I said in a recent article that O’Reilly, Eichel, and Mittelstadt could be the best trio of centers in over a decade. That could still be true if Thomas is the replacement for O’Reilly. From a Blues fan perspective, I would be infuriated if they traded Thomas for O’Reilly. From a Sabres fan perspective, if Robert Thomas really was the return, I would take that and run in a one for one deal, let alone adding additional picks and prospects. If I am St. Louis, with Thomas being a natural centerman, I would want to keep Ryan O’Reilly around with Thomas as a potent one-two punch down the middle.
In a game that has been favoring more speed as of late, and on a team that wants to get faster as a whole, Jordan Kyrou fits the mold of Jason Botterill’s vision. In an article written by Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Kyrou’s OHL head coach Drew Bannister had this to say on Kyrou: “he has explosive speed, and he’s not shy to be physical at the same time.”
Bannister will be joining the St. Louis Blues organization next year as the head coach of their AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. It’s quite possible though that Kyrou never sees the AHL as he could make the jump to the NHL next season. Kyrou had 109 points in 56 games with the Sarnia Sting last season, and he’s just one year removed from being taken in the second round (36th overall) by the Blues in 2017. He’s played both winger and center at the lower levels, but he projects much more favorably as a right wing in the NHL.
In Buffalo, Kyrou would likely be competing with Kyle Okposo over the next couple years for top six right wing duties. With Cliff Pu, Victor Olafsson, and Justin Bailey all in the organizational pipeline as potential right wingers of the future, it is not the organizational blackhole that left wing is. If Nylander and C.J Smith make the NHL next season, the top left wingers in the system could be Linus Weissbach, a seventh-round pick from 2017, and Brett Murray, a fourth-round pick from 2016. Matej Pekar, this year’s fourth-round pick could potentially slot into a left wing slot on the organizational depth chart as well as 2017 second round pick Marcus Davidsson. Either way, Kyrou would be a welcome addition to the Sabres organization.
Only Alex Pietrangelo and Joel Edmundson see tougher minutes and quality of competition than Parayko, and those three are a huge reason why the Blues were sixth in the league in goals against. Not to mention Parayko also contributed 35 points last season, second among defenseman for the Blues.
I could be wrong, but I simply do not think St. Louis would move Parayko for O’Reilly for a variety of reasons. First, Parakyo is affordable, cheap, and on a nice cost controlled to deal with St. Louis. He’s signed for four years at a 5.5 million cap hit which is a bargain for a big, top four, right-handed shooting defenseman. The bigger issue is if St. Louis moves Parayko, they would potentially open up a big hole on the right side. While it would be a tremendous opportunity for a player like Jordan Schmaltz who is trying to stick around on an NHL roster, Schmaltz would probably not be able to play the role Parayko does for the Blues.
If Ryan O’Reilly was just three years younger and cheaper, I think a one for one deal would be a slam dunk. But while Buffalo can fill the hole at their center position with Casey Mittelstadt, St. Louis does not have the next man up on the right side of their defense unless they use Vince Dunn or Jake Walman on their off hand. When you look at the Calgary Flames who just traded Dougie Hamilton who is also 25 like Parayko, the Flames are organizationally well stocked with defensemen who can play their right side such as T.J Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and Michael Stone. They also have Rasmus Andersson and Adam Fox in their system.
I would be surprised if Parayko was included in a trade for Ryan O’Reilly, but he ever was included, I would also take it and run.
With the signings of Lawrence Pilut and the draft additions of Rasmus Dahlin and Mattias Samuelsson, the Sabres are now aplomb with left-handed defenseman all throughout the organization. The depth on the left side could be a reason Brandon Hickey chooses not to sign in Buffalo this summer if he’s seeking a more clear and quick path to the NHL. While Dahlin spent a lot of time on the right side in Frolunda, the Sabres could always benefit from adding another nice right-handed shot with the ability to generate some offense.
The Sabres have Rasmus Ristolainen, the often injured Zach Bogosian, and Casey Nelson on their right side. Will Borgen and Casey Fitzgerald are the team’s top right-handed shooting defense prospects in the system.
