Mike Reilly

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Sabres trade Scandella to Canadiens, acquire Frolik from Flames

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The Buffalo Sabres have had a logjam on their blue line all season and it has long been assumed they would deal from that depth to try and address their forward situation.

They finally did that on Thursday night in two separate deals.

First, they sent defenseman Marco Scandella to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2020 fourth-round draft pick. That pick originally belonged to the San Jose Sharks.

They followed that deal by trading that same fourth-round pick to the Calgary Flames for forward Michael Frolik.

Let’s break all of this down team-by-team.

The Canadiens side

This is a pretty easy one to figure out. Scandella is a pretty significant upgrade to their top-six on defense and it cost them next to nothing to get him. Even after trading a fourth-round pick to Buffalo for him they still have 11 picks in the 2020 class including three in the fourth-round alone. They had the picks to spare, and Scandella, 29, should be a nice addition. He has three goals and six assists in 31 games this season and was one of Buffalo’s best players when it came to driving possession. His 52.8 Corsi mark was second-best on the team and tops among the team’s defenders. He will be eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer.

The Canadiens made another smaller move on Thursday, trading defenseman Mike Reilly to the Ottawa Senators for forward Andrew Sturtz and a 2021 fifth-round draft pick.

The Sabres side

The Scandella trade seemed a little weird at first glance. Yes, they needed to move a defenseman, and given his contract Scandella seemed to be a likely candidate. But trading him for a fourth-round pick this far ahead of the trade deadline seemed premature.

There had to be a corresponding move coming for it to make sense. That is where Frolik comes in. And once the dust settled they essentially traded Scandella for Frolik, which seems about right. Both players are unrestricted free agents after the season, the Sabres had too many defenders, and they badly needed help at forward, especially with Jeff Skinner sidelined.

Frolik is having a down year offensively (just five goals and five assists in 38 games), but he has been a safe bet for around 15 goals, 30 points, and great possession numbers throughout his career. There is a chance he can help them more than Scandella could in the short-term. Will that be enough to stop their slide and get back into a playoff spot? That remains to be seen.

The Flames side

The name of the game here is simply dumping salary and clearing salary cap space. They had been shopping Frolik for a while now and it was only a matter of time until they moved him. By doing so they shed some valuable salary cap space that could enable to make a more significant addition before the trade deadline. The trade also gives them a fourth-round pick, something they had been lacking. They now have seven draft picks this year.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Wild’s biggest question: Who will step up at center?

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In addition to whether Devan Dubnyk can replicate his 2014-15 season, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Minnesota Wild heading into this season is at center.

According to NHL.com, Wild centers were amongst the least productive in the league last season combining for 49 goals. Captain Mikko Koivu led the way with 14 goals while Mikael Granlund accounted for just eight goals.

In order to improve in this area they’ll need more from Granlund – the 23-year-old, who centered a line with Jason Pominville and Zach Parise last season, will be expected to contribute more offensively.

“I don’t think anybody anticipates Granlund to be an eight-goal, 40-point guy for the rest of his career,” GM Chuck Fletcher said after signing Granlund to a new two-year, $6 million deal in July. “He is going to take off here over the next two years.”

The Wild also believe Charlie Coyle can be a full-time center. Speaking with Mackey and Judd on ESPN radio in Minnesota last week, Mike Yeo said Coyle would start the season at center.

Coyle scored 11 goals and 35 points in 82 games last season.

“You look at a guy like David Backes, for instance, he’s a centerman, he’s pretty much a fulltime centerman right now, but he spent a lot of time bouncing around,” said Yeo. “I like (Coyle’s) improvement at center last year, in particular, in his defensive game, I know he’s a real reliable guy especially to have a big body like that. You can throw him out there against an Anze Kopitar, who is (6-foot-3) and (225-pounds), you know he’s not going to get out-muscled down low. That’s a real valuable thing to have.

“What’s important for him now is if he can take another step offensively playing that position.”

More will also be expected of Erik Haula. The 24-year-old, who signed a two-year extension earlier this month, took a step back last season. Haula scored six goals and 15 points in 46 regular season games during the 2013-14 season. He added four goals and seven points in 13 playoff games.

Last season, Haula managed to score just seven goals and 14 points in 72 games.

“Just because he had a bit of a down year last year, we’re certainly not ready to give up on him because we’ve also seen the flip side,” said Yeo. “We’ve seen what he’s capable of and it’s just a process that these young kids have to go through.”

The Wild also lost Kyle Brodziak in free agency. The 31-year-old was amongst the top-scoring centers in Minnesota last season with nine goals.

Related: Looking to make the leap: Mike Reilly

Looking to make the leap: Mike Reilly

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With veterans Jordan Leopold and Keith Ballard likely retiring, rookie Mike Reilly is hoping to make the leap and join the Minnesota Wild this season.

Reilly, who was drafted in the fourth round (98th overall) by the Blue Jackets at the 2011 NHL Draft, chose not to sign with Columbus and opted for free agency. In June, he signed a sign a two-year deal with his hometown Wild.

“We felt that he’s a guy that can come in and compete right from the start of training camp for a roster spot,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said per NHL.com. “So far he’s proven that to be true. I’m excited to see him in camp. He’s a very dynamic offensive player.”

The 6-foot-2, 186-pound blue liner spent the past three seasons at the University of Minnesota where he led all NCAA defensemen in scoring (42 points) and assists (36), in 39 games last season.

“I’ve got to come in and try to earn a spot and play well and play my game,” Reilly told the Star Tribune in June. “There will be a lot of learning curves and mistakes, but I’m ready to learn from the older guys that have played in the league. There’s also a lot of good, young guys, too, that played as well, so it’ll be good to be able to learn from them and take it step by step to learn the pro game and be confident.”

In three seasons with the Gophers, the 22-year-old scored 18 goals and 89 points. Prior to going to college, Reilly spent the 2011-12 season with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League. With the Vees, Reilly scored 24 goals and 83 points in 51 games helping Penticton win a record 42 consecutive regular season games and a Royal Bank Cup.

Known for his puck-moving abilities, the Chanhassen, Minn native won a bronze medal with the U.S. at this year’s world championship in the Czech Republic,

“Obviously, the opportunity can be really good. I’ve got to earn my spot, and that’s kind of one thing they said to me in the past few weeks leading up to this day, Reilly told the team’s site. “If I come in and play well — obviously, there’s going to be a learning curve and mistakes throughout the process — but come in in great shape, keep working hard the next two months, hopefully it all works out.”

Related: Under Pressure: Devan Dubnyk

McDavid, Eichel headline NHLPA Rookie Showcase

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This year’s NHLPA Rookie Showcase won’t be lacking star power.

The top two picks at this year’s entry draft — Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel — will be in attendance, along with 38 other prospects that’ll descend upon Toronto on Tuesday, Sept. 1 for photo ops and media availability.

The list of invitees, per the players’ union:

Connor McDavid (Oilers), Jack Eichel (Sabres), Dylan Strome (Coyotes), Mitch Marner (Maple Leafs), Noah Hanifin (Hurricanes), Ivan Barbashev (Blues), Chris Bigras (Avalanche), Oliver Bjorkstrand (Blue Jackets), Madison Bowey (Capitals), Connor Brown (Maple Leafs), Michael Dal Colle (Islanders), Nikolaj Ehlers (Jets), Robby Fabbri (Blues), Zach Fucale (Canadiens), Nikolay Goldobin (Sharks), Ryan Hartman (Blackhawks), Connor Hellebuyck (Jets), Julius Honka (Stars), Kasperi Kapanen (Maple Leafs), Ronalds Kenins (Canucks), Slater Koekkoek (Lightning), Dylan Larkin (Red Wings), Sonny Milano (Blue Jackets), Samuel Morin (Flyers), Mike Matheson (Panthers), Michael McCarron (Canadiens), Josh Morrissey (Jets), Brendan Perlini (Coyotes), Nic Petan (Jets), Emile Poirier (Flames), Shane Prince (Senators), Ryan Pulock (Islanders), John Quenneville (Devils), Mike Reilly (Wild), Nick Ritchie (Ducks), Travis Sanheim (Flyers), Mackenzie Skapski (Rangers), Brady Skjei (Rangers), Shea Theodore (Ducks) and Jake Virtanen (Canucks).

This will mark the seventh year the PA has gathered rookies for its annual event. Last year’s Rookie Showcase featured 33 players, including Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad and fellow finalist Johnny Gaudreau.

Report: Reilly won’t sign with the Rangers

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The Columbus Blue Jackets weren’t the only team, which found out they’re no longer in the running to land Mike Reilly.

According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, agent Pat Brisson informed the Rangers that the blue liner would not be signing in New York.

Here’s more from the Post:

The Rangers always were regarded as a long shot in the Mike Reilly Derby, but the club was notified by his camp Wednesday they have no shot to sign the collegiate free agent defenseman out of Minnesota, The Post has learned.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported earlier this month that eight teams met with Reilly at the scouting combine in Buffalo. The Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild are considered the favorites to land Reilly.

Columbus selected the Minnesota native in the fourth round (98th overall) at the 2011 NHL Draft.

Reilly had six goals and 42 points to go along with a plus-25 rating in 39 games with the University of Minnesota during the 2014-15 season.

Related: Here’s the full 2015 NHL Entry Draft order