none of whom will live up to O’Reilly individually, and all of whom will fade into the background as the Avalanche move forward? There are lots of options there, and while Toronto has the interest to theoretically make a deal, fitting the Avalanche’s roster needs could be difficult.

The other thing to consider when trading any high calibre player is that you want to play against them as little as possible. Teams never want to help their immediate competition out, especially when it concerns an exceptionally rare defensive talent like O’Reilly. If Ryan O’Reilly is traded it should take a mind boggling offer to move him to a team inside of the Western Conference, much less to a team in the Central Division, that means it’s likely Eastern Conference or bust for the hamstrung Avalanche.

AJ: While the Maple Leafs and Sabres are the two teams most commonly linked to the O’Reilly conversation, I wonder if we might be forgetting a potential darkhorse here. In scanning the league and based on the noise coming from there for a while, I can’t help but wonder if the Carolina Hurricanes aren’t a team in the mix for O’Reilly.

Eric Staal’s contract is ending soon and there’s been an awful lot of noise about the team looking to move him as part of their rebuild. If that’s really a move they plan to make then sending brother Jordan to Colorado as the centerpiece of an O’Reilly trade would make sense. From Colorado’s perspective, it doesn’t land them the defensemen they’ve coveted for a long time but it does answer the immediate NHL need of replacing O’Reilly as their defensive stopper.

Casey: Jordan Staal was the player that leapt immediately to mind when the latest round of O’Reilly rumours surfaced. It’s highly unlikely the Canes would give up their fifth overall pick, but their second could be a valuable chip in a potential deal, too. The Avs could potentially acquire a great asset in the early second round if they were picking that high.

Cole: That’s something important that Avalanche fans should remember if the Avalanche do decide to trade Ryan O’Reilly. For the last few seasons he’s been arguably the Avalanche’s single most versatile forward. Under Patrick Roy he leads all forwards in ice time, he plays in all situations, and he’s always Roy’s go to player in critical late game situations. Adding a defenseman in an O’Reilly trade would certainly address a need, but the hole O’Reilly leaves in the Avalanche’s lineup is massive.

I do think Carolina is a good darkhorse here and I would also throw the Washington Capitals name into the mix. Last summer the Capitals aggressively sought after a number of UFA defenseman to bulk up their back end but they met the same grizzly fate in the 2nd round as they always do. The Capitals have got to be questioning their forward support behind Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and maybe they’re a team that would see O’Reilly as an immediate solution to finally get them over the hump.

Another team whose name has cropped up in the Ryan O’Reilly rumor mill a few times is the Montreal Canadiens. There were unsubstantiated rumors earlier this week about the Avalanche exploring a trade built on Thomas Plekanec and Ryan O’Reilly. Whether those rumors hold any water or not, it’s easy to see why Montreal would want to add O’Reilly to their extremely well rounded forward group. The question here, much like with Toronto, is what would the Avalanche be interested in as a return? Most of Montreal’s pieces that fit a need for the Avalanche are also too old to be ideal trade targets for Colorado. Fit is an issue here, but they are certainly a team to watch.

AJ: I think Washington is another great candidate as a darkhorse here and they could better fill immediate needs for the Avalanche. The Caps have a lot of money coming off the books this summer with Joel Ward and Mike Green potentially leaving town. O’Reilly would be an excellent fit as the second center they have needed basically since Ovechkin and Backstrom arrived in Washington.

Evgeny Kuznetsov showed some real growth this year but he’ll never be the two-way force O’Reilly already is and might be better suited to a spot on the wing. A package from Washington that included top defensive prospect Madison Bowey, Washington’s first round selection (22nd overall), and a young role player with upside like Tom Wilson might be an attractive package for the Avalanche.

Andi:  Another potential darkhorse is Edmonton. They have a number of good defensive prospects coming up through their ranks – Oscar Klefbom, Darnel Nurse, Martin Marincin – and their new GM, Peter Chiarelli, has a history of making trades to build teams from his time in Boston.  The Oilers also have a great deal of forward talent that may be on the move as well.  While Hall and McDavid are unlikely to go anywhere, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and Leon Draisaitl make for very intriguing targets.

With the Avs’ large number of defensive prospects and relative lack of upcoming forwards, maybe it makes sense to target a young wing even more than a young blueliner.  Edmonton offers a rare mix of both to choose from, and O’Reilly’s 2-way style of play is something they’re currently lacking.  Even though they’re in the West, the options for the Avs in northern Alberta might just be enough to overcome that inconvenience.

