Skip to content

Trade grades: Sabres sacrifice upside in McLeod-Savoie swap

Bill Wippert / National Hockey League / Getty

The Sabres and Oilers pulled off a shocking trade Friday, with Buffalo sending prized prospect Matt Savoie to Edmonton for center Ryan McLeod and minor-leaguer Tyler Tullio.

Below, we break down what the trade means for both sides.


Jonathan Kozub / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Oilers have a surplus of centers in a perennially center-needy league - even after dealing McLeod. In addition to Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton still has Adam Henrique, Dylan Holloway, and Derek Ryan capable of playing down the middle.

Clearing McLeod's $2.1-million salary off the books also gets the Oilers closer to cap compliance. They still have to shed a bit more money in order to re-sign restricted free agents Holloway and Philip Broberg.

It's hard to imagine Edmonton would've been shopping the 24-year-old, defensively sound McLeod - especially without a permanent general manager in place following Ken Holland's departure - but it's easy to understand why the front office was willing to move him once Buffalo put Savoie in play.

The 2022 No. 9 pick and St. Albert, Alberta, native, Savoie comes with loads of upside. He's a highly dynamic forward who tallied 256 points in 161 games in the WHL over the last three seasons. He's incredibly shifty with great hands and vision.

Though he spent most of his junior career playing center, Savoie might be a winger in his NHL future, in part due to his small frame (5-foot-10, 179 pounds). Still, he possesses both the skill and brain that could one day allow him to be a legitimate running mate in the top six for McDavid or Draisaitl.

Savoie will likely begin the 2024-25 campaign in the AHL, but he could push for an NHL job by midseason if he's lighting up the minors. The 20-year-old has three years left on his entry-level deal and could become a crucial piece of Edmonton's future.

There are very few sure things when it comes to prospects. Savoie could very well join the long list of undersized forwards who tore up junior but could never quite hack it in the NHL but, given his game-breaking upside, this is a swing worth taking for the Oilers. Especially because they already have internal replacements for McLeod.

Grade: A


Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty

It's easy to understand Buffalo's rationale in this trade - even if Savoie's ceiling is higher than McLeod's.

Like the Oilers, the Sabres also dealt from a position of strength. Despite trading Savoie, Buffalo's farm system remains loaded with high-end forward prospects who were selected in the first round, such as Jiri Kulich, Noah Ostlund, Isak Rosen, and Konsta Helenius. There's also young talent on the wings in the NHL with Zach Benson, JJ Peterka, and Jack Quinn.

Before this trade, Buffalo didn't have a third-line center it could trust in a shutdown role against dangerous offensive opponents. McLeod has the speed and checking ability to fill that role, as evidenced by his elite defensive metrics over the last three campaigns. He's also a penalty-killing ace and won 50.8% of his faceoffs a year ago - a mark that should continue to rise as the 6-foot-2, 207-pounder gets older and stronger.

McLeod isn't a black hole offensively, either - he made a sizeable step in his ability to drive play offensively last season. It may not have resulted in gaudy point totals, but 12 goals and 18 assists is nothing to scoff at for a 24-year-old center who didn't get power-play time and who most commonly played with Warren Foegele and Corey Perry at five-on-five.

The Sabres are also trying to end a 13-year playoff drought - the longest active streak in the league. This move immediately makes them a better team, and McLeod, who turns 25 in September, is young enough to grow in line with Buffalo's current core. He also can't become an unrestricted free agent until 2027.

If the Sabres become a perennial contender with McLeod playing a key role, this trade will likely be viewed as a success - regardless of what kind of player Savoie turns into. But if Buffalo fails to escape mediocrity and Savoie becomes a star in Edmonton, this has the potential to be disastrous.

In summary, McLeod is a great fit for the Sabres, but the price to acquire him was a bit too steep.

Grade: C

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox