With the Stanley Cup champions crowned and the offseason getting underway, the trade season is about to get started. In Buffalo, many expect general manager Jason Botterill to make some changes after a dysfunctional season. The most popular name on the trade rumor circuit is Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly, who helped out the rumors after his season ended when he remarked he hated losing and lost his passion for the game around a locker room full of players who don’t care.
However, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington believes that trading O’Reilly would be a mistake and advises Botterill to hold onto the center. One key reason is the team has now added two key players in Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Dahlin, both who should take the talent level up a notch in Buffalo. Trading a quality center in his prime doesn’t make a lot of sense if the goal is to be more competitive. How would the team replace O’Reilly’s minutes if the team traded him away? And that doesn’t even mention his value for his ability to win faceoffs.
Harrington said his comments made after the season makes sense. He wants to win. He is desperate for a winning situation. O’Reilly has already said at the World Championships last month that he was stoked about the Sabres winning the draft lottery and wants to stay in Buffalo. Another argument is that while he has a large contract, O’Reilly’s $52MM contract was heavily frontloaded with Buffalo already having paid $20MM in the first two years. Starting in 2019-20, he will cost just $6MM per year ($5MM signing bonus, $1MM salary), making it a very affordable contract in the coming years.
- Harrington does say that the team probably should look to move on from defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. With Dahlin coming in, the team doesn’t need him as bad and the scribe believes that the constant losing has gotten to Ristolainen more than anyone and had trouble seeing eye-to-eye with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, suggesting that the defenseman might need a change of scenery. Ristolainen’s numbers declined slightly in his fifth year with the team as he had six goals and 41 points in 73 games. He notes a trade rumor of Ristolainen for Edmonton’s Oscar Klefbom as a smart way to give two players change of sceneries without disrupting the team’s overall defense.
- In the same article, Harrington questions the intelligence of buying out defenseman Zach Bogosian this offseason. With two more years on his seven-year, $36MM deal he signed back in 2013 with the Winnipeg Jets at $5.14MM AAV, the team might be better off sticking with his contract. A buyout would reduce their cap hit to $1.14MM over the next two years, but the Sabres would then have to shell out $2MM for the next two years following that when he wouldn’t be on the books anymore. Considering the team isn’t dealing with major cap implications at the moment, a buyout wouldn’t make much sense.
- Harrington adds that the Sabres need to be taking a serious look at Washington Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer. With a major need in goal and the New York Islanders already showing interest, it would make a lot of sense for the Sabres to trade for the backup goaltender. After taking the starting job from Brayden Holtby for a time near the end of the season, many believe Grubauer is ready for a starters’ role next year.