Maple Leafs ‘energy’ swinging big GM to land O’Reilly before the trade deadline

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is in almost constant communication with his head coach.

When the messages began to dry up on Friday evening and into the early evening, Sheldon Keefe had an inkling that news might be coming down the pipe.

“I know Kyle pretty well now,” said Keefe, who came in professionally at his GM’s hip for more than a decade. “When it’s quiet, I have a good sense that some things are happening.”

And they happened to do.

Dubas participated in some late-night shopping on Friday — the trade was announced shortly before 11 p.m. ET — acquiring centers Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Cardinals. Louis Blues in a huge deal that left his Leafs in doubt. in the year 2023.

The trade gives Toronto a significant boost, especially on the defensive side of the puck, to a forward group already dominated by the offensive dynamics of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

O’Reilly helped St. Louis captured the Stanley Cup in 2019 with a Conn Smythe Trophy-winning performance as playoff MVP. The gritty Acciari was involved in a long postseason run with the Boston Bruins, including a two-game sweep of Toronto.

“I felt that the transition was important considering the market, going through all our options, continuing to look at where our own team was, and where we are headed,” a Dubas told reporters at a press conference Saturday morning at the Scotiabank booth. Arena.

Deal without risk

“Ryan O’Reilly’s pedigree speaks for itself, but we thought his defensive ability, his playoff performance, what he brings to our center, and what he will bring to our team on and off the ice , it was crucial.

“Especially with the level of competition we face.”

The market is not without risk, however.

The Leafs gave up four draft picks, including their 2023 first-round pick, in a trade that also involved the Minnesota Wild about 14 days before the NHL’s March 3 trade deadline for two players set to become free agents unrestricted July 1.

Dubas parted with his 2021 first-round pick for Nick Foligno in a deal with Columbus two years ago that didn’t pan out and had to use his 2022 pick as a sweetener for Chicago to fix the Petr Mrazek signing gaffe.

Very exciting for our team, our group and, of course, our fan base.— Maple Leafs captain John Tavares on team in trade for centers Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari

“I’d be lying to sit here and say that’s not a concern,” said Dubas, who bounced Friday after watching the likes of Bo Horvat and Vladimir Tarasenko come off the trade board in recent weeks. to empty his draft. Pick a bin. “I would much rather keep the young players we have signed.

“The picks are a bit like the mystery box – you can have the mystery box, or you can have the prospects.”

Tavares didn’t hear about the acquisition of O’Reilly, who also won the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive player in 2019, and Acciari until the Toronto captain looked at his phone Saturday morning.

“Good after getting up,” he said. “It’s very exciting for our team, our group and, of course, our fans.

Broken leg

msgstr “Sends a strong message and energizes the group.”

O’Reilly, 32, had 12 goals and 19 points in 40 games for St. Louis this season, returning to action after recovering from a broken leg, while Acciari, 31, registered 10 goals and 18 points in 54 competitions.

“It puts everything into perspective for what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly, who joked that reporters will have trouble with two similar names on the same roster.

Keefe got word of the trade Friday while driving home from his son’s hockey game.

“Hard to sleep,” he said. “Just trying to think of the different options it presents.

“You are very happy to be able to improve your team.”

The Leafs plan to move their new forwards — O’Reilly and Acciari were expected to turn up Saturday against Montreal — around the lineup to see where they fit best.

Both can play at center or on the wing, meaning O’Reilly could find himself behind either Matthews or Tavares at various points in the coming months as Toronto, which has lost six straight, prepares for what like another first round game with Tampa. Harbor.

There is no talk of signing O’Reilly

“We’re a team that believes in ourselves,” said Leafs defenseman Mark Giordano, who was acquired at last season’s deadline. “Additions like that are just management’s way of letting us know they feel the same way.”

Dubas, who is in the final year of his contract, said he would have made the same trade regardless of his status after this season.

He said there were no discussions about signing O’Reilly, who is from Clinton, Ont., about 200 kilometers west of Toronto, to an extension.

At least not yet.

“I like that people are living together before they get married,” said Dubas. “You want to make sure you have the right mix in the house before you commit to being together for a long time.”

This move was due to this point for a team that has to – get over their playoff woes, especially with no guarantee that Matthews and Nylander will be Leafs after the 2023-24 campaign.

“We are in the top five in the standings, we are there again this year,” said Dubas. “You’re trying to win the Stanley Cup. There’s a lot of points along the way and people are going to laugh at that, scoff at that. And that’s fine, but we’re trying to win.

“Anything short of that, I think we’re all going to be disappointed.”

Dubas took his shot late Friday. He will soon know it was the right call.

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