When Ryan O’Reilly was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche back in 2015, the Sabres gave up a package that was very quantity based in assets. Colorado sent O’Reilly to Buffalo along with Jamie McGinn for J.T. Compher, Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, and 31st pick in the NHL Draft. Many huge assets have been discussed as potential parts in a trade with Montreal including Max Pacioretty, and the number three overall selection. But what else could the Canadiens potentially offer up in a trade if Buffalo that could interest the Sabres?
Marc Bergevin might be feeling the heat to come up big this offseason, while Jason Botterill probably has a lot more time under his belt to right the ship in Buffalo. If Montreal really wants to add Ryan O’Reilly this offseason, they have several assets that they could utilize to acquire him. Either way, the Sabres should not give him away for cheap, and they should try to get assets that will help the Sabres both next year, and long-term.
Phillip Danault C, 25
Danault is a very nice secondary player who slots in very nicely to any team’s third line. He’s still relatively young at just 25 years old, and he brings plenty of speed to the lineup. He had 25 points in 52 games last year, and two years ago had 40 points in his first full NHL season. Want a good faceoff man to replace O’Reilly? He’s 52.4% on draws over the past 155 games with Montreal. Danault has two major strengths to his game: speed and possession. Danault can take tougher defensive zone starts and is also a +3.4 CF% rel. Danault’s two-way game has transitioned nicely to the NHL level as a former QMJHL defensive forward of the year.
Charlie Lindgren G, 24
With Carey Price locked up long term and on a huge contract, might the Habs are in good hands with Charlie Lindgren as his potential long-term backup. After a rock-solid career at St. Cloud State (51-29-3 as the starter), Lindgren has shown flashes of his talent at the NHL level, although the struggles of the Canadiens got the better of him last season. Why would Lindgren be of interest to the Sabres? If you are not bringing back Robin Lehner, you will be left with Linus Ullmark as the default option. Lindgren is a very talented, tall, quick, and technically sound netminder who could give Buffalo a solid 1a-1b tandem for next season, and will help create a healthy competition at the goaltending position
Ryan Poehling, C, 19
Poehling was drafted 25th overall by the Canadiens in the 2017 NHL Draft. He’s another St. Cloud State player just like Lindgren, and current Sabres defense prospect Will Borgen. He’s a powerful skater with a very projectable 6’3 frame, who also projects as solid playmaker at the NHL level. Like many young kids trying to make the NHL, he needs to get stronger and fill out his frame. He plays a tough, gritty, north-south game, and is also strong on the forecheck. With the proper development, he could develop into a top-six center, or at worst another third line pivot.
Joni Ikonen, C/RW, 19
Ikonen was the second solid center prospect that the Habs drafted in 2017 with the 58th overall pick. Like Rasmus Dahlin and Victor Olafsson, he is a Frolunda alumnus, although he is currently playing with KalPa of the SM-Liiga.
Ikonen is a small, highly skilled, crafty offensive player, with an ability to stickhandle in tight spots. He’s definitely more of a shoot first type player and might project better on the wing, although he is probably more than capable of playing center at the NHL level. Unfortunately for Ikonen, he suffered a knee injury last month requiring surgery and six months of rehabilitation. He will likely not be able to play until after the new year at the earliest, although we won’t see him in the NHL for a couple years anyway.
Noah Juulsen, RHD, 21
Juulsen is an excellent all-around defenseman with great mobility and physicality. Although he didn’t do much on the offensive end last year, Juulsen was frequently paired with Karl Alzner last season to form a shutdown pairing. He is the type of player that makes it tough to measure the impact that he has on your team with numbers alone. One area in Juulsen’s game I would like to see him work on is generating offense and points as this hasn’t come yet at the pro level. He has the upside to be a 30-40 point defenseman and power play quarterback at the NHL level, but it’s going to take time for him to fully develop that aspect of his game. He really doesn’t have a lot of holes in his game, and therefore Montreal may be reluctant to move him.
Juulsen differs from Noah Hanifin, another player mentioned as a possible returning part for O’Reilly as he can already take tougher assignments, whereas Hanifin is more sheltered. I have included player usage charts for both Montreal and Carolina.
Artturi Lehkonen, LW, 21
Another Frolunda alumni and native of Finland, Lehkonen had a bit of a sophomore slump last season. After seeing 18 goals in his rookie year for Montreal playing primarily third line minutes, his production dipped a little (12 goals in 66 games) despite an increase in ice time. He possesses very good speed, elusiveness, and good hockey sense.
Draft Picks and Conclusion
The Canadiens own the 35th, 38th, 55th, 62nd, and 66th overall selections in 2018, and they have their 2019 first round selection intact. If the Canadiens were to trade Max Pacioretty this summer, they could very well end up with even more draft assets for the next two years. I would also not be surprised if Pacioretty was apart of the return for O’Reilly. I’m not a fan of adding Pacioretty to the roster at this stage of his career and in a contract year, but I would be all for acquiring Pacioretty to immediately flip him in another trade.
The Canadiens are a very good trade partner for the Sabres, maybe even better than the Hurricanes. At the end of the day, the Sabres do not have to trade Ryan O’Reilly, and they benefit greatly from keeping him at least for one more year. However, if they move him, especially to a division rival who really needs him, the return will need to be quite heavy on Jason Botterill’s end. They really can’t afford anything less, and if they can’t get the huge return, they may as well keep him.