Buffalo Sabres: Ryan O’Reilly isn’t going anywhere

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: Ryan O'Reilly
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: Ryan O'Reilly /

In theory, every Buffalo Sabres player not named Jack Eichel could leave, but don’t expect Ryan O’Reilly to be moved before the trade deadline.

With the Feb. 26 trade deadline fast approaching, the way ahead appears set for the Buffalo Sabres. Sitting 20 points out of a playoff spot on Thursday morning with the second-worst record in the NHL, they’re going to be sellers.

With this in mind, thoughts turn to who will be moved. In theory, every player not named Jack Eichel could be traded.

Evander Kane is the most obvious choice to leave Buffalo, due to a combination of his talent, production this season (albeit lacking since the turn of the year) and the likelihood he will be a free agent in the summer. Kane aside though, who else could potentially be headed out of Western New York?

As we reported last month, possibilities include Benoit PouliotJohan Larsson and Jacob Josefson. However, there is another name which has been doing the rounds – Ryan O’Reilly.

Certainly, you can understand why teams would be interested in O’Reilly. He is an excellent two-way player, who would be the top center for a lot of organizations.

From the Sabres’ perspective, one reason they could theoretically look to move the 2016 NHL All-Star is because of the size of his contract. He is only in the second season of a seven-year, $52.5 million deal he signed shortly after arriving in Buffalo.

However, the reality is — as we previously predicted — O’Reilly is likely not going anywhere. And when the excellent Elliotte Friedman reports the same, it adds more credence to the situation.

Writing his weekly “31 thoughts” article for Sportsnet, Friedman advises the speculation regarding O’Reilly was shot down by multiple sources. In addition, Friedman notes the Sabres have no in-house replacement.

As bad as the Sabres have been this season, O’Reilly is not one of their issues. Along with Eichel, he provides the team with one of the best top six center pairings in the league.

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If the Buffalo Sabres are to improve any time soon and return to the playoffs, they need to keep hold of as many of their best players as possible. (Kane is an exception, given his reluctance to sign a long-term extension).

O’Reilly has shown great leadership and an excellent work ethic for the Sabres, ever since arriving in Buffalo. He led the team in scoring his first campaign, and finished just two points behind Eichel the following season.

Admittedly, the 27-year-old hasn’t been quite as productive this season. However, the players have struggled in general and he is still tied for second on the team in points, entering Thursday’s slate of games.

One last point Friedman makes, refers to top-rated prospect Casey Mittelstadt. Friedman reasons that when Mittelstadt is ready for the NHL, he will benefit a lot more by learning from Eichel and O’Reilly.

Next: Who would the Sabres draft with the top pick?

What’s your take on O’Reilly? Do you agree that he won’t be traded? More generally speaking — apart from Kane — who can you see being the most likely player to be moved before the deadline? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.