What trading with Ryan O’Reilly reveals about how Canadians can approach the trade deadline

TORONTO — Saturday’s most momentous news came well before the Canadians lost 5-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sean Monahan took part in the Canadians’ morning skate session wearing a non-contact sweater, just like he did Thursday in Raleigh. The Canadians had Friday off in Toronto, meaning Monahan was two consecutive skates on the ice, which could be viewed as a positive.

Martin St. Louis has almost taken pride in not commenting on injuries this season, his standard response being, “I don’t know.” He said the same thing on Saturday morning when asked about Monahan’s progress, but then did he made a small mistake.

“I don’t know, he’s on a plateau,” he said. “Let’s see what next week brings.”

If Monahan has plateaued, the chances of him training fully with the team on Monday in Brossard or playing in New Jersey on Tuesday seem slim. And if he’s not playing in New Jersey then the chances of the Canadians getting any decent consideration for his services before the March 3 trading deadline also seems slim as he would then have a maximum of four games left to prove himself to anyone who is interested in trading so he can be sure to stay in the lineup and perform.

The Canadiens obviously weren’t the story here on Saturday. The Maple Leafs spent a boatload of assets to acquire centers Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari, the story was. But this trade has given us some information about Canadians’ position on the trade deadline, and Monahan is at the center of it all in a number of ways.

The trading market is extremely thin on centers

With O’Reilly now off the board and Jonathan Toews still not committed to lifting his no-movement clause — not to mention the mysterious illness that has kept him off the lineup since Jan. 28 — could have the balance of supply and demand in the center would have been extremely favorable for Canadians when it comes to Monahan if he were healthy.

But he’s not, and from the sound of it, he won’t be, at least for a while.

The way the trade market has performed would have been a perfect storm for the Canadians, with Bo Horvat and O’Reilly being the first two big trades to be dropped and Toews’ situation remaining unclear as to what one created a gap in the middle position that they had could have been filled by Monahan and perhaps sparked a bidding war among the teams that Horvat and O’Reilly missed out on.

The longer Monahan is out, the more likely Canadians are to miss out on taking advantage of these market conditions. However, it should be noted that if you break down the assets moved by the Maple Leafs, the second-round pick in 2024 could essentially be Acciari. In a sense, this sort of dictates the price for Monahan once his injury situation is factored in. A healthy and productive Monahan could have earned the Canadians a first-round pick, but the current version of Monahan should at least give them a second-round pick, assuming he’s back in time.

It’s also worth noting here that the Maple Leafs pulled the trigger on that deal after O’Reilly played three games after returning from a broken foot, the same injury that initially knocked Monahan out of the lineup. Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas noted that O’Reilly didn’t have a muscle injury, so the fact that it was a bone injury made him more confident it wouldn’t be a problem. Although Monahan’s situation started with a bone injury to his foot, it’s obvious at this point that the playthrough led to a secondary injury, perhaps a groin injury. This muscle injury could further stifle the market’s confidence in its ability to come back and contribute if it does.

The cap broker market has been set

The Canadians would very much like to play the role the Minnesota Wild played in facilitating the O’Reilly trade by acting as a middleman and eating 25 percent of O’Reilly’s cap hit to give the Maple Leafs before the deadline to give some flexibility.

This earned the Wild a fourth-round draft pick for $74,000 in cash and approximately $557,000 in Cap Space.

Although the Canadians were involved in these talks to play the same role of mediator, their injury situation prevented them from being able to do so. They have cap space at the moment, but Monahan’s eventual return complicates their cap situation as he is currently on long-term injured reserve. So if he returns, the Canadians will have to have the Cap space to bring him back. In theory, the Canadians could have Brendan Gallagher on LTIR to help with that, but he too is likely to return at some point. But who really knows if he will at this point?

All of the other injuries have also required call-ups, further exacerbating the Canadians’ cap situation.

Basically what kept the Canadians from taking part in this deal instead of the wild and adding this fourth round pick for the princely sum of $74,000 in real dollars – no small consideration for a team now on the way is to spend more than $100 million on salary this season, per CapFriendly — was the lack of clarity about the status of their injured players. Having Monahan’s status as “highland” doesn’t help matters.

If the Canadians had some clarity on the situation of Monahan, Joel Edmundson or even Gallagher, they might have been able to seize this opportunity. But with the information they now have, they just couldn’t.

Does this affect the market for an LTIR deal?

The Canadians are considering the possibility of selling Paul Byron’s contract to a team looking to make room for the cap before the deadline. Perhaps the fourth round choice paid to the wild for facilitating the O’Reilly trade would also set the market for this type of deal.

If the Canadians trade Byron to a team already operating in LTIR — which makes up more than half of the league — they would have to take back a player whose cap hit would then be a new cap spot for the team acquiring Byron. To be clear, when the Vegas Golden Knights acquired Shea Weber, the only actual cap space they created was Evgenii Dadonov’s $5 million cap hit. Whoever sends a team back in a trade for Byron would represent the actual cap space the team would create.

But again, the Canadians would need to be able to take on this new contract and the injuries and call-ups have made that more complicated.

Adding a third first-round pick really isn’t the case

Blues GM Doug Armstrong has been pretty blunt on explaining the extent to which the market is unwilling to part with first-round picks in this draft. When a player like O’Reilly attracts limited interest due to the cost of first-round picks in 2023, Canadians basically have no hope of getting one, even if Monahan were healthy and capable.

Perhaps Josh Anderson could land one for the Canadians if they decide to trade it, but otherwise they have very little chance of entering this market. A healthy Edmundson might have made it, but an unhealthy one wouldn’t.

(Photo by Jordan Harris, Ryan O’Reilly and Nick Suzuki: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

https://theathletic.com/4227084/2023/02/19/ryan-oreilly-canadiens-trade-deadline/ What trading with Ryan O’Reilly reveals about how Canadians can approach the trade deadline

Russell Falcon

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