After starting the season with three straight wins, things were looking quite promising for the St. Louis Blues. However, things have completely hit the fan since then, as they have lost eight straight games in regulation and are now tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the least points in the NHL. This is truly a disastrous collapse of a team that many believed was a contender, and big changes could be on the way because of it. Detroit Red Wings general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman would be wise to take advantage of this and call about pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) Ryan O’Reilly. He had amazing chemistry with David Perron while they were teammates and would be a great leader to add to the roster.
Although O’Reilly is off to a slow start this season (two goals and zero assists in 11 games), everybody knows what the 31-year-old is capable of when at his best. He just recorded a 58-point campaign in 78 games last season and has been nearly a point-per-game player on multiple occasions throughout his career. With that, his defensive play is truly elite, and it’s why he’s been regarded as one of the top two-way forwards in the league for many years. Adding a player like this to Detroit’s roster could be exactly what leads them to a playoff spot in 2022-23, so let’s look at what it could cost to get him.
With O’Reilly being a center, I wonder if the Blues would be interested in Joe Veleno. The 2018 first-round pick has not developed into the top-six forward that many believed he would during his draft year, but I’d argue that he still has plenty of upside due to his young age. After recording a 15-point campaign in 66 games with the Red Wings last season, the Montreal native currently has a goal and an assist in 12 games. Although he has not been dominant offensively, it’s important to note that he has been playing fourth-line minutes. Furthermore, his defensive play has looked better so far this season as well.
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Due to the Red Wings’ deep forward depth, I think a change of scenery could be very beneficial for Veleno’s development, too. With that, former top prospects can sometimes thrive in new situations, and the Blues could certainly express interest in the young forward because of this. He could also be an immediate fit on their third line and penalty kill if acquired by St. Louis, so there could be a match here for both parties.
Veleno is still on his entry-level contract (ELC) and carries an $894,167 cap hit, so the Blues would have zero trouble fitting him on their roster. Overall, if he develops into a 40-to-45-point player and effective two-way forward, he could be a major addition to the Blues’ roster.
Although the Blues aren’t expected to begin a full-on rebuild at this time, they would likely want at least one notable prospect in a move centering around O’Reilly. One that could make sense in this deal is winger Cross Hanas. The 2020 second-round pick is coming off of an excellent season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL), where he had 86 points in 63 games. He is just beginning his professional career with the Grand Rapids Griffins this season, and he is looking quite solid so far for the American Hockey League (AHL) squad. In his first 10 games, he has five goals to go along with two assists. Given all of this, St. Louis would surely at least consider the idea of pursuing him in an O’Reilly trade.
If Hanas can continue to develop at the pace he is, he could be NHL-ready as soon as next season. As for his ceiling, it’s fair to say that he should become a third-liner later down the road, but given his offensive success at every level, we shouldn’t rule out the chances of him blossoming into a top-six forward, either. Besides being a very skilled player, he also plays a very physical game, so that only heightens his value as a prospect. The Blues are known for being a heavy team as well, so he has the potential to fit into their system nicely.
Although parting ways with a strong prospect like Hanas is always risky, it would be worth it if it means landing a quality veteran center like O’Reilly.
Filip Zadina will be out for the next six-to-eight weeks due to a lower-body injury. This is brutal news for the 2018 sixth-overall pick, as the 2022-23 campaign is an immensely important one for him. At this juncture of his career, he has yet to show major strides in his development, and it feels like it is now or never for him to change that. His first nine games this season have not gone to plan, either, as he has zero points and a minus-3 rating. Overall, this season has been off to such a rocky start in all aspects for him. Perhaps a change of scenery once he is healthy could be what helps get him back on track.
Zadina was once deemed a top prospect for a reason. The 22-year-old winger is a very skilled player who has the potential to become a top-six forward in this league. He also has shown offensive success in the NHL previously, as he recorded a 15-point campaign in only 28 games during the 2019-20 season for the Red Wings. Although he has yet to replicate that pace of production, there’s no question that his upside could be enough for the Blues to pursue him in a hypothetical O’Reilly deal. He could be an immediate fit on their third line over Logan Brown and work well on their second power-play unit due to his playmaking ability.
Zadina also has a contract that could age wonderfully. He carries an affordable $1.825 million cap hit until the end of the 2024-25 season, so if he blossoms into a top-six winger, his deal would be a complete and utter steal for the Blues. Due to all of this, St. Louis should consider the prospect of acquiring him in an O’Reilly deal.
Nevertheless, if the Blues end up shopping O’Reilly at the trade deadline, it’s apparent that the Red Wings have the pieces to get a deal finalized. Naturally, they would need to add a high draft pick, but if Detroit wants to earn a playoff spot, acquiring O’Reilly would help with that. Alas, we will have to wait and see if these two clubs strike a big deal at the deadline from here.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, & Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHL Trade Rumors.