First, O’Reilly brings a Stanley Cup ring and a Conn Smythe Trophy, two awards foreign to many on the current team. Secondly, Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas sends a clear message to the players. The organization believes in them to win it all. Finally, giving up no one on the current roster means the added depth and versatility opens up the possibility of acquiring a defenceman before the trade deadline.
The Intangibles of the Ryan O’Reilly Trade
One glaring weakness of the Maple Leafs teams in recent years is the lack of players with playoff success. The Ryan O’Reilly trade checks that box twice.
O’Reilly led the Blues to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title in 2019. For this, the now 32-year-old was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner. As a bonus, O’Reilly wanted to come to the Leafs to win another Stanley Cup.
While Noel Acciari has not won a Stanley Cup, he has played in the post-season in six straight seasons. The 31-year-old was a member of the Boston Bruins when they lost to the Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. He has filled the fourth-line centre role, a position with more importance as the playoffs grind on.
With the Ryan O’Reilly trade, Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas sent a clear message to his team. The organization is willing to do what it takes to put them in a position to succeed. Throwing caution to the wind, Dubas went out and acquired two rental players to fill specific needs. That makes everyone on the team better.
The window of opportunity to win a Stanley Cup is wide open. There is no guarantee the opportunity will arise again. Going all in on a deal like this energizes veterans like captain John Tavares, who has never played in a Conference Final. He now feels like his chances are better than they have ever been.
Depth For Future Trades
While the Ryan O’Reilly trade strengthens the current NHL roster, the new-found depth and versatility at forward allows Dubas to package other NHL talent into another potential deal to acquire a defenceman.
The old adage that you can never have enough defencemen is true. The Maple Leafs currently have eight blueliners that could take up minutes in a long playoff run. Using NHL assets to add another top-six defenceman like Jake McCabe, Joel Edmundson, or Luke Schenn would provide even more depth at that position.
The versatility is the ability to move Tavares from centre to the left wing to strengthen the top six forward group. O’Reilly, who has won a Selke Trophy for his defensive prowess, also provides a solid option as a third-line centre. That would mean Auston Matthews, Tavares, O’Reilly and Acciari as four good centres. It makes Alexander Kerfoot and David Kampf available to play various positions when required.
The Ryan O’Reilly Trade Price Was Right
The price to pick up these potential free agents was very reasonable. Mikhail Abramov was drafted in the fourth round in 2019 and has yet to play in the NHL. Adam Gaudette, 26, is now with his fifth NHL team, scoring just 70 points in 218 NHL games.
To determine the value of the draft picks, we turn the clock back to the 2013 NHL Draft to see what has become of the players who were selected at the same spots 10 years ago.
The Maple Leafs’ first-round pick would be forward Jason Dickinson, who has just over 100 points in five full NHL seasons. The Maple Leafs’ second-round pick would be goaltender Eric Comrie, who has played 42 NHL games with five teams. The Senators’ third-round pick would be forward Connor Crisp, who has yet to appear in an NHL game.
While O’Reilly and Acciari add skill and experience to the Maple Leafs, their additions mean more than their on-ice abilities.
They represent a winning attitude and bring a ‘been there, done that’ calmness to a team that may be mentally fragile. There is a greater sense of hope that the organization is doing everything possible to help the players succeed. The added depth opens the door to another deal. That would further add to the confidence level when the quest for the Stanley Cup begins in April.
Now we sit back and see if the Ryan O’Reilly trade pays off with the first Stanley Cup title since 1967.
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