If the Colorado Avalanche decide to trade forward Ryan O’Reilly, something Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos says is possible, he is the type of player every NHL team could benefit from.
While his offensive numbers don’t jump off the page at you, he is blessed with elite hockey sense, terrific defensive ability both five-on-five and killing penalties, plus the reigning Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner is as disciplined as it gets.
The Avalanche would require a significant return for a player of O’Reilly’s calibre — they’re reportedly targeting help on the blueline — and his $6-million salary cap hit could become a stumbling block. But, he is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2015-16 season, which makes his high cap hit more manageable.
With that in mind, here are five potential fits for O’Reilly should the Avalanche choose to trade him.
Everyone knows by now the story of how the Flames nearly screwed themselves over by signing O'Reilly to an offer sheet two years ago. Although then-Flames GM Jay Feaster is long gone, the Flames would be wise to see what it would take to land O'Reilly now. He would fit in nicely with the Flames’ brand of hockey because he plays a responsible, gritty, 200-foot game. He’d instantly become the Flames best centre and the team has a surplus of talented defencemen they could offer up.
Potential trade chips: Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman, Joe Colborne, Mikael Backlund, Tyler Wotherspoon
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Like so many players in the league, O'Reilly hails from Ontario, which inevitably leads to talk that he might one day want to play for the Maple Leafs. Ever since Mats Sundin left town the Maple Leafs have pined for a true, first-line centre and O'Reilly could fill that role. The 2014-15 season can’t end soon enough for the Maple Leafs and they’re in a position where virtually no player in their system is untouchable.
Potential trade chips: Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson, Stuart Percy, Joffrey Lupul
O'Reilly would help the Sabres’ rebuild significantly. Through 46 games, the Sabres have a minus-76 goal differential, which is the worst in the NHL by 26 goals. Having a player like O'Reilly can help stabilize a Buffalo forward group that consistently struggles in their own zone.
Potential trade chips: Tyler Myers, Nikita Zadorov, Marcus Foligno
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
The 33rd overall pick from 2009 would be an excellent complement to Ryan Johansen, Brandon Dubinsky and the slew of talent the Blue Jackets have. They might be hesitant to give away a blueliner because there isn’t a deep pool of quality defensive prospects in their system, but you’d have to make a significant sacrifice to acquire a player like O'Reilly.
Potential trade chips: Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin, Boone Jenner, Artem Anisimov
SAN JOSE SHARKS
This one is a bit of a long shot, but the Sharks seem like a franchise willing to part ways with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau to shake things up – whether they’ll come out and admit it or not. If the Sharks flounder in the post-season this year like they have so many times before, expect a few major off-season roster moves. They’d have to make a move or two to make room for O'Reilly, but if he doesn’t get traded before the March 2 deadline, it’s not out of the question to think the Sharks would make a pitch for O’Reilly in order to head in a new direction.
Potential trade chips: Matt Irwin, Brenden Dillon, Justin Braun, Mirco Mueller