After months of rumors and speculation, the Buffalo Sabres traded center Ryan O' Reilly to the St. Louis Blues. The blockbuster deal included 3 current NHL players and 2 future draft picks.
The players coming to Buffalo are Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, and Tage Thompson.
WBFO's Behind the Bench reporter Bill Hoppe says even though it was expected, it was still a bit of a stunner.
“Ryan O’ Reilly has been the heart and soul of the Sabres for a few years now,” said Hoppe. “He’s a popular player. He does a little bit of everything well. He’s one of the league’s most versatile centers. When it goes down, you’re almost shocked because I don’t see in the short term how the Sabres really get better in this trade.”
Hoppe said the deal could pay off in the future.
"I do think they got a good return and that was the only way you could trade him. You couldn’t trade him for the sake of it. You had to get what you wanted and I think the Blues met Jason Botterill's price," he said.
While this trade doesn’t make the Sabres better today, Hoppe believes they should still be more competitive than they were last year.
“They have Rasmus Dahlin coming in. They have a year of experience under Phil Housley. They know his expectations,” he said, “but Jason Botterill had to change the dynamic of this team. It wasn’t working. The group they’ve had for the last few years is stale. They don’t work well together and when you finish 31st in the league you have to make some moves”
Some of those moves came in the form of free agency, which started Sunday for the NHL. The Sabres addressed their need at goalie by signing veteran Carter Hutton, who coincidentally enough, also played for the Blues last year.
“He cracked the NHL about 5 years ago. He’s quietly morphed into the leagues backup the last year,” Hoppe said. “He was one of the league’s best goalies last year with the St. Louis Blues. It was just perfect timing”
Hoppe says fans shouldn’t expect any more big trades over the summer, but thinks Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill is far from done making roster changes as the team continues to build around their young core.
“We have discussed over the last couple of months making that adjustment to our team,” said Botterill. “You look at the age of a lot of our young players, they are more of the 18 to 22, 23 range. It just didn’t mix in with Ryan from that standpoint.”
One of the players acquired in the trade was 20-year old forward Tage Thompson. He could potentially improve their wing depth in the near future.
“You hear a lot of positives about him,” said Hoppe. “He played two years at UConn. He scored a lot of goals. He cracked the NHL last year at 20 years old, so there’s a lot of positives and I could see why the Sabres wanted him so much.”
While Buffalo continues to overhaul their roster, one of their biggest rivals made the biggest free agency signing in years. The Toronto Maple Leafs reached an agreement with star center John Tavares on a 7-year deal.
The trade leaves Buffalo with three projected first round picks next year.