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O'Reilly ready for fresh start after trade to Blues

Center 'wanted to make a change' after three losing seasons with Sabres

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

Ryan O'Reilly is ready for a fresh start with the St. Louis Blues.

"I'm definitely happy with what just happened," O'Reilly said Monday.

The 27-year-old center was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday in a trade for three forwards and two draft picks. It seemed likely the Sabres would trade him following his postseason comments about losing in Buffalo and a sizable contract bonus that was due him July 1.

 

[RELATED: Blues boost center depth with O'Reilly, Bozak 2018-19 NHL Trade Tracker]

 

"I don't know if it was my comment at the end of the year that got it rolling," O'Reilly said. "I think to a team that finishes in last place, you expect changes to happen, and it just so happened that I think they wanted to go younger.

"With the comments, I stand by them. I think I wanted to make a change, I wanted to personally do things different and be more honest and show I was making that effort that I was going to take responsibility and make that change. I think it wasn't maybe perceived the best way, but sometimes that happens. I stand by it. ... I'm happy with it. I didn't really have any real expectations, but now that it finally happened and I can put the last few seasons behind me and look ahead, I feel like there's a spark in me right now. There's something different."

O'Reilly had 61 points (24 goals, 37 assists) in 81 games last season and was second in the NHL in face-off winning percentage (59.98 percent, behind Antoine Vermette of the Anaheim Ducks, 60.00). The Sabres (25-45-12) finished last in the NHL, 35 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Video: BUF@FLA: O'Reilly rips a tight-angle shot past Reimer

Buffalo did not finish higher than 14th in the Eastern Conference in O'Reilly's three seasons.

"We're stuck in this mindset of just being OK with losing," O'Reilly said April 9. "I feel, too, it's really crept into myself. … It's disappointing, it's sad. ... I feel throughout the year I've lost the love of the game multiple times. I need to get back to it; it's eaten myself up and you can see other guys too. It's eaten myself up, it's tough."

O'Reilly gives the Blues depth at center after they signed free agent Tyler Bozak to a three-year, $15 million contract Sunday, to add to Brayden Schenn.

"When I saw Bozak signed, I wasn't sure if the Sabres were still in the picture," O'Reilly said. "... The depth [at center] is huge. You look at all the teams that have success, they all have guys down the middle that can compete, and I'm thrilled to be a part of that."

The Blues made the Stanley Cup Playoffs six straight seasons before missing by one point last season after they lost to the Colorado Avalanche in their final game. O'Reilly, a nine-season NHL veteran, has made the playoffs twice, the last time in 2013-14 with the Colorado Avalanche.

Video: OTT@BUF: O'Reilly dazzles for early breakaway goal

"There's nothing like playoff hockey," O'Reilly said. "It's what we all kind of dream of doing. Unfortunately in my career, I haven't done it enough. I plan to come in and help this team get there and help this team win. Last year, they were one win from getting in. With the playoffs now, all you have to do is get in and you have a chance at winning the Cup. This team was so close."

Buffalo received forwards Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson, a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

O'Reilly is hoping to help the Blues power play, which was 30th in the 31-team NHL (15.4 percent). He scored 15 power-play goals (tied for third in the League) and 23 power-play points last season.

"I think the last couple of years, I've had success out there on it," he said. "I think Buffalo, we've had some good power plays over the past few years and I plan to bring that over and hopefully be a key factor."

O'Reilly said he wished for better results with the Sabres.

"With the trade, it's disappointing to see that I wasn't a guy or a piece that could help, but I'm more excited that there's another team that wants me," he said. "I get a chance to go to a great city and a great team and a team that's got a ton of good pieces and they are trying to win right now and that's something I really want to be a part of.

"I love that city and I love those guys on that team, but we just didn't get the job done."

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