With the Buffalo Sabres at the bottom of the standings, you can expect that general manager Jason Botterill plans to shake things up. However, where do you start? The obvious answer is start looking at players who don’t want to be there and it looks like center Ryan O’Reilly has made it clear he wants out of Buffalo, according to the Buffalo News’ Jon Vogl.
The talented 27-year-old shocked a lot of people during his exit interview when he revealed that he was fine with losing and has started to lose his love for the game. Vogl writes that it isn’t just a coincidence that O’Reilly admitted these things on his way out the door for another offseason. He believes O’Reilly and his agent have orchestrated this to force his way out of Buffalo as he and his agent have had a major role in dictating every stage of his pro career, from his entry-level deal to his restricted free agent years to his trade from Colorado.
While his numbers are good as the center has scored 65 goals and 111 assists in three years in Buffalo, a trade would still likely to be difficult as he has five more years on his contract at $7.5MM. Even with the salary cap likely to go up, that’s a big contract that many playoff teams couldn’t afford unless the team intends to retain salary, which they’d likely prefer not to do.
“The sense that I’ve been given from the management in Buffalo, is yeah of course he’s going to listen on Ryan O’Reilly,” TSN’s Darren Dreger said on WGR Friday. “But it would take an absolute sweetheart deal for the Buffalo Sabres to consider. In saying that, he’s a hell of a player. On pretty much every team in the league he’s at least a #2 center isn’t he? There’s going to be a market for Ryan O’Reilly and Jason Botterill is going to have some tough decisions specific to O’Reilly. Teams who need centers will do whatever they need to do to get in that conversation…Botterill will be big game hunting.”
Throw in the fact that Botterill will be looking for a big payday after finding himself on the losing end of the deal when he traded away forward Evander Kane to the San Jose Sharks for much less than what he had hoped. So a trade partner might even be more difficult to find.
- Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News writes that besides O’Reilly, the team will likely also seriously look to trade defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, even suggesting he should find a real estate agent. Ristolainen is another player who puts up solid numbers, but seems to lack the leadership skills that Buffalo needs to take that next step. The 23-year-old blueliner had six goals and 35 assists this year.
- Harrington also admits the team will attempt to trade goaltender Robin Lehner, but after a difficult season in which he had just 14 wins and a 3.01 GAA, the team might have trouble moving him. The good news is Lehner does not require surgery on his hip injury, which should make him a little easier to move. Harrington believes that the team may choose to let him walk as a restricted free agent if the team fails to find a trade partner, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent.