Buffalo drafted Matt Savoie ninth overall in 2022. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres receive immediate help in Ryan McLeod by trading Matt Savoie to Oilers

After the Buffalo Sabres recently made a minor deal and signed some free agents, it appeared the significant trade that was expected this summer might never materialize.

Maybe, just maybe, general manager Kevyn Adams felt that adding some grit to augment a talented lineup and having a new coach in Lindy Ruff would be enough to help the Sabres end their NHL-record 13-year playoff drought.

But on Friday, Adams, who has expressed his willingness to deal top prospects, traded center Matt Savoie, the ninth overall pick in 2022, to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for center Ryan McLeod, an NHL regular, and winger Tyler Tullio.

Adams has spoken of the Sabres having matured and entered a new phase. He has said he would examine anything to help them take that next step.

Trading Savoie, 20, and receiving McLeod, who can help the Sabres right now, illustrates the urgency the organization feels to crack the postseason.

Adams has methodically rebuilt the Sabres, refusing to take shortcuts and stockpiling some of hockey’s top prospects. Sooner or later, one of them would be traded.

More later on Savoie, who played one game for the Sabres last season and was considered a big part of their future.

In the 6-foot-3, 188-pound McLeod, the Sabres likely have their new third-line center behind Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens.

McLeod, 24, registered career highs across the board last season, compiling 12 goals, 30 points and plus-10 rating in 81 regular-season games. He recorded four goals and four points in 24 outings during the Oilers’ run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

He won 50.8 percent of his faceoffs, a number that would’ve lead the Sabres by more than three points.

McLeod gives the Sabres additional size and speed among their rebuilt group of bottom-six forwards. In the last week, Adams has traded for winger Beck Malenstyn and signed winger Jason Zucker, who could move up and down the lineup, and forwards Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Sam Lafferty.

The Oilers drafted McLeod in the second round in 2018, 40th overall. He has spent the last two full seasons in Edmonton.

McLeod is entering the final season of a two-year, $4.2 million contract. He will be a restricted free agent when it expires.

In the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Tullio, the Sabres have a prospect likely ticketed for the Rochester Americans.

He has spent the last two seasons with the Bakersfield Condors, Edmonton’s AHL affiliate, compiling 22 goals, 47 points and a plus-1 rating in 117 games.

The Oilers drafted Tullio in the fifth round in 2020, 126th overall.

If the 5-foot-9, 179-pound Savoie had remained with the Sabres, he likely would’ve started next season in Rochester, where he spent six games on a conditioning stint early last year.

After Savoie injured his elbow and shoulder Sept. 19 in the Prospects Challenge rookie tournament in Buffalo, he missed all of NHL training camp and began the season practicing with the Sabres.

The Sabres wanted Savoie, despite being too young to play in the AHL, to stay with Rochester all season. But the Canadian Hockey League denied their petition, so he returned to the junior Western Hockey League for his fifth season.

Before his assignment, he made his NHL debut Nov. 10.

Not surprisingly, Savoie performed dominantly back in the WHL, scoring 30 goals and 71 points in 34 regular-season games between the Wenatchee Wild and Moose Jaw Warriors. He recorded 10 goals and 24 points in 19 games during Moose Jaw’s run to the WHL championship.

Savoie did not participate in development camp earlier this week in Buffalo, as the Sabres wanted to let some of their top prospects who had long seasons stay home.

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