Colorado Avalanche

Winners and losers of the 2015 NHL Draft

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Hindsight is 20/20, but what about when something is so close it’s directly in your blind spot?

The 2015 NHL Draft is over, and with the long-awaited wave of prospects behind us, it will be years before we can truly judge what just happened. It would be foolish to hand out grades on the same day the draft ended. Who would do that, right?

Well, uh … about that.

Here’s a stab at some of the winners and losers from this busy, busy weekend in the NHL. Feel free to add your own suggestions and counterarguments in the comments (preferably kindly).

Winners

Oilers: They will smile upon this weekend for Connor McDavid alone, but GM Peter Chiarelli also made some interesting trades to improve the team with the likes of Cam Talbot and Griffin Reinhart.

Sabres: In the same “No, duh” spirit as the Oilers grabbing McDavid, the Sabres probably would have come up winners if they merely grabbed Jack Eichel and went into cruise control with picks.

Instead, GM Tim Murray was as busy as his selection announcement for Eichel was brief. Robin Lehner is, at minimum, someone Murray believes in. Ryan O’Reilly is a legit find, setting up Buffalo to have a scary 1-2 punch down the middle with Eichel.

Flames: OK, this has more to do with what happened before the draft than what happened during it … but landing Dougie Hamilton for a package of picks could end up being one of those moves we remember for ages.

That said, getting Oliver Kylington about a round after many believed he would be drafted (60th overall) isn’t chopped liver, either.

Islanders: Over the years, GM Garth Snow has steadily earned a reputation as one of the NHL’s sneaky-shrewdest executives. The 2015 NHL Draft will only strengthen those arguments.

Flyers: Are we prepared for a brave new world in which the Philadelphia Flyers are sober-minded and clever like this? Forgive reheating a joke from last night, but:

Losers

Bruins: Yes, the Bruins’ salary cap is slimmer, and they definitely nailed the draft from a “quantity” standpoint.

Still, they moved mountains to get picks 13-15, but the grades for their picks generally range from “not very sexy” to “huge reach.” Time will ultimately be new GM Don Sweeney’s judge, but right now, he’s probably not the most popular fellow among B’s fans.

Penguins: Actually, consider this grade more of an “Incomplete” than an “F.” Sometimes no splashy moves are better than reckless ones … still, Pittsburgh fans might be a little antsy.

Canucks: That’s a disappointing haul for Eddie Lack, but GM Jim Benning’s biggest mistake might have been forgetting to get an intern to tell him when the camera was on him:

Talk about a caption contest waiting to happen.

***

Again, the Bruins could very well end up laughing at all of us after making bold moves in the middle of the first round. Chances are, there are gems buried in later rounds that will drastically change how we view 2015.

Still, winners and losers lists are fun, so enjoy yourselves in the comments.

Just be nice.

How much better will the Sabres be next season? Murray says: ‘quite a bit’

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The Buffalo Sabres are going to be better next season.

In part, because it’d be hard to be worse.

But mostly because the roster has been significantly improved by GM Tim Murray, who not only drafted Jack Eichel yesterday, but also added Ryan O’Reilly, Robin Lehner, Jamie McGinn, and David Legwand in trades.

We’ll assume Eichel goes pro and does not go back to school, though he still hasn’t announced a decision. The Sabres will also have Evander Kane, the goal-scoring winger they got from Winnipeg. And Sam Reinhart, the second overall pick in 2014, should be ready too.

On top of all that, they’ll have a Stanley Cup-winning head coach in Dan Bylsma.

Though Murray believes it may take some time for the group to gel, he was clearly happy with how his plan had come together.

“I can tell you that our players back home are excited,” Murray told reporters, per NHL.com. “I got a couple texts from different guys, and if that excitement that they showed today carries over into training camp, I believe we can improve by quite a bit. In saying that, we’ve got a long way to go to improve to get to be competitive or a playoff team.”

Report: O’Reilly asked Avs for eight-year, $64 million

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The Colorado Avalanche and Ryan O’Reilly have always had difficulty seeing eye-to-eye when it came to his monetary worth. It took O’Reilly signing an offer sheet, which Colorado matched, to end his hold out in the lockout shortened 2013 campaign. When it was time to renegotiate in the summer of 2014, the two sides only narrowly avoided arbitration by inking a two-year, $12 million deal.

With O’Reilly now just one season away from becoming an unrestricted free agent though, he reportedly demanded a massive eight-year, $64 million payday, according to the Denver Post. Instead, Colorado dealt him to Buffalo last night along with Jamie McGinn in exchange for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and the 31st overall selection.

If those numbers are accurate, then that’s identical to Phil Kessel’s contract, which the Maple Leafs forward is only one season into. Kessel has recorded at least 30 goals on five separate occasions and has reached the 80-point mark twice. O’Reilly, while admittedly more notable for his two-way game, has only reached the 20-goal or 60-point milestones on one occasion and that was back in 2013-14. He took a hit last season, finishing with 17 goals and 55 points in 82 contests.

On top of that, now that Kessel is on the open market, his contract might be a detriment to the point where Toronto is reportedly willing to take a contract back to sweeten the pot.

We’ll have to wait and see how O’Reilly’s negotiations with Buffalo goes. In the short-term, the Sabres wouldn’t have a problem inking him to that kind of a deal, but the term might hurt them later as their young up-and-coming stars develop and eventually start demanding big raises. To give one example, if Jack Eichel has the kind of career Buffalo’s hoping for, then his first deal following his entry-level contract could be huge, as was the case for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Steven Stamkos before him.

That all being said, it’s possible that what O’Reilly wanted out of Colorado isn’t the same as what he wants from Buffalo. It could be that his history of having to battle the team for every new contract influenced what it would take for the Avalanche to keep him long-term. Either way, Buffalo is going into this with eyes wide open.

“You know going in when you make a trade like this that negotiations are going to be starting a high number,” Sabres GM Tim Murray told the Buffalo News. “We’re fully prepared for that.”

Sabres cash in their suffering, take Eichel second overall

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SUNRISE — One of the worst seasons in NHL history paid off today for the Buffalo Sabres.

With the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, the Sabres selected forward Jack Eichel, the Boston University phenom that NHL Central Scouting ranked No. 2 among North American skaters. He was ranked behind only Connor McDavid, who went to the Oilers first overall.

Eichel enters the NHL with great expectations. He’s been called a franchise player, even garnering the “generational” label, along with McDavid.

The Sabres finished the 2014-15 season with a 23-51-8 record. Their 54 points were the fewest in the league, two fewer than Arizona managed. They had the worst offense, the worst power play, the worst penalty kill, and the second-worst goals-against average. They were accused of tanking. Often.

Now it’s time to start the ascension. With Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Zach Bogosian, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Robin Lehner, Sabres fans may not have to suffer much longer.

Related: Get to know a draft pick — Jack Eichel

Trade: Buffalo keeps dealing, acquires O’Reilly from Colorado

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SUNRISE — The big trades haven’t stopped at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, as the Colorado Avalanche have sent talented young center Ryan O’Reilly and forward Jamie McGinn to Buffalo.

In exchange, the Avalanche receive Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and the 31st overall selection. The move reunites Grigorenko with Avs head coach Patrick Roy, who was his coach in the Quebec junior league, and gives Colorado a much-needed blueline prospect (Zadorov) and an intriguing youngster in Compher, who has impressed at the University of Michigan.

The key to the deal, though, is O’Reilly, one of the best young two-way centers in the league. He arrives in Buffalo after some acrimonious contract negotiations with the Avs, which included a contract holdout and signing an offer sheet with Calgary during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign.

As a result of Colorado matching that offer sheet, O’Reilly’s heading into the last of a two-year, $12 million deal with a $6M average annual cap hit. There have been rumblings around him for the last few days, which intensified on Thursday when the Avs acquired the draft rights to center Carl Soderberg from Boston, then signed him to a five-year extension — believed by many as a move to replace O’Reilly down the middle.

Where O’Reilly fits in Buffalo remains to be seen.

He’s flipped between the middle and wing throughout his career, and could be headed back outside again with the likes of centers Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart in the mix.

O’Reilly had 17 goals and 55 points in 82 games last year, down slightly from a banner ’13-14 campaign in which he posted career-highs in goals (28) and points (64).

This is the second significant deal of the day for Sabres GM Tim Murray. Earlier, he acquired goalie Robin Lehner and forward David Legwand from Ottawa in exchange for the 21st pick at the draft.

Though the O’Reilly trade is in the books, Murray’s work isn’t done. He’ll need to get to work on a contract extension, as O’Reilly needs a new deal at season’s end.