At the lower levels, Schmaltz has been a premier puck-moving blueliner. Schmaltz has produced 84 points in 144 AHL games with the San Antonio Rampage and Chicago Wolves. We know Schmaltz can produce at the lower levels, but the question is can he transition his game to the NHL, or will he essentially be the next Adam Clendening? Last season, Schmaltz had his roster spot stolen by Vince Dunn, and Colton Paryko (86th overall in 2012), has been a mainstay since 2015, despite being taken in the same draft year.
In Buffalo, Schmaltz would be competing with Zach Bogosian and Casey Nelson as the top right-handed options next season. It would really depend on where Buffalo uses Dahlin next year for a guy like Schmaltz to have an impact. If Dahlin is used on the right side, Ristolainen and Bogosian would remain behind him as the top three options. If Dahlin is used on the left side, Schmaltz would be competing for that bottom pair right-handed spot with Casey Nelson. With McCabe, Guhle, Scandella, and Beaulieu all on the left side, the Sabres would be probably be best served using Dahlin on the right side. Schmaltz would likely need to beat out Zach Bogosian and Casey Nelson for ice time or wait for an injury in order to get an opportunity next year in Buffalo.
It doesn’t happen very often that a 25-year old player breaks out after six years of lower level development and becomes an all-star defenseman, but occasionally we do see a guy like Thomas Hickey who took several years of development to solidify a spot in the NHL. Although Hickey never lived up to his top five draft status, he would go on to have a very respectable NHL career. I could still see Schmaltz becoming a better player than Hickey and a good offensive blueliner in the league. I don’t think Schmaltz would be a primary piece in a deal for a guy like Ryan O’Reilly, but rather a nice secondary asset if one was included. Schmaltz would add even more talent to the blueline, and more importantly, he would increase the level of competition on the backend.
Ville Husso, Evan Fitzpatrick, and Jordan Binnington
One of the more underrated aspects of the St. Louis Blues prospect pipeline would be their goaltenders. At the top of their prospect depth chart is Ville Husso, and Jordan Binnington. The elder of the two, Binnington was selected in the third round of the 2011 NHL Draft, and just like Linus Ullmark did for the Amerks last season, Binnington had a breakout year at age 24 for the AHL’s Providence Bruins. Binnington was 17-9-0 with a 2.05 goals against, and a .926 save percentage.
Ville Husso, 23, was a fourth-round pick from 2014 and has been nothing short of impressive at the AHL levels. Husso is 28-20-0 over the past two years with the Chicago Wolves and San Antonio Rampage, with a career AHL save percentage of .921. While Husso is still their top goaltending prospect, Jordan Binnington could find his way to the NHL next season as a backup.
Evan Fitzpatrick was selected 59th overall in 2016 and was one of the top goaltenders from that draft class. It will be a few years for Fitzpatrick to be an NHL goaltender as he needs to work on his consistency, but the hybrid style goaltender who draws comparisons to Roberto Luongo is progressing through their system. He was a big reason why the Acadie-Bathurst Titan won the Memorial Cup this past season and should be ready to step into the AHL next season.
Kostin is another highly regarded option for the Sabres to look at in a trade with the Blues. At 6’3 and 212 lbs, Kostin is already built like an NHL winger. Like many young players, he simply just needs more seasoning. Last season in San Antonio, Kostin was underwhelming and produced 22 points in 56 games. He was moved all over the lineup from first to fourth lines.
Kostin has a very nice box of tools to work with as he possesses a nice hard shot, is a great skater, doesn’t shy away from physical contact, is a possession monster, and has great hands. But he needs at least a year or two in the AHL before he is ready to play and make an impact with the big club. He drew comparisons to Evgeni Malkin coming out of the 2017 NHL Draft, but he could very easily be a bottom six player at the next level if he doesn’t improve his game to game consistency and effort.
He has the talent of a top-five overall pick in most drafts but also carries a major risk because of the Russian factor, and inconsistencies.
If Kostin were traded to the Buffalo Sabres, he primarily plays right wing, can also play left wing and center. His best chance for the NHL in Buffalo might be as a left winger and could be a nice boost to the Rochester Americans next year.
