Breath. It's over -- finally.
Like a blue sky after a terrible storm, we can all exhale as the Colorado Avalanche relieve themselves of young center, and perpetual discontent, Ryan O'Reilly. General Manager Joe Sakic tried for years to sign his budding star to a long-term extention, but no agreement could be reached. The Avalanche, from the moment he was drafted, valued O'Reilly very highly, but never for a dollar amount that would satisfy the 24-year old and his agents. Unable to come to terms, he was shipped off to Buffalo today, along with forward Jamie McGinn, for a sizeable return package consisting of defenseman Nikita Zadorov, forward Mikhail Grigorenko, forward JT Compher, and the 31st overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Ryan O'Reilly was drafted in the 2nd Round of the 2009 NHL draft. He was an immediate standout in preseason camps and made the Colorado Avalanche squad as an 18-year old to much surprise. Though not initially an impact scorer, he maintained his spot on the big club with elite defensive promise, developing his scoring touch in the following years as his role increased. O'Reilly's best season was in 2013-14, scoring 64 points in 80 games and winning the Lady Byng trophy as the league's most gentlemanly player. He saw a bit of drop-off this past season, with 55 points in 82 games.
Jamie McGinn came over from San Jose in 2011 in a trade involving Daniel Winnick and TJ Galliardi. The left wing has missed a considerable amount of time due to injury in his four seasons, but was able to show considerable scoring ability in 2013-14, spending quite a bit of time among the Top-6 and netting 19 goals for a 112-point Avalanche team. McGinn had back surgery last season and there have been questions about his health moving forward.
Coming back for the Avalanche are three young players and the first selection of the 2nd Round this year. Zadorov, a Russian who played his Junior hockey in Canada, is the prize of the group. Just 20 years old, and a 16th overall pick in 2013, he already has 60 games of NHL experience under his belt. And at 6'4 and 235 pounds, he's the large left-handed defenseman the Avalanche so badly need to fill out their lineup.
Perhaps just as exciting is Grigorenko, another Russian national, who stands 6'3" himself and weighs in at 215 pounds. The 21-year played his junior hockey for the Quebec Remparts for current Avalanche coach, Patrick Roy, before being drafted 12th overall in 2012 by the Sabres.
Compher is an American who currently plays for the University of Michigan. The two-way forward led all Big-10 freshman in scoring in 2013-14 and followed that up with a 24-point campaign his sophomore year.
Overall, the Avs just got a lot bigger, a lot more talented on defense, and rid themselves entirely on tiresome contract negotiations. I bet Joe Sakic has had a pretty nice day.