AJ: From Edmonton’s seat, it just doesn’t make sense. They’re going to trade cheap players on ELCs (let’s be honest, it’s either Draisaitl or Yakupov and there’s no way Roy doesn’t chew up and spit out Yakupov) for a guy who is about to become paid in the highest tiers for centers in the NHL? No. And from where Colorado is sitting, it doesn’t improve their NHL club or help their defense. Swapping expensive forward for cheap forward(s) could work in some situations, but I think Colorado is better off calling Vancouver before they get to Edmonton.

Austin: I’m still giving O’Reilly the benefit of the doubt, and hoping that he and the Avalanche can work out a long-term deal in good faith. If it turns out that O’Reilly intends to try and squeeze every penny out of unrestricted free agency, how about the Avalanche ship him to Detroit?

While the Red Wings lack great defensive options for the Avalanche to target, there is enough fruit on that tree to potentially get a juicy deal done. Anthony Mantha and Detroit’s first-round pick (19th overall) are rumored to be on the table, and Jonathan Ericsson is a reliable left-handed defenseman who would fit into the top-four for the Avalanche alongside Erik Johnson or Tyson Barrie.

It would certainly be a ridiculous end to the O’Reilly saga if he ended up going to Detroit, and a scenario that Avalanche fans would have a lot of “fun” with.

There’s been a number of teams thrown around here. In the interest of brevity, pick one team and craft a fair deal between them and the Avalanche in exchange for Ryan O’Reilly.

AJ: I’ll start. I think Buffalo makes the most sense of all the clubs. Murray has publicly stated he intends to do everything he can to land O’Reilly and his roster just so happens to be setup for it. As much as the Avs have been linked to Bogosian in the past, I think a deal should start with Zadorov and their second first round selection, 21st overall. Using the Keith Yandle trade as a blueprint, that takes care of the first round pick and top prospect.

Because the Sabres NHL roster is such a wasteland of talent, I think it would be prudent for the Avs to ask for either another first round pick (not something Buffalo is likely to part with) or a second round pick plus a mid-level prospect. The Avalanche need wingers something fierce so add Hudson Fasching to the trade plus the second rounder the Sabres received from the Islanders and it’s a done deal.

Buffalo needs to get something other than O’Reilly and with Colorado’s system and Buffalo’s needs, I think Calvin Pickard is a fair addition because Buffalo has basically nothing at the goaltender position. Trading Pickard isn’t easy but I’ll explain my reasoning. As of right now, Pickard’s value is the highest it has ever been. He’s a .930+ goaltender in the NHL, a near.920 goalie in the AHL, and the best he’ll ever be in Colorado is Semyon Varlamov’s backup.

His value as a trade asset can only get just a little better from here on out (I don’t think he has the talent of Cory Schneider to bring back that high first round pick) but it can get a whole lot worse in a hurry. Just look at Jacob Markstrom’s career. All the while, his contract will keep getting more expensive to the point where he’s not cost-efficient anymore.

The way I see it, backup goaltending is one of the most cost-efficient roster spots in the NHL. If you can capitalize on a goalie-needy team in order to get a high pick, you do it and keep reloading that system.My only reservation is that it might be a year too early for the Avalanche with no reliable 3rd goalie behind Varlamov and Reto Berra (himself a question mark going into next season) with Pickard gone.

This deal gives the Avalanche 5 of the top 71 picks, a high-level defensive prospect ready to play in the NHL right now, and a prospect who fits the style Colorado has been seeking and plays the position of their greatest organizational weakness.

COL gets: Nikita Zadorov, 21st overall, Hudson Fasching, and 51st overall
BUF gets: Ryan O’Reilly, Calvin Pickard, 101st overall.

Cole: I’ll follow up with a trade proposal involving the Maple Leafs. Thanks to his contract, the Avalanche are in a tricky situation in regards to Ryan O’Reilly’s trade value. I think it’s important that they swing for the fences in any deal they make, lest they end up with a handful of middling prospects and NHL filler. The Leafs are publicly open to moving down in the NHL Entry Draft, so what about offering Ryan O’Reilly and the 10th overall selection as part of a big deal to move up in the draft?

