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Inside the NHL: As clock hits July 1, bell may toll for O'Reilly

Yes, Sunday is about free agency. The Sabres almost certainly will add Carter Hutton to be their starting goalie and keep looking for help on the wing, but the real story will be if we get any verdict on Ryan O'Reilly.

The Sabres paid O'Reilly's $7.5 million signing bonus at midnight as the clock struck July 1. Now we see what that means in terms of a potential deal.

1.) It could mean the Sabres will keep O'Reilly. Why pay out that kind of coin and then turn around and trade the player anyway?

2.) Perhaps, however, the team might do just that. Terry Pegula has deep pockets and maybe a team looking to get O'Reilly made it a condition of the deal that it would not pay that bonus this year.

3.) And maybe, the Sabres in turn make another prospect a condition of the return because they had to shell out that cash.

4.) Why trade O'Reilly at all? How many 24-goal, 61-point players does this team have and who is going to win a faceoff, especially in the defensive zone, if O'Reilly is gone?

Montreal and St. Louis remain the teams most closely connected to O'Reilly, although reports out of St. Louis are that center and No. 1 Blues prospect Robert Thomas is not part of any deal. O'Reilly is too big a piece on this team to deal for futures, and now that the draft is over and the No. 3 overall pick is not part of the talk, GM Jason Botterill has to know he should get NHL players in part of any deal.

Coach Phil Housley wasn't really getting into the O'Reilly situation when asked about it Saturday in HarborCenter.

"I just let Jason handle that. That's his priority," Housley said. "He's going to deal with that tomorrow and the next week."

Stay tuned.

Tavares decision looms large

As Stupid Season kicks off Sunday at noon, lots of elements of free agency seem predicated on where Islanders center John Tavares ends up. The Islanders and Maple Leafs, in particular, have moves to make based on where No. 91 lands.

The Leafs seem willing to float a massive one-year deal to Tavares for 2018-19, thus putting them in line to give him an eight-year extension after Jan. 1. Essentially, they would get him for nine years, quite a nifty circumvention of the CBA limit of seven years for an unrestricted free agent signing with another club.

Overall, this is an awfully thin market. If you need a center, good luck once you get past Tavares, Winnipeg's Paul Stastny and perhaps Toronto grinder Tyler Bozak.

On defense, Pittsburgh is reportedly set to massively overpay Columbus' Jack Johnson to the tune of five years and maybe $16 million. Two to watch is how much money goes to Calvin De Haan of the Islanders, who is coming off shoulder surgery, and Washington Cup champion Brooks Orpik, who was traded to Colorado and then bought out by the Avs. He could return to DC on a deal much smaller than the $5.5 million he had.

Also on the radar: Old friend Thomas Vanek might go back to Detroit because Columbus doesn't seem interested. Robin Lehner could be a fit in goal for Carolina or the Islanders. Where do Vegas wingers James Neal and David Perron end up? Might Perron end up in Buffalo?

And a big one after Tavares: Late Saturday night, word broke that winger James van Riemsdyk will be leaving Toronto going back to Philadelphia for five years and $35 million.

Sabre points

* Why would the Blues not try to keep Hutton in tandem with Jake Allen, especially when Hutton supplanted Allen as the starter for a spell last season?

They weren't going three years for a 32-year-old goalie because they have a top goalie prospect in Ville Husso, who is just 23, likely ready to step into the NHL in 2019-20. The last two years in the AHL, Husso's numbers have been 2.37/.920 and 2.42/.922.

Allen has three more years remaining on his deal at a cap hit of $4.35 million.

* It's an injustice that the selection committee continues to hold Alexander Mogilny out of the Hockey Hall of Fame. That's one tough job but a guy who had 473 goals in 990 games (missing 1 1/2 years due to lockouts), added 39 more goals in the playoffs and won a Stanley Cup should be in.

Mogilny had eight 30-goal seasons topped, of course, by his 76-goal outburst for the Sabres in 1992-93. And the cultural significance of being the first defector from Russia should easily push him over the top. Dave Andreychuk's wait was too long but he finally got in last year. Mogilny's day is coming.

* Blackhawks director of scouting Mark Kelley, describing Rasmus Dahlin to the Chicago Sun-Times:

"You're just excited to see him come to the league. ... He's a dynamic player. He plays hard and has fun out there. It's easy to look at him and project that he's going to be one of those franchise-altering players."

Development camp notes

* Sabres assistant GM Steve Greeley, when asked Saturday about Dahlin's big hit Friday on Matej Pekar, who had high-sticked the No. 1 pick in a previous practice: "It probably validates that we know how competitive a kid he is. It seems like he didn't lose the number from the day before."

* Fellow AGM Randy Sexton said character is really counting in the organization these days, starting as soon as a player is brought into the fold for development camp.

"We look for good people. Finding the good player is the easy part. The more difficult part is finding the good human being who's a good player," Sexton said Saturday. "So much feedback from our fans, the people in the community, restauranteurs, Uber drivers, whatever, about how polite and respectful each and every one of these players was, which we're very proud of."

* Best looking newcomer, non-Dahlin division: Defenseman Lawrence Pilut. Most improved player: Victor Olofsson, who now has an NHL release for his shot and looks like a real prospect and not close to a seventh-round pick. Always catches your eye: Vasily Glotov, another seventh-rounder. Look like NHL regulars, as they should: Casey Mittelstadt and Brendan Guhle.

* Great to hear "Luuuuuce" chants from some in the crowd Saturday in HarborCenter for camp invitee Griffin Luce of the University of Michigan. The Williamsville native is the grandson of Sabres Hall of Famer Don Luce, who heard that chant all the time in Memorial Auditorium during the 1970s.

In other camps

* Lancaster native Dylan McLaughlin of Canisius skated with the New York Rangers. The Hobey Baker Award finalist had 48 points in 36 games for the Griffs last season, collecting 17 goals and 31 assists.

* Nichols grad Carson Gicewicz of St. Lawrence, a former Prep Talk Awards Player of Year from Orchard Park, skated last week with Dallas. The forward finished fourth on his team last season with eight goals and 18 points in 31 games. His father, Rich Gicewicz, was a football standout at St. Joe's and Michigan State and spent parts of four seasons in the NFL with five teams, including the Bills.

* Niagara University forward Eric Cooley and defenseman Noah Delmas both skated in Toronto's camp. They were joined there by Derian Plouffe, who led the Purple Eagles in goals (17) and points (35) last season before signing an amateur tryout contract with the Toronto Marlies.

Plouffe played 10 games for the Marlies and signed an AHL contract with them on June 18, just four days after they won the Calder Cup.

* East Amherst native Nick DeSimone skated in San Jose's camp after playing full time last season for the Sharks' AHL team, the San Jose Barracuda. The defenseman had six goals and 14 assists in 59 games.

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