Dreger: O'Reilly chatter has been 'pretty consistent'

June 20, 2018 - 2:19 pm
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After finishing the 2017-18 season as the 31st place team in the NHL standings, the Buffalo Sabres have made things pretty clear that changes are coming heading into the 2018-19 season.

On Friday, the Sabres will kick off the 2018 NHL Draft by likely taking defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall selection. However, there may be some more fireworks at the draft in Dallas, Texas that comes in the form of some player movement.

Over the past several weeks, the Sabres have been the subject of trade rumors surrounding players like Ryan O'Reilly, Rasmus Ristolainen and Sam Reinhart, among others.

TSN's Darren Dreger has been closely honed in on the trade chatter league-wide, and believes that the interest in O'Reilly is certainly carrying some weight.

"The watch on Ryan O'Reilly has been pretty consistent," Dreger said with Howard Simon and Jeremy White on Wednesday morning. "My understanding is that Sabres general manager Jason Botterill, not surprisingly, is looking for an excellent return for Ryan O'Reilly, otherwise it doesn't make a ton of sense that he would move him. So what does excellent return mean? Does that mean he's campaigning for a spot in the top-five [of the draft]? Some believe that could be the case. That would have to be part of that package. It's gonna be real interesting to see if that deal gets done, but time is ticking away here."

There have been reported to be a number of teams interested in O'Reilly's services for the upcoming future. O'Reilly is about to enter the third year of a seven-year contract that sees him earn an average annual value of $7.5 million.

Last season, O'Reilly put up 24 goals and 61 points in 81 games with the Sabres, but said that he had "lost the love for the game" at several points during the year.

Dreger speculated on Wednesday that while he doesn't know the list of teams interested in the 27-year-old, he said their could be at least five teams that have, or will consider making a move for O'Reilly.

Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, and fellow insider at TSN, reported on Wednesday that at least four teams have shown interest in O'Reilly this offseason. One of those teams is the Montreal Canadiens, along with the St. Louis Blues, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers.

Dreger points out the fact that the Canadiens desperately need a center in the lineup, but said that the price at which Montreal could have to pay for O'Reilly could be the third overall pick in this year's draft.

"Marc Bergevin has been down this road before, so does he flinch and make sure he gets a centerman, or does he take a more patient approach?," Dreger said.

"Just to be clear, I don't know that that's what Botterill is expecting from the Montreal Canadiens, but that's just kind of an undercurrent sense. It sounds insane to me too. That's a real lofty pick.

"Ryan O'Reilly is a good player, but you also have to be aware of the long-term benefits of drafting and developing. There's a strong chance that in that No. 3 hole, the Montreal Canadiens can draft a center."

As for a couple the other players of interest on the Sabres, Dreger says he is honestly surprised that Ristolainen is available on the market, but does not deny the interest from other teams around the NHL.

"I've got to believe there's a strong market for him," Dreger said. "When you look at defense available, it's not overly strong. Any team that has a good defenseman, especially if they're a top-four defense, you don't want to move those pieces. If you're a team that's somewhat desperate in need or has a strong need, you're going to inquire.

"I had heard that Anaheim had interest in Ristolainen. I'd be a little surprised if the Edmonton Oilers didn't have interest in Ristolainen. You can probably come up with a list of eight or 10 teams, giving the type of player that he's projected to become when he hits full stride as a veteran NHL guy. But that's another deal where Botterill has to feel comfortable that he's on the winning side, otherwise he doesn't make it."

Ristolainen is currently entering the third year of a six-year deal signed with the team before the 2016-17 season. Ristolainen's current salary sees him affecting the salary cap with an average annual salary of $5.4 million.

The other name that Dreger mentioned on Wednesday was Reinhart, but his interest on the trade market is not as high as that of O'Reilly and Ristolainen.

"Reinhart has been out there for quite some time now, and Botterill wanted to use, pretty much, all of last year to gauge whether or not he's a fit long-term for the Buffalo Sabres. I feel like Botterill would be okay with keeping him. He's not giving him away."

Reinhart is currently a restricted free agent, looking to sign a new deal with the Sabres this offseason.

You can listen to Dreger's entire interview with Howard and Jeremy below:

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