The Buffalo Sabres are looking to do something to change up the culture in the locker room, and speculation has swirled around Ryan O’Reilly after his season-ending comments. O’Reilly was frustrated with the team and the idea that some players had become complacent despite continuing to lose on the ice. That trade speculation has never been confirmed by Sabres GM Jason Botterill, and Darren Dreger of TSN made it clear on Vancouver radio that the team won’t just be giving away O’Reilly.
The price tag is going to be very, very high…
…I think that if the right deal or the right offer was made, absolutely Buffalo would consider trading him. And it’s starting to feel like it’s more likely now than not likely. But again, there are so many teams that are looking for a versatile forward. In his case, he can obviously play center or play the wing, he’s a good character guy, he’s got a high level of compete. So it makes you wonder why Buffalo would want to part with him, but there’s still a lot of areas of concern for the Buffalo Sabres. But for Botterill to move out Ryan O’Reilly, he’s going to need several pieces. And if it’s around draft time, you know what it’s going to be: It’s going to be likely a young NHL player or a prospect, a high draft pick, and maybe something else on top of that.
O’Reilly is still an extremely effective player, but the Sabres are heading into a future that is built around Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Dahlin, and may believe that his trade value could be of more use to them. If the “high draft pick” for instance could make an impact in 2019-20, it would be just another piece that the Sabres could use to create a window of legitimate contention. While O’Reilly helps them on the ice right now, his $7.5MM cap hit does limit what they can do financially.
That contract though could force the Sabres to wait until after the draft to make any deal, even further reducing the chance that something gets done this summer. O’Reilly is owed a $7.5MM signing bonus on July 1st, while his salary is just $1MM. Any acquiring team could want the Sabres to pay that before making the trade official, meaning draft picks this season wouldn’t be involved. We’ll have to wait to see if that factors into Buffalo’s decision, and whether they can squeeze even more value out of him after the free agent market opens.