Jason Botterill has to find a goalie. ©2018, Hickling Images

Sabres leave NHL Draft with six picks, Ryan O’Reilly on roster

DALLAS – For the time being at least, Ryan O’Reilly, the versatile center several teams are trying to pry away from the Sabres, is still with Buffalo.

General manager Jason Botterill, who’s expected to overhaul the NHL’s worst team this offseason, left the NHL Draft without making any player trades.

Of course, the league’s busy season is just getting underway. Teams can talk to free agents starting Monday and begin signing them next Sunday. The entire league was pretty quiet at the draft, with only two notable deals going down.

It’s highly unlikely the Sabres, who still made a huge addition by drafting defenseman Rasmus Dahlin first overall Friday inside American Airlines Center, will stay quiet.

“Sometimes you think a lot of things make sense and things just don’t come to fruition,” Botterill this afternoon of making deals.

So perhaps O’Reilly, an NHL All-Star in 2015-16, could be dealt soon. The Sabres owe him $7.5 million next Sunday, meaning some interested teams might want to wait until after the bonus is paid to consummate a trade. Or maybe a deal of lesser significance will take place.

Right now, after letting go Robin Lehner, the Sabres’ biggest priority is finding a goalie, Botterill said. They likely need one they can rely on as a starter and another with NHL experience for the Rochester Americans.

“We continue to talk to different teams about trade possibilities,” Botterill said of adding a netminder. “We’re looking forward to this week to having an opportunity to (talk to) some free agents.”

The five players the Sabres drafted Saturday likely won’t help them for years, if they ever do. They selected four defensemen and one forward.

Botterill again focused on NCAA and European players. Interestingly, two years and 12 picks into his GM career, he still hasn’t drafted a junior player from the Canadian Hockey League: the Ontario, Western and Quebec Major Junior leagues.

Why? Botterill sees more value in college and European prospects, whose rights the Sabres can retain for four years. NHL teams can only hold CHL players’ rights for two years.

“There’s nothing to shy away from at all,” Botterill said of the CHL. “I just believe, especially with later-round picks, the fact that you only control their rights two years, you have to make a quicker decision on that.”

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