Arguably, the biggest news of the offseason for the St. Louis Blues are the contract extensions they dished out to Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou and Nick Leddy. Leddy got a four-year, $16 million extension that kicks in this year. Thomas and Kyrou got matching eight-year, $65 million contracts that don’t kick in until next season. However, what does that mean for captain Ryan O’Reilly, who’s seven-year, $52.5 million deal that he signed with the Buffalo Sabres expires after this season?
The St. Louis Blues’ Options with Ryan O’Reilly
Before the Blues inked all these extensions, the thought was maybe with Vladimir Tarasenko’s contract off the books next year and hopefully the salary cap increasing a little bit, the Blues would be able to re-sign O’Reilly. But right now, after putting Marco Scandella on long term injured reserve, the Blues have just $1.66 million in cap space, according to PuckPedia. And even with the $7.5 million cap hit from Tarasenko off the books, Kyrou and Thomas’ cap hits go from $2.8 million this season to $8.125 million ach next season. There goes that idea out the window. So what other options do the Blues have?
The Blues could trade O’Reilly either soon or around the deadline. The chances of this happening likely go up if it doesn’t look like they’ll make the playoffs. While no one would likely like that when it happens, at least it’s better than some of the alternatives.
Here is the most complicated option. The Blues could ink O’Reilly to an extension, either during the season or in the offseason. He’s currently 31, but he has put up 250 points in 287 regular-season games as a Blue. He also has 49 points in 50 playoff games with St. Louis. So, the idea that he may take less money to stay with the Blues may be true. However, he doesn’t have to. There will likely be plenty of teams willing to pay him a lot of money if he hits free agency. If the Blues manage to lock up O’Reilly, they’ll have to trade at least one player to be cap compliant. And that could be a nearly impossible decision to make.
But if the Blues don’t do any of these things, the beloved bearded captain could sign with someone else over the offseason. Even worse, the Blues would get nothing in return … again.
The Blues’ Recent History of Letting Captains Walk
Do David Backes and Alex Pietrangelo ring a bell? Backes helped lead the Blues to their first trip to the Western Conference Final in 2015-16. It was the first time they had made it that far since 2000-01. The Blues let him walk for nothing after that, and he signed as a free agent in Boston. Then, of course, he went on to play against the Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. What could be worse than that? Well, Pietrangelo leading the Blues to their first Stanley Cup ever and then them letting him walk for nothing after another season to sign with the Golden Knights.
That one was a little more predictable because of the Blues had traded for and signed Justin Faulk to an extension in the last year of Pietrangelo’s contact and signed Torey Krug just before Pietrangelo signed in Vegas. No one in St. Louis wants to go through this again. So complicated or not, fans hope general manager Doug Armstrong still has some magic up his sleeve.
Ryan O’Reilly after today’s win vs. Chicago. “It’s nice to get the feeling back. We’re happy with where we are. We have another good week to tune up and get prepared even more.” #stlblues pic.twitter.com/K4hMCReNXF
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) October 8, 2022