As the Sabres season came to an end in April, Jason Botterill, who had just wrapped up his first year with the team as general manager, was visibly angry at the team’s 31st place finish.
Botterill, who was a part of a Stanley Cup winning tradition with Pittsburgh, made it known changes were coming in an effort to change the culture within the organization.
“When you finish where we were, you have to look at everything. That means looking at even changing up some of our core players,” Botterill said back in April. “From a free agent standpoint, we’ll be involved in free agency. But I’m a believer that you just can’t build a team just through free agency. It has to come from within our organization.”
Botterill made his first move on Wednesday, sending a conditional fourth round selection in 2019 to his former team in exchange winger Conor Sheary and defenseman Matt Hunwick who he said makes the team stronger.
As it pertains to trade talk and upgrading the roster, there is plenty of speculation surrounding Ryan O’Reilly. There was a belief, according to reports, a deal was set to take place at the NHL Draft in Dallas involving the centerman. When asked if he believed he had a deal done at the draft for O’Reilly, Botterill laughed saying “No, no.”
But, since O’Reilly’s end of season press conference where he admitted the continuous losing had caused him, in part, to lose his love for hockey, the trade rumors have been fast and furious.
One day it’s Montreal, the next it’s St. Louis, and more recently it’s been reported about a three-team trade involving the Canadiens, Sabres and Islanders. There’s also been speculation surrounding his July 1 signing bonus, which could be holding up any potential trade deal.
Asked if it is less likely O’Reilly gets dealt, Botterill answered, “Look, there’s a ton of rumors out there right now on Ryan and I think a lot of them are very creative.
“I would just say, from day one, we’ve been very happy with Ryan being a part of our group. We’ve said before that it’s no surprise teams are calling on him. He has a great reputation throughout the National Hockey League so I understand why people call on him. The validity of a lot of the rumors are simply not true.”