Flyers reportedly interested in trading for Ryan O'Reilly

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Culture change is a funny thing, and it doesn’t just happen in Philadelphia — it’s happening in Buffalo.

It’s no secret the Sabres want to change their recent fortune of not being very good at hockey and it all begins tonight at the draft when they’re expected to take Rasmus Dahlin No. 1 overall.

As we’re hours away from the 2018 NHL draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas, trade speculation will only heat up as we inch even closer to Buffalo selecting the Swedish sensation.

Enter Ryan O’Reilly.

The Sabres are reportedly shopping the 27-year-old and the Flyers are one of the teams rumored to be interested, along with the Canadiens, Hurricanes and Wild, according to Pierre McGuire.

Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic also listed the Flyers as a potential suitor for O’Reilly on Thursday based on the Flyers’ assets and the player fit. From LeBrun:

The Flyers have two first-round picks Friday, 14 overall (from the Blues) and 19 overall (their own). That could be part of a deal, or one of the picks anyway, to entice the Sabres, but I suspect what really has Buffalo intrigued by Philly is their very deep pool of young players throughout their organization. No surprise that Flyers GM Ron Hextall might be looking at O’Reilly, he would fit the type of guy that organization wants.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Sabres are looking for a package similar to what the Flyers got for Mike Richards in 2011: a young roster player, a high-end prospect and a significant draft pick.

We all remember the day — June 23, 2011 — when the Flyers traded Richards and Jeff Carter in separate deals just hours apart. The Flyers acquired Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick from the Kings.

It should be noted the Sabres are believed as listening on most players as they look to shake things up. Because of draft picks and the mania that generally goes down on draft night, we could see some movement tonight. 

Analysis

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has stated his interest in adding another veteran centerman but said he’s not interested in doing something that will “bottle us up in three or four years.”

While in context, Hextall was talking about free agency, the same thought process can be applied to the trade market too. Making a trade for a trade’s sake isn’t in Hextall’s M.O.

If the Flyers were to acquire term as would be the case with O’Reilly, they would have to believe that the player is a fit here three or four years down the road.

From an organizational philosophy viewpoint, O’Reilly fits the mold of what Hextall looks for: a consistent 200-foot player who produces on a consistent basis and strong in the faceoff circle.

O’Reilly has averaged 22 goals and 59 points since 2013-14. He’s extremely strong in faceoffs, winning 60 percent of his draws last season and averaging 57.1 percent over the last five seasons.

The Flyers need a third-line center upgrade, and O’Reilly certainly would be a huge improvement. He would give the Flyers a power trio down the middle with Sean Couturier, O’Reilly and Nolan Patrick. He’d allow Dave Hakstol to relieve some pressure from Patrick in his second season. From a hockey perspective, O’Reilly would be a solid addition to the Flyers.

Now the money question. O’Reilly has five years left on a seven-year, $52.5 million extension he signed with the Sabres in 2015 and carries a $7.5 million annual average value.

That’s a hefty cap hit, and an acquiring team would likely ask Buffalo to retain some of it. For the Flyers, the cap is no longer an issue. Hextall has solved that issue, and they have plenty of cap space for 2018-19. Down the line, it could be an issue, but the cap likely will keep increasing.

In the end, I wouldn’t bet on the Flyers acquiring O’Reilly. There’s no rush for the Sabres to move him so if they don’t get what they want, they could kick the can down the road.

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