The often-contentious six-year relationship between the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan O’Reilly has come to an end. On Friday, the severed ties with the forward, sending him to the Buffalo Sabres along with winger Jamie McGinn. In return, they received defenseman Nikita Zadorov, center Mikail Grigorenko, forward prospect J.T. Compher and a second-round (31st overall) selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
A versatile two-way forward, O’Reilly is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The 24-year-old was reportedly looking for a deal worth $8 million annually from the Avalanche. With an extension seeming too rich for their blood, the burgundy and blue instead shipped him to the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres.
“[O’Reilly’s agent] Pat Morris, I spoke to him a couple times, and he gave us numbers that we just didn’t go to,” said Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic. “In the salary-cap era you have to make tough decisions sometimes.”
In 82 games last season, O’Reilly scored 17 goals and 55 points, finishing with a minus-5 rating. In 427 career games, the former Lady Byng Trophy winner has 90 goals, 246 points and a minus-13 rating.
McGinn is also set to become a free agent in 2016. Limited to 19 games last season due to a back injury, the 26-year-old power forward scored four goals and six points.
In need of a left-hand shooting defenseman, the Avalanche picked up Zadorov. A first-round (16th overall) selection by the Sabres in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the 20-year-old Russian has both tremendous size (6’5”, 220 pounds) and upside. In 60 games last season, he had three goals, 15 points and 51 penalty minutes.
“We really like the potential of Zadorov,” said Sakic. “He could be a solid, solid [defenseman] for the next 10 years.”
The Avalanche also reunited head coach Patrick Roy with his former star player during his time behind the bench with the Quebec Ramparts in Grigorenko. The 21-year-old, who can play both center and wing, split time between the Sabres and their top minor league affiliate, the Rochester Americans. In 25 NHL games, he had three goals and six points. In 43 AHL games, he posted 14 goals and 36 points. He is a pending restricted free agent.
Having just completed his sophomore year at the University of Michigan, Compher is expected to return to the Wolverines next season; where he will serve as their captain. In 34 games last season, the 20-year-old had 12 goals and 24 points.
The trade opened up nearly $8 million in cap space for the Avalanche. On Saturday, they traded the second-round (31st overall) pick they acquired to the San Jose Sharks for their second-round (39th overall) selection in 2015, as well as a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and a sixth-round pick in 2017. The latter two picks both originally belonged to the Avalanche, as they were sent to San Jose last summer in the deal that landed the Avs defenseman Brad Stuart.
The Sabres also found a goalie via trade on Friday. Earlier in the day, they acquired Robin Lehner and forward David Legwand from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a first-round (21st overall) selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.