Exclusive: Blues’ Ryan O’Reilly on trade talks, contract extension: ‘I want to be here’

As Ryan O’Reilly takes a seat at the Centene Community Ice Center on Wednesday afternoon, he wears a St. Louis Blues jersey and a protective boot on his broken right foot.

You wonder how long he’ll wear both, which might go hand in hand.

O’Reilly, 31, will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and with each Blues loss, the chances of general manager Doug Armstrong passing on his captain may increase. But right now he’s not skating, and he might not last for at least another week.

“I hope soon,” O’Reilly said in an exclusive interview with the athlete. “You just have to be very careful with it, so we don’t have any resets on it. So I’m hoping to be skating soon, but I don’t have a real schedule yet. We still have to get more pics next week and hopefully skating will be allowed from there “.

However, speculation about his future wouldn’t wait until his foot healed.

O’Reilly is No. 6 in the athleteTSN’s Board of Trade and TSN’s Darren Dreger recently reported that the Blues have begun measuring interest and assessing what the market might tolerate for the position in general.

But do not rule out the possibility of extending the contract with the Blues, said O’Reilly the athlete Wednesday.

“Yeah, we started doing a little dialogue,” he said. “I think there will be some kind of conversation going forward here, but yeah, there’s no timetable or anything like that. That’s kind of all I can really give you on that.

“That’s where I want to be. I hope I’m not affected, but I think things will probably progress, especially with the deadline approaching and talks with that. We’ll see how that goes. We’re starting to get into that.”

In the meantime, NHL clubs will be in touch with Armstrong about what it will take to trade for O’Reilly, and the rumors will keep coming.

“I still get letters from my buddies every time—this team was rumored, this team was rumored,” O’Reilly said. “It’s honestly in one ear and out the other at this point. If anything, it’s a distraction, and I don’t want it to be a distraction to the team. You hear things, but like I said, in one ear, out of the other.”

“The main focus for me now is just getting healthy and getting us back into the playoffs, and I think things will flow from there. My focus is to be here and contribute to getting us into the playoffs.”

Few would have expected the Blues to be in this position at this stage of the season – six points off third in the Central Division and an impressive place.

An extension for O’Reilly might have seemed automatic, but now with the club likely to miss the play-offs, coupled with their lack of production, it’s not guaranteed.

“Oh my God, it was hard,” O’Reilly said. “If things were going well and we were winning, I think things would be a lot different for me personally, but as a group as well.”

O’Reilly has scored 10 goals in 36 games, but with six assists and only 16 points, there is some concern that he’s missing a step. But he doesn’t think so, thinking the slow start was just a snowball.


Ryan O’Reilly. (Steve Chambers/Getty Images)

“Myself, starting early, a lot of skepticism came,” O’Reilly said. “Yeah, I don’t really trust my game anymore. That’s why I think this injury comes at a good time to kind of step back and realize what’s important, and that’s just winning hockey games and things unfold from there.

“I wish my numbers were different and I’d make more, but I don’t really care. When I focus on the details — playing well on PK, PP, closing the top line — it gives us the best chance of winning. My numbers suck, but what they are, I don’t really care. I have to go back to doing what I love, and that’s trying to win matches.”

O’Reilly broke his foot on a PK, blocking a shot by Minnesota’s Calen Addison in the second period of the 5-2 loss on December 31. His skates took a break and it started to swell, but he felt fine when he got back on the ice.

“But after the game, the adrenaline wore off and it really started building,” O’Reilly said. “I was like, ‘Oh, that’s not good. “

An MRI scan showed the break, and the Blues announced that O’Reilly would be reassessed in six weeks, meaning his return wouldn’t come until at least mid-February. Since he can’t skate yet, he has been cycling, swimming, and doing a lot of upper body work.

If all goes well, O’Reilly could return shortly after the Blues return from the All-Star break and bye week. However, that wouldn’t leave much time – perhaps less than 10 games – before the league’s March 3 trade deadline.

“I feel like there’s still time to go in and show that we can win here and that we’re close,” said O’Reilly. “That’s why I want to be here, to be a part of that. But yeah, at the same time, I have to earn that place with my play. I have to earn that respect from this group, that belief that we can do that.”

Although the Blues roster reshuffle would likely involve trading O’Reilly, he was asked if he wanted to stay on if Armstrong decided to go down that route.

“It’s something I don’t really want to think about, and it’s something I have no control over,” O’Reilly said. “If that’s what happened, then I’d visit again. But I don’t think we’re in a position to rebuild. I think we can win and we can win soon here – this year or next.

“As a captain, I think that should be my focus, and if I believe in it, and I will fight to the end, I think other players will follow. It won’t be easy, but we are there.”

Would O’Reilly consider discounting a “friend of the team” for staying with the Blues through something like this?

He said, “Yeah, sure.” “Yeah, I want to make it work, but I also want to keep my value as well. At the end of the day, it’s a business, and if we can’t make it work, and you can’t do the job as a leader, then I can (see) get rid of me.”

“So I have to protect myself. I don’t know (contract) numbers and such. Obviously, the way we’re doing this year, the expectation (salary) will be much lower, but I still believe in myself, that I can be a very influential player. I hope I can I am here to be successful for many years to come.”

Interestingly, O’Reilly does not have a no-trade clause in his contract, the seven-year, $52.5 million deal he signed with Buffalo in 2015. He was 24 at the time, but despite having 90 goals and 246 points in 427 NHL games at that point, the Sabers had never had such protection.

“I don’t think it was ever on the table,” O’Reilly said. “Obviously it was a great deal at the time for a two-way position and not for someone with crazy numbers. At that age, we’re still a little bit young, that’s what it is. You just hope (if you get traded) you’re going to a good, competitive team.” “.

On July 1, 2018, O’Reilly was sent to a rival in St. Louis, where he won the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smith Cup in his first season with the Blues. But now, four years later, he could be dealt a second time in the same deal.

“I haven’t had it this season,” O’Reilly said. “If we have (contract) talks, and try to sort things out, that’s great. But there’s no point speculating about ‘what ifs’. I really don’t want to give it any attention because it’s out of my control. Kind of like that the last time I was traded , it slipped out of my hands.

“I want to be here, and I’ll do everything I can to get back out there with those guys and get into the playoffs. If something happens, something happens, but my focus is all on being healthy and trying to win. That’s why I don’t want to leave. I want to be a part.” than that, and I think things will take care of themselves that way.”

O’Reilly will let Armstrong know.

“Yeah, that’s a thing, a conversation, I’m sure we’ll have,” he said. “This is between him and me, but yeah, something is going to happen.”

(Top photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

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