The center-needy Montreal Canadiens, Carolina Hurricanes, and St. Louis Blues have all shown interest in O'Reilly, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun. The Habs and Canes have both "had talks," while the Blues have "at least inquired" about O'Reilly's services, LeBrun notes.
O'Reilly is one of the best two-way centers in the game. He finished this past season with 24 goals and 61 points in 81 games, but was also one of three players in the NHL with at least 65 takeaways, but less than 40 giveaways. He also set an NHL record for faceoff wins in a single season, and is a nominee for the Lady Byng Trophy, as he collected just two penalty minutes all season.
O'Reilly has a cap hit of $7.5 million through 2022-23. However, he is due a $7.5-million bonus on July 1, LeBrun adds. His base salary is only $1 million through the remainder of his deal, but he is due a $5-million bonus for the last four years of his deal, per Cap Friendly.
A team with deep pockets, such as the the Canadiens, could look to make a push before July 1, because once that bonus is paid, Buffalo's asking price may go up. A team like the Hurricanes may want to wait until after July 1.
Marc Bergevin has been searching for a legitimate No. 1 center during his entire tenure as the Habs' GM. The Hurricanes haven't had a top-notch center since Eric Staal departed, while the Blues are likely looking to replace Paul Stastny, whom they dealt to the Winnipeg Jets at the trade deadline.
Both the Hurricanes and Blues have several blue-chip prospects they could offer. The same can't be said for the Canadiens, but they do have nine picks in the first four rounds of the NHL draft they could dangle as trade bait.
It's possible a fresh start could bring new life to O'Reilly's game, as he said after another losing season with the Sabres this year that he "lost the love of the game multiple times."
Since O'Reilly is under contract, the Sabres are fine keeping him if they don't get an offer to their liking, LeBrun says.