The Leafs send back 4th overall, defenseman Jake Gardiner who helps the Avs immediately, and the highest of the Maple Leafs 2016 2nd round picks, which replaces the pick the Avalanche lost in the Brad Stuart trade. Moving up gives the Avalanche to chance one of Noah Hanifin or Ivan Provorov on defense and address their top pairing needs long term and the Leafs add the top center they’ve needed for years.

COL gets: 4th overall, Jake Gardiner, and Toronto’s Highest 2016 2nd round pick
TOR gets: 10th overall and Ryan O’Reilly

Austin says: Joe Sakic has Ken Holland on the line, and offers up Ryan O’Reilly. For Detroit, they are going to have to replace Henrik Zetterberg (34 years old) and Pavel Datsyuk (36) eventually, and O’Reilly certainly would help them accomplish that. O’Reilly’s versatility and ability to play on the wing makes him becoming a Wing realistic, because he can slide in anywhere in the top-six for now, and take over a center-ice position permanently when Datsyuk or Zetterberg are out of the picture.

The Avalanche should start their demands with Anthony Mantha. Mantha is a 6’5” scoring winger, but may have fallen out of favor slightly in Detroit due to some struggles in the AHL last season. At 20 years old, he still has loads of upside, and would have a great chance of making the Avalanche roster next season. The Avalanche need depth on the wing as much as anything, and Mantha would give Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon a great weapon going forward.

Since O’Reilly is a proven commodity and Mantha isn’t, Colorado shouldn’t stop there. Getting the Wings to part with their 1st-round pick would sweeten this deal to the point of making it worthwhile. The problem is, the Avalanche are still acquiring nothing but futures. I’d ask for Jonathan Ericsson, but Detroit would no doubt prefer parting with a guy like Brendan Smith instead. Ericsson logged big minutes and is a key defender for Detroit, and while Smith may have upside, he has been inconsistent and the clock is ticking for the 26-year old to reach his full potential.

Detroit can afford to move on from Smith, and the Avalanche can hope that the former Hobey Baker finalist turns into the smooth puck-mover he was projected to be coming out of the University of Wisconsin. He’s a left-handed D, so best-case scenario for the Avalanche would be he proves capable of handling top-four minutes.

This trade hurts the Avalanche next season, but acquiring future assets is the best way to maximize O’Reilly’s value in my opinion. If Mantha and Smith blossom, and the Avalanche get good value out of the 10th and 19th overall selections in the draft, Avs fans will soon forget all about Ryan O’Reilly. Detroit gives up a lot, but they acquire the only proven asset, and now have one of the NHL’s best two-way centers on their side.

COL gets: Anthony Mantha, 19th overall, Brendan Smith
DET gets: Ryan O’Reilly

Casey: I’ll construct a deal with the Hurricanes. The ‘Canes have almost $28 million tied up in Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Cam Ward, and Alexander Semin. Despite this commitment of funds, they do have cap space to wiggle with, although they have some FAs to either sign or move this offseason. The cap isn’t why that $28 million figure is relevant–it’s the team’s performance. Add Jeff Skinner’s contract to that and you’re looking at $34 million. Not a single player on that list was regarded as a guy who lived up to his cap hit in 2014-15. Carolina is an asset-poor team but their core also needs reworking if they want to become competitive again. They’ll likely never find a trade target for Semin’s contract and Skinner is a fantastic talent when uninjured, so the Staals seem the most likely pieces of the core to be traded.

Don’t let Jordan Staal’s low points totals for 2014-15 fool you; he’s a capable forward who can play a top six position in the NHL. Jordan Staal in his prime is a player capable of filling the void left by Ryan O’Reilly.

Because of their need for quality prospects, Carolina are unlikely to give up that 5th overall pick, but their double first round selections in 2016 and their multiple late round picks in 2015 give them some wiggle room. They would be comfortable swapping second round picks with the Avs.

The addition of Jaccob Slavin is a deal-sweetener for Colorado. The young defenseman, still playing in the NCAA, is a Colorado native and a big body in the style that Sakic and Roy seem to prefer. It remains to be seen if he’ll pan out, of course, but the Canes don’t lose much by using him as an extra carrot to secure O’Reilly. Slavin, being in the NCAA, can develop for two more years without taking up a contract for the Avalanche, so they take essentially zero risk by acquiring him.

COL gets: Jordan Staal, Jaccob Slavin, 35th overall
CAR gets: Ryan O’Reilly, 40th overall

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