St. Louis Blues Abandon 2022-23; Trade Ryan O’Reilly And Noel Acciari

St. Louis Blues Ryan O'Reilly #90(Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images)
St. Louis Blues Ryan O'Reilly #90(Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Blues have taken us on a roller coaster ride over the last few weeks. Now, that ride is over.

They were in the playoff hunt and then lost five in a row before the All-Star break. They traded Vladimir Tarasenko, seemingly signaling the team had entered sell mode.

However, the Blues won their first three games out of the break and the guys in the locker room were saying they were focused on pushing for the playoffs. Late on February 17, Doug Armstrong said not so fast.

Armstrong officially gave up on the 2022-23 season. He traded two more pending free agents – team captain Ryan O’Reilly and spark plug Noel Acciari.

While initially it seemed as though this was just a two-team deal, it was later reported that the Minnesota Wild were involved. Their part in the play was acquiring a draft pick and salary retention.

So, the Toronto Maple Leafs got the NHL part of the deal. They acquire O’Reilly and Acciari from the Blues and prospect Josh Pillar from the Wild.

The Blues acquire a 2023 first-round pick, a 2023 third-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick, prospect Mikhail Abramov and Adam Gaudette.

As part of a “paperwork” move, the Blues technically traded O’Reilly to Minnesota, who then sent him onto the Maple Leafs. This was done because the Blues retained 50% of O’Reilly’s cap hit and the Wild retained 25% of the cap hit when sending him to Toronto. That means, Toronto only has to absorb 25% of O’Reilly’s salary against their cap.

For the Blues, the main acquisition are the draft picks. I am not personally that high on the draft, but the reality is that St. Louis now has three first-round picks in 2023 to do what they will with.

Abramov has yet to play a minute of hockey in North America. At 24, he’s not old, but he also has not lit the world on fire in the KHL with just three goals in the top-tier league and only 18 goals in their version of the AHL.

Gaudette is 26 and already a journeyman. He’s been with Vancouver, Chicago, Ottawa and Toronto.

Gaudette never played a game with the Maple Leafs, meaning he’s been in the AHL all season. His career highs were 12 goals and 33 points with Vancouver in 2019-20.

If the Blues think anything of him, they are clearly hoping the pandemic thwarted his development as a pro. Outside of that, he’s a throwaway piece to this deal.

St. Louis will surely give him an opportunity in the final 20-plus games of the season. If for no other reason, he will get to play because the Blues are suddenly thin at center and Gaudette can play in the middle.

Neither set of fans are happy with the deal, which means it’s a fair deal. Blues fans are mad their team has given up on the season, even though it was clear that only a run the likes of which we have not seen would get them in the playoffs.

Conversely, Maple Leaf fans aren’t happy either – then again, when are they? They think this is a gross overpayment for a team some are admitting likely won’t beat Tampa or Boston in the playoffs anyway. Yep, Presidents Trophy winners are unbeatable, so just accept your fate Leafs.

Ultimately, while it does touch a nerve for me to admit the playoffs weren’t happening and the Blues are doing the right thing, the reality is they are. They’re building a stockpile of assets which can either be used or packaged for someone else at a later date.

If you break it down, the Blues essentially got a first and third-round pick and a prospect for O’Reilly. They turned Acciari into a second-round pick and an NHL-capable player too.

Hopefully I’m wrong, but I don’t expect to see Gaudette or Abramov beyond this year. Gaudette is a free agent and Abramov just isn’t doing much.

It’s all about those picks.

Don’t forget – assuming the relationship is not bruised, the Blues can always re-sign O’Reilly in the offseason. Toronto probably won’t have enough money, so St. Louis has to remain at the top of his list even if Toronto has a good playoff run.

Next. Blues need a number 1 if Parayko is traded away.. dark

There is Blues precedent to this too when they re-signed Keith Tkachuk after trading him to Atlanta. They did the same with Doug Weight after he had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes.