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.