We all thought the Buffalo Sabres were done on day one of free agency and began to settle into our Sunday evenings. Then Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic dropped the trade bomb that forward Ryan O’Reilly was dealt to the St. Louis Blues
The Sabres picked up a haul, grabbing five pieces from the Blues in exchange for the 27-year-old center.
Coming to the Sabres in this deal are forwards Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, and Tage Thompson. They also acquire a 2019 first-round pick (top 10 protected) and a 2021 second-round pick.
How it Came Together
Since locker clean out day back in April, it feels like we’ve been working towards this day. We all know about the comments O’Reilly made about losing his love for the game.
This deal was a little bit of a roller coaster ride to get to this evening. A lot of chatter surrounded O’Reilly at the NHL Draft, but nothing came together. Then things picked up for a little over the next few days after the draft.
Recently, it seemed like trade talks had cooled a little around O’Reilly. Nobody seemed willing to meet the Sabres asking price and the July 1 $7.5 million bonus was looming.
At the 11th hour, we finally got a trade.
“That was certainly a big part of it,” said Botterill when he was asked about the impact the bonus had on the deal. He went on to say, “if it went past midnight tonight the asking price would have been a lot different.”
The Sabres may have run this race until the end to see what was the best offer they could get, before paying out the bonus. The two sides had been in discussions for some time now on O’Reilly.
“Doug Armstrong and I over the last couple weeks, even a couple months have had a lot of good conversations,” said Botterill.
Changing the Dynamic
At the end of the day, it seems like the Sabres general manager made good on his word from the end of the season. He talked about how there needed to be some changes to the roster and it could include core players.
He reiterated that tonight saying, “We felt that in our meetings at the end of the season as a management group we had to change the dynamic.” Botterill went on to say, “When you finish 31st you have to look to make changes.”
Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and now O’Reilly have been moved off the roster under Botterill’s direction. Each of them has had their whispers of not being the best inside the room, whether that’s true or not is a different question.
However, these moves at least put some validity to those claims.
In terms of what the Sabres got back in this deal, Botterill used his favorite word to describe the pieces he received, “versatility.”
“Sobotka and Berglund are players who have had that ability to play center and wing, we love their versatility from that aspect,” said Botterill this evening.
He also liked the experience he was adding to the roster with the 30-year-old forwards. “We’re bringing in players that have NHL playoff experience, something we need more of in our locker room,” said Botterill.
Thompson is primarily a winger at the NHL level but has also played center during his collegiate years. Blues general manger Doug Armstrong stated the Sabres insisted on Thompson being a part of the deal.
Botterill spoke tonight about how he liked the 20-year-old forward’s size, reach and excellent shot. He believes he’ll fit well with the young centers currently on the roster.
The two draft picks in this deal cannot be overlooked either. The 2019 first-round pick from the Blues gives the Sabres three in next year’s draft if the Sharks don’t miss the playoffs. The 2021 second-round pick is down the road but is a future asset.
Going back to the first-round picks, the flexibility it gives Botterill to address other needs on the roster with one or perhaps two of those picks are good to have. The Sabres are still in need of a winger in the top-six and they could flip one of these pieces to acquire that player.
This move also leaves the Sabres with a little over $13 million in cap space according to Cap Friendly. Sobotka carries a $3.5 million cap hit for the next two years and Berglund has a $3.85 million cap hit for the next four seasons.
The Sabres roster will look different next season, but we’ll see over the next few days to a week if Botterill is done making moves to improve his roster.