Cal O’Reilly followed his brother all the way to Russia. He might follow him to the Sabres’ organization.
The Sabres have had contract discussions with O’Reilly, the older brother of recently acquired center Ryan O’Reilly. Though Buffalo General Manager Tim Murray said Wednesday evening that a deal had not been reached, TSN reported the sides have agreed to a two-year contract worth $1.4 million. The journeyman reportedly has a one-way deal, meaning he’d earn the same pay whether he’s in Buffalo or Rochester.
The 28-year-old center is a playmaker who has excelled in juniors and the minor leagues but hasn’t found success in the NHL. He’s appeared in 113 games with Nashville, Arizona and Pittsburgh, recording 13 goals and 28 assists. The Predators drafted O’Reilly in the fifth round in 2005.
The 6-foot, 188-pounder spent all of last season in the minors, serving as captain for Utica of the American Hockey League. He led the team with 51 assists and 61 points in 76 games, then paced the Comets in the playoffs with 17 assists and 19 points in 23 games.
During his final season of junior hockey, O’Reilly had 81 assists and 99 points in 68 games for Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League.
The O’Reilly brothers signed with Magnitogorsk of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League during the 2012-13 lockout. Ryan O’Reilly returned to Colorado after the lockout ended, but Cal remained in Russia and played 14 games there the following season.
The Sabres added two other depth players, signing forward Jason Akeson and defenseman Matt Donovan to one-year, two-way contracts.
“We think they have a chance to play NHL games for us,” Murray said in First Niagara Center. “How many is up to them, not the coaching staff. We think they’re two good signings for the organization as far as depth goes.”
Akeson recorded 23 goals and 53 points in 57 games for Philadelphia’s minor-league team last season. The 25-year-old has appeared in 15 games with the Flyers, with a goal and an assist. He was undrafted but put up 84 assists and 108 points in 67 games during his final junior season with Kitchener of the OHL. His deal is for $575,000.
The 25-year-old Donovan was a healthy scratch most of last season with the New York Islanders, appearing in just 12 regular-season games and two in the playoffs. He totaled three assists and 14 penalty minutes. His contract is for $825,000.
A fourth-round pick of the Islanders in 2008, Donovan has two goals and 17 assists in 67 NHL games. During his last full season in the minors, he had 14 goals and 48 points in 75 games.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder is the only Oklahoma native in the NHL. He played at the University of Denver.
The question remains as to who will coach the Sabres’ minor-league team. The answer could be intriguing.
“We’re talking about doing some things that maybe haven’t been done before,” Murray said. “A couple guys that we targeted earlier are still talking to us, so they’re intrigued. Obviously, it’s going to happen sooner than later at this point, but it has taken some time. The reason for that is just different ideas.”