The Blues added a few new additions and said goodbye to plenty on the first day of free agency, as the roster already looks significantly different than it did 24 hours ago.
The biggest name in all the Blues’ activity? Ryan O’Reilly.
St. Louis acquired the center from Buffalo Sunday evening in exchange for Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson, a 2019 first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick.
“We brought in one of the better known two-way players in the game in Ryan O’Reilly,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “So yeah, I think we’re in a better spot today than we were at the draft, after the draft, or yesterday at this time.”
O’Reilly had one of the best years of his career in 2017-18. Playing behind All-Star Jack Eichel as the Sabres’ second line center, O’Reilly racked up 61 points on 24 goals and 37 assists. He saw his point total jump from 20 in 2012-13 to 64 the following season, and has consistently produced at least 55 points in each season since.
The 27-year-old is young with years of production ahead, and still has five years left on his current deal. Although an underperforming Buffalo team limited his performance the past three years, he still managed to average almost 59 points per season over that span.
O’Reilly is widely known throughout the NHL as one of the best two-way centers in the league. He’s gritty and plays stout defense while still putting up impressive numbers on the offensive end.
Playing alongside Vladimir Tarasenko would take the load off his shoulders — something he rarely experienced playing for Colorado or Buffalo. He could have a career year if he ends up replacing Brayden Schenn as the Blues’ first-line center.
“In today’s NHL, you can never have too many centermen,” Armstrong said. “Depth down the middle of the ice is very important. When you look at strength of the center ice position in our division alone, I think when you come now with Schenn, O’Reilly and Bozak — three experienced players — [coach] Mike [Yeo] can play them against any line at any time.”
Another important factor of the O’Reilly trade is that the Blues kept highly-touted prospects Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou and Vince Dunn in the organization.
“Being able to protect Thomas, Kyrou and Dunn and some of the other players, it was important to us,” Armstrong said.
The Blues acquired O’Reilly Sunday evening, capping off a hectic first day of free agency. The Blues brought forward David Perron back from the Vegas Golden Knights on a four-year, $16 million deal; and signed former Toronto Maple Leaf center Tyler Bozak for three years and $15 million.
Perron, 30, totaled 66 points on 16 goals and 50 assists in a career year with Vegas last season. Bozak, 32, racked up 11 goals and 32 assists for 43 points in his ninth year in the NHL — all of which were with Toronto. The two add quality second-to-third line depth, something the Blues were keen on addressing this offseason.
“I like the look of this team right now,” Armstrong said. “You bring in O’Reilly, Bozak, and you bring in Perron — experienced players — it makes you better. We’ve added a scoring winger [Perron]. We’ve added two right-shot players [Perron, Bozak] that are gonna help our power play.”
Blues backup goalie Carter Hutton signed a three-year, $8.25 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres, forcing Armstrong to find his replacement. He did so by signing former-Sabre Chad Johnson to a one-year, $1.25 million deal.
Many Blues fans wanted to see a reunion with former-Blue Ryan Reaves this offseason, but the forward signed a two-year, $2.775 million extension to stay in Vegas.
When asked if the Blues will make any more splashes in free agency, Armstrong responded saying they’re just about done with the free agent market, but aren’t opposed to making a trade if a quality one stumbles upon them.