Time to make a move

Jason Botterill has talked about change. Will we see it soon?

June 28, 2018 - 1:47 pm

Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports


I’d like to begin here referencing something I wrote back in March.

“My bet is if the likes of Mittelstadt, Nylander, Bailey etc can’t be counted on then an O’Reilly trade is the move we see this summer. It may not make for a dramatic improvement right away but it would change the group immensely and clear the decks for when at least a couple of the kids are ready to show up.”

Maybe Mittelstadt is good to go, I’m growing less optimistic about Nylander by the day and Bailey maybe gets one more chance.

Add it all up and I’m still on the same spot I’ve been for months. The group they have isn’t working, Jason Botterill said so himself after yet another last place finish. So how do you change it?

Well Ryan O’Reilly, a good player with what seems to be a good reputation around the league, is the most logical landing spot. I’ve been fond of saying that O’Reilly checks the most boxes for a trade. Here’s what I mean by that.

He’s a good player with an apparently solid reputation within the NHL. That should help the Sabres get good return on a trade.

Moving him gets you out from under a big contract that will only look worse if/when Mittelstadt is ready to be your No. 2 center.

The Sabres have a serious need for speed. The game has never been faster and isn’t showing signs of slowing down any time soon. O’Reilly is slow.

Words like toxic and poisonous have been used to describe the locker room. I’m not here to tell you that should be laid entirely, or perhaps even at all, at O’Reilly’s locker stall. But moving him would, undeniably, change the chemistry of the locker room. His locker clean out day comment about losing his love for the game could be a problem for management and teammates. I’d bet he hears it from fans if he’s not traded.

There isn’t another player on the Sabres roster that checks as many boxes as O’Reilly. It was true in March and it’s true now. There have been numerous reports linking teams to O’Reilly. Return on the trade has ranged from picks and prospects to players with decent sized existing contracts themselves.

Perhaps the most interesting part of all this O’Reilly trade business is what the return will say about Botterill’s plans. Picks and futures may indicate that the build on his watch is just getting started. Established players could signal that Botterill is trying, like Tim Murray, to fast track the operation.

Or maybe he and his staff think they’ll be better off immediately by having removed O’Reilly from the mix and that the additions of Mittelstadt and Rasmus Dahlin will make up for it. Not to mention whatever else they might pull off in free agency or the trade market (Wednesday’s trade for Conor Sheary, for example).

It all adds up to me that by the time we get back together on Monday July 2, Ryan O’Reilly is a goner and we’re trying to make sense of what Botterill got for him.

The team needs a change, and given how O’Reilly sounded at the end of last season, maybe so does he.

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