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Blues trade O’Reilly, Acciari to Maple Leafs, look to future

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 18: Ryan O’Reilly #90 of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on during warmups against the Montreal Canadiens at the Scotiabank Arena on February 18, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Michael Chisholm/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Blues are looking to the future after trading captain and center Ryan O’Reilly along with center Noel Acciari to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.

St. Louis acquired Toronto’s 2023 first-round draft pick and 2024 second-round draft pick and Ottawa’s 2023 third-round pick from the Maple Leafs along with AHL forwards Mikhail Abramov and Adam Gaudette. Toronto also traded its 2025 fifth-round pick to the Minnesota Wild for the rights to forward prospect Josh Pillar in exchange for the Wild picking up 25% of O’Reilly’s salary.

The 32-year-old O’Reilly, who won the 2019 Conn Smythe trophy with St. Louis, had 12 goals and seven assists in 40 games this season while Acciari, 31, had 10 goals and eight assists in 54 games. Both players are set to be unrestricted free agents this offseason.

The trade comes with St. Louis sitting eight points out of a playoff spot with a 26-25-3 record entering play Saturday. The Blues traded forward Vladimir Tarasenko and defenseman Niko Mikkola to the New York Rangers on Feb. 9.

“This actually in a crazy way, made my job easier, not harder,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “It would have been difficult to be sitting in front of you today if we had five more wins, which is 10 more points and telling you why it was a good idea to move Vladimir Tarasenko, why it was a good idea to move Ryan O’Reilly and Mikkola and Noel for draft picks on a team that was fighting for a playoff spot or in a playoff spot fighting for a championship.”

St. Louis had won three straight after dropping five in a row, but Armstrong wasn’t influenced by the recent streaks.

“It was probably a little bit before that,” Armstrong said. “This year we haven’t been able to find Ground Zero. Good teams don’t fluctuate the way we fluctuated, win three and lose eight, win seven, lose five win three. What that indicates to me is a team that doesn’t have a foundation and something to fall back on quickly when things are going bad.”

St. Louis was looking to build off last season when it fell to the Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche in six games in the Western Conference Semifinal.

“I was hoping to be here and celebrate a Stanley Cup,” Armstrong said. “I was also prepared to be here and lose in the first or second round and be getting drilled by `well, now you’ve lost and you have no future assets and you’ve done all this stuff, you’re an idiot.’ I was hoping to have to be labeled like that as a guy that didn’t maximize his assets. This year, I didn’t have that.”

St. Louis now owns Toronto’s first-round pick and the later of the New York Rangers’ two first-round picks in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft in addition to its own.

Armstrong did not rule out making additional moves ahead of the NHL’s March 3 trade deadline.

“I think that the equity in the NHL now to have is first-round picks,” Armstrong said. “One thing that I do know what we’re going to do though is if we move picks, players, it’s not going to be for one-year players. We need to again retrench with players that are 25, 26 and under that have term under contract so they can grow with that next core of players we have.”