Another Russian who could intrigue the Sabres is former first rounder Ivan Barbashev. But if you’re looking to label Barbashev as the prototypical Russian stereotype, well he’s not. He does have a great offensive skill set and he is still learning how to put it all together at the NHL level. He competes hard and also plays a sound two-way game.
He can play either center or left wing in the NHL, and on the Sabres, he would probably get the biggest opportunity of the career with the organizational need on the left wing. So far he only has 25 points in 83 career games, but he’s only seen around 11-12 minutes a night in St. Louis. It will take time for Barbashev to reach his NHL ceiling, but the skill and potential are certainly there.
Thompson will be 21-years old in October and is a towering presence for the Blues at 6’5. He is just starting to learn how to utilize his frame at the NHL level. Skating is usually a concern for big men but that’s not the case here. He is a good skater, not a blazer like Jordan Kyrou, but there is also room to improve. He possesses a high hockey IQ and is versatile having played center, wing and at the lower levels.
Thompson was underwhelming as a rookie with the Blues with last year with just nine points in 41 games and averaging eleven minutes of ice time a night. He still remains one of their most highly touted prospects with a high ceiling. Blues coach Mike Yeo has been trying to have him learn the defensive side of the game first and being such a young player, now would be the time to do it.
How would Thompson help the Sabres?
What the Sabres also have a need for now that Evander Kane has been gone is another top six power winger and size. It remains to be seen if a player like Justin Bailey can grow into that role. Thompson would add one more person to the mix. Long term, I can envision Thompson as the successor to Kyle Okposo as a top six right wing role, and another front net presence on the power play. I can also see Thompson also seeing time plenty of time at center in his career.
If the Blues don’t surrender Thomas or Kyrou in a trade, then I would suspect Thompson would be the next best prospect option aside from Klim Kostin.
The Blues may want the Sabres to take back some salary in a potential O’Reilly deal, and Sobotka is making 3.5 million over the remaining two years of his deal. He is not a bad contract like Matt Hunwick, and adds some value to the team that acquires him.
Sobotka is capable of producing 30+ points a season in a checking line role. He is versatile enough to play both center and left wing, and is a tenacious checker and penalty killer. He’s also an outstanding faceoff man, with 56% over his career on draws. The only thing he lacks is the speed.
Taken 56th overall in 2016, Dunn basically leapfrogged Jordan Schmaltz last year on the Blues prospect depth chart and solidified his role on the NHL roster. He produced 24 points in 75 games during his rookie year last season. His skating and offensive instincts would make him an ideal fit for Phil Housley’s system.
However, I would be surprised if the Blues would trade Dunn for the same reason that I would be surprised if they traded Parayko. Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson are both coming off injuries and both are over 30 and in the final year of their contracts. Dunn is the future of their defense, and unless Buffalo sends a young, under 25 defenseman the other way, I think Dunn would likely stay put.
Fabbri is a highly skilled and energetic left winger who is coming off a severe knee injury. Fabbri’s problems began midway through the 2016-17 season in a February regular season game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He tore his left ACL and was lost for the remainder of the season. After having knee surgery, Fabbri re-injured his knee during training camp prior to the 2017-18 season. He has not played since February of 2017.
When healthy, he was one of the Blues best possession players, and prior to the injury, he was known for his outstanding speed who can play both center and wing.
Given that Fabbri hasn’t played since February of 2017, and is coming off a major knee injury with two knee surgeries, he would be classified as a major question mark heading into next season. Prior to his injury, I would say Fabbri by himself would have been a nice return for Ryan O’Reilly in a package as the young player component of a deal. As of today, If you were to do a trade centered around a 2019 first round pick and Robby Fabbri with no other significant pieces included, I would not be comfortable with such a return right now, even if the first round pick was unprotected.
If a high-quality prospect was added to a deal, I would feel more much comfortable with such a return. The Sabres likely can’t afford to make Fabbri a centerpiece prospect of an O’Reilly trade only to have him get hurt again, or not be the player he was prior to the injury. But with Fabbri being such a question mark going forward, it would probably be best for the Blues to keep him as an integral part of their core going forward.