BUFFALO – That didn’t take long. A week after the Sabres acquired Ryan O’Reilly in a blockbuster trade with the Colorado Avalanche, they locked up their new No. 1 center with a max deal Friday, a whopping seven-year, $52.5 million contract extension.
It’s the biggest contract in franchise history, surpassing the seven-year, $50 million deal the Sabres gave winger Thomas Vanek in 2007 when they matched the Edmonton Oilers’ offer sheet.
The contract has a creative breakdown. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, O’Reilly’s salary will be $1 million per season. The rest will be paid via a yearly signing bonus: $10 million, $8 million, $7.5 million and four years of $5 million.
O’Reilly’s contract, which will begin in 2016-17, has $7.5 million cap hit. He will make $6.2 million next year, the final season of a two-year, $12 million contract.
Sabres general manager Tim Murray said Wednesday the sides were close to a deal. It was widely reported O’Reilly wanted a $60 million deal, and perhaps he would’ve received one if he waited another year.
But the 24-year-old’s clearly sold on the Sabres’ direction.
“We’re happy to have Ryan locked up to a long-term deal,” Murray said in a statement. “It’s not easy to find a player who, at his age, is already established in the league as someone who plays a complete game and makes his teammates better. When we acquired him, we viewed him as someone who could immediately improve our roster but was still young enough to make an impact for several years to come, and this contract reflects that belief.”
O’Reilly, widely considered one of the NHL’s top all-around forwards, has 90 goals and 246 points in 427 games since breaking into the league as an 18-year-old in 2009-10. But he has only surpassed 20 goals and 60 points once, in 2013-14, when he scored 28 goals and 65 points in 80 games. Thanks to taking only one penalty that season, he also won the Lady Byng Trophy.
He had 17 goals and 55 points in 82 contests in 2014-15. In full seasons, O’Reilly has averaged 17 goals and 45 points.
The Sabres sent center Mikhail Grigorenko, defenseman Nikita Zadorov, wing prospect J.T. Compher and the 31st pick in the 2015 NHL Draft to the Avs for O’Reilly and winger Jamie McGinn just minutes after selecting center Jack Eichel second overall last Friday.
Part of O’Reilly’s acquisition, of course, is to ease the pressure off Eichel, a potential superstar readying to jump into the NHL at 18 years old.
The Sabres made one other O’Reilly move Friday, signing Cal O’Reilly, Ryan’s older brother, to a two-year, one-way deal worth $700,000 per season, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
Cal O’Reilly, an AHL star, has 13 goals and 41 points in 113 NHL games with the Nashville Predators, Arizona Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins. The 28-year-old spent last season with the AHL Utica Comets, scoring 10 goals and 61 points in 76 games.
O’Reilly, despite the one-way deal, could be headed for Rochester. Murray has spoken about how he wants the Americans to win. Having a No. 1 center like O’Reilly will certainly help. He has 74 goals and 371 points in 416 AHL appearances.