The Toronto Maple Leafs have joined the Eastern Conference arms race ahead of the NHL's trade deadline on March 3.
Toronto acquired center Ryan O'Reilly and forward Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues on Friday night. In return, the Blues received a 2023 first-round pick, a 2023 third-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick, forward Mikhail Abramov and forward Adam Gaudette.
The Blues retained 50% of O'Reilly's $7.5 million salary cap hit, and the Wild got involved to retain 25% of his salary. In exchange for that, the Wild received Toronto's fourth-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.
Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas had to work some salary cap magic to make this trade happen, but he wound up with O'Reilly at 25% of his original salary. The question now is whether he was worth what the team surrendered.
Let's take a look at the trade grades for all three teams involved in this deal.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs are right in the middle of their championship window, this year's Eastern Conference is absolutely loaded, and the team hasn't seen the second round of the playoffs since 2004.
All of those factors meant Toronto was probably going to push its chips to the middle of the table ahead of this trade deadline, and that is exactly what it did. The Maple Leafs have just three selections in the first four rounds of the next two drafts combined. The team has gambled a decent portion of its future to make a deep playoff run this year, and frankly, it might have been a wise decision in this instance.
O'Reilly doesn't necessarily address a glaring need for the Maple Leafs, a team that has Auston Matthews and John Tavares as a one-two punch down the middle. What this trade does do for the Maple Leafs is give them a big advantage at the most important position in the game. With a strong collection of talent around him, O'Reilly should be able to thrive in a third-line role.
O'Reilly had just 12 goals and seven assists in 40 games played this season, and his minus-15 goal differential at five-on-five doesn't look good either. However, O'Reilly has played better than those numbers indicate. The Blues owned a 50.21% expected goals share with O'Reilly on the ice at five-on-five, and the team's save percentage in those situations was a miserable 87.2%, per Natural Stat Trick.
The good news for O'Reilly is that he is about to be in a much better situation, which should allow him to play at a higher level. When O'Reilly is at his best, he is one of the best two-way forwards in the game. In the 2018-19 season, O'Reilly led the Blues to the Stanley Cup while winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Selke Trophy. In the regular season, he tallied 77 points in 82 games, and he notched 23 points in 26 postseason games.
That was four years ago, and the 32-year-old O'Reilly may not have that level to his game anymore, but the Maple Leafs don't need that from him. Based on the role he'll be asked to play in Toronto, O'Reilly will be a nice luxury for the Leafs.
Acciari has 18 points in 54 games this season, and he will likely take on a bottom-six role for the Leafs. He isn't the centerpiece of this deal, but Acciari's versatility could come in handy over the course of a deep postseason run.
The Maple Leafs gave up a total of four draft picks, including a first-round selection, to make this trade happen. That's a big risk to take for a 32-year-old center and a depth forward. There's no way around it. Anything short of competing for a Stanley Cup will make this a tough pill to swallow for Toronto.
Still, the Leafs haven't seen the light of the second round in almost two decades. They have a roster that can win the Stanley Cup this year. This is as good a time as ever to go "all in." O'Reilly could help get this team over the hump, and if this season ends with Toronto hoisting the Cup, this trade will have been well worth the price tag. Grade -- B+
St. Louis Blues
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong has been a busy man over the last couple of weeks. After sending Vladimir Tarasenko to the New York Rangers, he has now flipped O'Reilly and Acciari for a collection of draft picks.
After this trade, St. Louis now owns three first-round picks in the 2023 NHL Draft. To make this deal even sweeter for the Blues, the third-round pick belongs to the Ottawa Senators, which means it will be a relatively high third-round selection.
Whether they use those picks to restock the prospect cupboard, trade them for an immediate upgrade, or some combination of those two, there is reason to be hopeful about the Blues' future.
Between Tarasenko and O'Reilly, the Blues deserve credit for coming to terms with the current state of the team and getting good value out of a couple veterans on the wrong side of 30. Because of that, St. Louis may be able to avoid an otherwise long and painful rebuild. Grade -- A+
This one is pretty straightforward. The Wild just got a free fourth-round pick to take on $1.875 million in salary for the rest of this season. That's not a bad deal, and the only downside is that it puts a slight dent into Minnesota's flexibility to improve its own roster between now and the trade deadline. Grade -- A-