The St. Louis Blues sent an absolutely jaw-dropping trade package to the Buffalo Sabres to land Ryan O'Reilly on the first night of free agency.
One of the many remarkable parts is that the Blues paid such a massive fee to land the two-way center before midnight, thus forcing the Blues – not the Sabres – to have to pay O’Reilly’s $7.5 million signing bonus, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
Blues receive: Ryan O’Reilly
It really makes you wonder what the asking price would have been like if the deadline passed and the Sabres had to pay the $7.5M signing bonus. This bold move also makes you wonder if Blues GM Doug Armstrong believes that his job is on the line depending upon how the 2018-19 season goes.
After moving Paul Stastny at the 2018 trade deadline and seeing the Blues miss the postseason, Armstrong’s come out swinging between this move and free agent signings. As a reminder, St. Louis also signed center Tyler Bozak and brought back winger David Perron.
(So, in a sense, they traded Thompson, Berglund, Sobotka, and picks for O’Reilly, Bozak, and Perron today. Wow.)
Let’s take a look at each player involved in this whopper.
ROR: During the past five seasons, Ryan O’Reilly scored 20+ goals four times, and generated 55+ points in five consecutive campaigns. He’s generated at least 60 points in three of those five years.
While he’s a useful scorer, O’Reilly should fit in well with the Blues because of his versatility.
He’s a strong force in the faceoff circle, and grades well from a defensive standpoint. Some of his two-way skills were likely muted on a Sabres team that frequently found itself underwater, so playing in St. Louis should really highlight his strengths.
For all we know, O’Reilly might elevate himself into the Selke discussion. The Blues paid a huge price here, but he’s currently the best player in the trade. He might even end up being worth it.
Speaking of price, ROR carries a $7.5M cap hit through 2022-23. While the Blues absorbed that big signing bonus today, the good news is that he’ll be cheaper going forward (see his Cap Friendly contract details for more).
Tage Thompson: Thompson, 20, was the 26th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft.
The Arizona native split his 2017-18 season almost evenly between the AHL and the Blues. He scored eight goals and 18 points in 30 AHL games, while he was limited to nine points in 41 NHL games with St. Louis.
At 6-foot-5, Thompson brings size to the forward position. Will he “fill out” in other areas of his game, though?
Patrik Berglund: Berglund, 30, carries a $3.85M cap hit through 2021-22.
The Swedish forward was limited to 57 games last season, generating 17 goals and 26 points. He’s reached the 20-goal plateau three times in his career. Berglund tends to be a positive possession player.
Vladimir Sobotka: This past season was Sobotka’s first true season* in the NHL since 2013-14, as he spent some time in the KHL. Sobotka, also 30, scored 11 goals and 31 points in 81 games during the 2017-18 season.
Sobotka’s possession stats were strong earlier in his career, but he struggled a bit in that regard this past campaign. Maybe he needs more “sheltered” minutes, or perhaps it’s a matter of linemates?
Sobotka’s $3.5M cap hit expires after 2019-20.
* – He played in a single game in 2016-17 for murky contract/CBA reasons.
So, the Sabres receive a prospect, two decent-to-good depth forwards, and two draft picks. GM Jason Botterill is stacking up quite a few futures for the next draft: