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Avalanche deal O'Reilly to ease cap, help power play

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said he felt Ryan O'Reilly was going to be too expensive to keep on a long-term basis, so Sakic traded the 24-year-old center who has one year remaining on his contract to the Buffalo Sabres during the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft on Friday.

The Avalanche acquired defenseman Nikita Zadorov, forwards Mikhail Grigorenko and J.T. Compher, and the No. 31 pick in the draft from the Sabres for O'Reilly and forward Jamie McGinn.

O'Reilly will carry an NHL salary-cap charge of $6 million in the 2015-16 season, according to War-on-Ice.com. He reportedly is seeking a raise in a contract extension, which he can't sign until July 1.

McGinn is entering the final season of his contract with a salary-cap charge of $2.95 million, according to War-on-Ice.com.

The Avalanche have forwards Matt Duchene ($6.0 million), Gabriel Landeskog ($5.5 million), Jarome Iginla ($5.33 million), Carl Soderberg ($4.75 million) and goalie Semyon Varlamov ($5.9 million) signed through the 2016-17 season.

Forward Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Tyson Barrie can become restricted free agents after the 2015-16 season. Defenseman Erik Johnson can become an unrestricted free agent after one more season.

"[O'Reilly's agent] Pat Morris, I spoke to him a couple times, and he gave us numbers that we just didn't go to," Sakic said. "In the salary-cap era you have to make tough decisions sometimes. That's why we acquired Soderberg. We think he's going to be a really valuable player here."

The Avalanche signed Soderberg to a five-year contract on Friday after trading a sixth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to the Boston Bruins to acquire his negotiating rights on Thursday.

Sakic said he envisions Avalanche coach Patrick Roy playing Soderberg at center, in between Landeskog and MacKinnon.

"That's a start," Sakic said. "We feel he'll be good on the power play. He makes good plays. He's more of a playmaker than a shooter. We're looking for guys that can do some of that."

Acquiring a young defenseman and a big young forward who can play on the power play in the trade for O'Reilly were important to Sakic. He felt the Avalanche were lacking both.

Zadorov is 6-foot-5, 220 pounds with 67 games of NHL experience. Buffalo made him the No. 16 pick in the 2013 draft.

"We really like the potential of Zadorov," Sakic said. "He's could be a solid, solid [defenseman] for the next 10 years."

Roy is familiar with Grigorenko, who played for him on the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. He's a 21-year-old, 209-pound forward with 68 games of NHL experience. Buffalo made him the No. 12 pick in the 2012 draft.

"Grigorenko is a big guy at 6-foot-3 and he played for Patrick," Sakic said. "He's got a lot of hockey sense. Our power play last year wasn't the best and we feel Grigorenko and Soderberg should help."

The Sabres selected Compher with the No. 35 pick in 2013. He is going to be a junior at the University of Michigan after scoring 55 points in 69 games in his freshman and sophomore seasons.

"J.T. Compher was named Michigan captain, so that says it all right there," Sakic said. "He plays a tenacious 200-foot game and someone who is going to be with our club as well."

Sakic expressed surprise he was able to draft right wing Mikko Rantanen with the No. 10 pick in the first round on Friday. He said the Avalanche scouts had Rantanen ranked higher on their board.

"We were even thinking of moving up just to make sure we got him, but we got him at 10," Sakic said. "He was the No. 1 rated international player. That was a great thing for us. We're looking for wingers. He's a right-handed shot who plays right wing.

"What we like with our lineup is we got some stability."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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