Buffalo Sabres: Does Ryan O’Reilly actually want to leave?

BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 24: Ryan O'Reilly
BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 24: Ryan O'Reilly /

As speculation increases regarding Ryan O’Reilly’s future with the Buffalo Sabres, at least one local reporter believes the center himself wants out.

The season might be over for the Buffalo Sabres, but there is still plenty to discuss. Such is life when you finish bottom of the NHL standings for the third time in five years.

There is a lot of work still to be done, with the rebuild taking way longer than anyone connected with the Sabres anticipated. Questions abound regarding the makeup of the roster.

This includes what will happen to Ryan O’Reilly. His future has been uncertain ever since the start of 2017, when rumors started circulating that the Sabres might move him by the trade deadline.

And while this didn’t happen in the end, uncertainty remains. As reported by WGR 550, TSN‘s Darren Dreger believes there’s a very good chance O’Reilly could still be moved, although any return would have to be substantial.

This makes sense, given the quality of the player we’re talking about here. At the very least, the 2016 All-Star is a number two center for most teams.

And for all the talk about O’Reilly being part of the problem, he’s coming off an excellent individual season. He finished with the second-most points of his career, and set a new NHL record for faceoff wins in a campaign.

If the Sabres ever hope to turn around their fortunes, you need to hold onto as many quality players as possible. However, it’s possible there’s another factor in play, which could influence O’Reilly’s future in Western New York.

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The likes of this writer applauded the 27-year-old for his honesty on locker clean out day, admitting there were times when he lost his love for hockey. At least one local reporter believes, however, there was an ulterior motive for this candor.

John Vogl of The Buffalo News reasons that O’Reilly knew exactly what he was doing, when he spoke to the media on Monday. He suspects the alternate captain is orchestrating a move from Western New York.

Vogl goes on to write that the 2009 33rd overall draft pick and his agent have effectively dictated every stage of his career. Everything from his entry-level deal to his contract extension with the Sabres has been calculated.

Officially speaking, O’Reilly has stressed he wants to stick around with the Sabres and help them become a contender. However, Vogl would undoubtedly tell you he has to say this, in order to keep the fans on his side.

So what is the truth? In reality, only O’Reilly and his agent know for sure. But if he is trying to force his way out of Buffalo, it won’t be particularly straightforward.

For a start, as per the earlier comment from Dreger, the Sabres will demand a kings ransom in return for the Clinto, Ontario native. Even if they are shopping him around, they aren’t (that) stupid.

And just as important is O’Reilly’s contract, which would be tough for any team to justify taking on. He has five years remaining on his deal, with a cap hit of $7.5 million per season.

As a final factor, if the former Colorado Avalanche player truly is trying to force his way out by lamenting his lost love for playing, it’s potentially had the reverse effect. As general manager Jason Botterill said during his season-ending press conference, he understands why someone would feel like this after the campaign the Buffalo Sabres endured.

Overall, there is no way of knowing how this scenario will play out at this stage. Regardless, it’s going to be an interesting time between now and at least the draft, if not longer.

Next: 4 takeaways from Botterill's end of season press conference

What do you make of all the recent speculation surrounding O’Reilly? Do you believe the Buffalo Sabres will trade him? Doe he want out? And would you like to see the center leave? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.