Could trading the first pillar to the Sabres' rebuild be the answer to what ails the team?
Sam Reinhart was the player I wanted Tim Murray to select in the 2014 NHL draft. I was well aware of the fact that Sam Bennett and Leon Draisaitl had higher ceilings, but it was Reinhart's high floor that sold me on him as a prospect. Murray's first pick of the rebuild was critical and I felt the ideal course of action was to take the safe bet in 2014 while banking on landing our superstar in the following year's draft.
In hindsight, I believe my rationale was correct, but the subsequent moves made by Tim Murray in acquiring Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo has led us to perhaps a flawed core group of players. Individually Reinhart, O'Reilly and to a lesser degree Okposo are fine players, it's the sum of the parts that is the sticking point for me. In a league that is trending in the direction of speed and skill, having three players who are average skaters play a prominent role for your team puts you behind the eight ball.
So how do you fix the problem?
I'm sure out of the three players I have mentioned most fans would choose Kyle Okposo as the Sabre they'd most like to see off the roster. A perfect storm of average annual value, term, age, a no-movement clause and depreciating skills make him next to impossible to trade.
Ryan O'Reilly had a bumpy start to the season but has found his game of late. When he is at his best he is the Sabres' most valuable all-around player and at 26 years old is still in the prime of his career. In my opinion, he is a better version of Reinhart.
This leads us to Sam.
In a sense by default, he is the player I would choose to trade in order to shake up the roster and inject speed into the Sabres top six. Reinhart hasn't lived up to his lofty draft status, but should still hold decent value around the league. At 22-years-old and trending in the direction of a bridge contract next offseason, Reinhart would be a very nice cost controlled option for a team looking for a player to compliment a star.
Ultimately it's a very tough decision, but I'm a believer in the old adage that it's far better to trade a player too soon rather than too late.