Leafs pending UFA may head back West this summer

Mike Armenti
May 28, 2023  (6:36 PM)

The Leafs have a lot of questions that need answering this summer, make no mistake about it. On top of the questions relating to the GM search, there will be plenty of rumours surrounding what will happen with head coach Sheldon Keefe, the Core 4 and the abundance of UFAs and RFAs on the team in need of new deals.

One player whom many in the Leafs' loyal fanbase are wondering about right now is Ryan O'Reilly, who joined the team following a trade out of St. Louis ahead of the deadline. O'Reilly quickly won over the Leafs' fanbase with his brand of feisty, relentless hockey, which earned him a Conn Smythe Trophy and helped his team win a Stanley Cup back in 2019.
At the Leafs' season-ending presser, O'Reilly was very non-committal when asked about his future, likely not wanting to tip his hand before negotiations began. The pending UFA is coming off of a deal that paid him an AAV of $7.5M. It's unclear at this point if O'Reilly would be willing to take enough of a discount to interest the Leafs, so he's likely to remain in the rumour mill unless he actually decides to put pen to paper before free agency opens up on July 1st.
One team, as The Hockey News' Adam Proteau points out, what might be interested in bringing in O'Reilly is his former club, the Colorado Avalanche. With the Avs facing some uncertainty with regard to Valeri Nichushkin and the injured Gabriel Landeskog, it's entirely possible they'll take a run at a player that the organizations knows well. They'll have the money to spend and could certainly use a veteran centerman.
"[The Avalanche] need an infusion of size and skill, and they have enough cap space to make a splash either in free agency or on the trade front. Maybe that means Colorado brings back veteran Ryan O'Reilly for his second tour of duty with the organization. O'Reilly isn't a game-breaker, but he brings the type of grit and experience teams look for as they seek to go on a deep playoff run. He likely won't break the bank with a new salary in the $4- to 5-million range per year." Proteau on a possible reunion between the Avs and O'Reilly

With just over 1 month until free agency, I'm sure the rumour mill will be turning at a much greater speed coming up here - especially once the Leafs have selected a new GM.
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Leafs pending UFA may head back West this summer

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