The Buffalo Sabres signed center Ryan O’Reilly to a seven-year, $52.5 million contract extension, while the Columbus Blue Jacket inked left wing Brandon Saad to a six-year, $36 million deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to The Buffalo News, O’Reilly will receive “$10 million in 2016-17, $8 million in 2017-18, $7.5 million in 2018-19 and $5 million for each of his final four seasons.” He’s being paid $1 million per season in actual salary, with the rest being paid as signing bonuses. The deal is structured that way as buyout protection for O’Reilly, as signing bonuses cannot be part of a buyout. It also allows him to skirt high escrow payments. You can bet O’Reilly’s contract will be copied by other players over the course of this CBA.
O’Reilly, the 2014 Lady Byng Trophy winner, is a very good two-way second-line center, and he’s not solely to blame for his salary skyrocketing so quickly during his tenure with the Colorado Avalanche. This is the biggest contract in Sabres history, and O’Reilly should prove a worthwhile addition to their club over the next eight seasons, but it’s just too much for a player of his skill set. This just set the market value for second-line centers going forward.
The Sabres really wanted O’Reilly, gave up a package of promising youth to get him and were willing to pay big to keep him. I’m not picking on the Sabres, for it they didn’t pay him that salary now, another club happily would’ve ponied up around the same amount next summer when he hit the UFA market. I just don’t believe O’Reilly, even if he plays at his best over the course of this deal, is worth $7.5 million per season.
Saad’s deal is a rich one as well, earning a huge pay increase over his $845K entry-level salary. The 22-year-old was a rising star with the Chicago Blackhawks, reaching career-highs last season in goals (23) and points (52). Playing alongside Blue Jackets top-line center Ryan Johansen, Saad should continue to see his production improve as he heads toward his playing prime.
This deal, however, will have consequence for the Jackets in two years time when Johansen is due a new contract. His negotiations with the Jackets got contentious last summer, and the fact the Jackets ponied up more money to Saad coming out of his entry-level deal than they paid to Johansen, who had better stats the past two seasons, likely won’t be lost on the Jackets center.