By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
No. 25: July 1, 2018 – Traded Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis for Tage Thompson, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, a first-round draft choice in 2019 and a second-round draft choice in 2021.
“Locker clean-out day” at the end of the season usually doesn’t feature many interesting comments from players. Ryan O’Reilly was the exception in the spring of 2018. The Sabres’ center told the somewhat stunned media that three years of losing had taken a toll on his enthusiasm for the game. However, O’Reilly did not ask to be traded.
General manager Jason Botterill realized that O’Reilly was still a very good player, and that he also had to pay O’Reilly a $7.5 million bonus if he was on the Buffalo roster on July 1. The Blues and Sabres rushed to complete a trade before that deadline, and did so. Botterill hoped that the return for O’Reilly could fill out his roster, which had shown it needed depth badly in the previous season.
St. Louis has no complaints about what happened in Year One of the deal. O’Reilly helped the Blues rebound from a slow start and win the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Patrick Berglund left the Sabres to return to Sweden in mid-season. Vladimir Sobotka added little in his first full season, and Tage Thompson’s contributions were few. We’ll need more time to evaluate how everything turned out, but the Sabres have some catching up to do. In the meantime, everyone in Buffalo made the same joke about O’Reilly: “Why can’t the Sabres have a player like that?”
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)