The St. Louis Blues won the Ryan O’Reilly trade by getting the Buffalo Sabres center at a very reasonable price
After signing Tyler Bozak on July 1, many thought the St. Louis Blues were officially out of the Ryan O’Reilly sweepstakes. However, general manager Doug Armstrong didn’t give up hope. Late on July 1, the Blues agreed to trade for the Buffalo Sabres center.
Let’s take a look at the trade from both sides. This was a fairly even trade, for what it’s worth.
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The Sabres desperately needed a culture change. This typically means shipping out a veteran. O’Reilly was the perfect candidate due to his long-term contract and his comments on the Sabres’ breakdown day.
Getting a first-round pick in 2019 is huge for Buffalo. Yes, it’s lottery protected. But it’s likely the Sabres will have three first-round picks in 2019 (their own, the Sharks, and the Blues). That’s huge for a team that desperately needs a rebuild. The second-round pick is nice as well.
Tage Thompson is a high-level prospect. He has the potential to be a scoring second line wing but has yet to put everything together. Thompson has great size, but his lack of mobility isn’t ideal. That said, he should get regular minutes with the Sabres. If they’re patient with him, they could have an asset they can use to complement Jack Eichel and company.
Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka are basically cap dumps. They’re both NHL caliber forwards, which the Sabres need. Sobotka is at least a little bit intriguing with 64 points in his last two seasons. He might still have a bit of trade value. Berglund, though, is trending downwards and has four years left on his deal. Factor in his $3.85 million average annual value and that’s not ideal.
This clears up some long-term cap space for the Sabres, which gives general manager Jason Botterill (who has done a darn fine job thus far) some more flexibility.
St. Louis Blues
Hats off to Armstrong on this one. When everyone thought he was out of the O’Reilly sweepstakes, he pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Somehow, the Blues added someone making $7.5 million in 2018-19 and they still saved money.
It’s a bit concerning St. Louis has lost yet another first-round pick. That’s two straight years they’ve traded one (they traded their 2018 pick to the Flyers for Brayden Schenn). But O’Reilly, much like Schenn, is definitely a guy worth losing one for.
The first thing Blues fans will notice about their newest center is his cap hit. $7.5 million isn’t pretty, but O’Reilly is worth it. He’s an excellent two-way center who you can throw to the wolves defensively and still get production from. Excluding the 2013 lockout-shortened season, O’Reilly has six consecutive seasons with at least 50 points despite having an offensive zone start percentage of below 50 percent each season. He’s reached 60 points in three of those seasons.
Blues fans should be very happy with this trade. Thompson could be great or he could be a bust. That’s how prospects go. And the Blues managed to add a much-needed great center without losing Robert Thomas or Klim Kostin. That alone makes them the winners of this trade.
This is a fair return for O’Reilly. The Sabres were trading a guy everyone knew they wanted to trade, which killed his market. Even if Thompson pans out, the Blues didn’t give up either of their top two prospects. St. Louis also got the best player of the trade, which makes them the clear winners. But still, a solid return for the Sabres. Certainly not optimal, but it will do.