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Departing O'Reilly sees good days ahead for Sabres

Ryan O'Reilly is thrilled with his new start but said his goodbyes to Buffalo Monday by acknowledging he's leaving some unfinished business behind.

The Sabres didn't make the playoffs in any of O'Reilly's three seasons and he was sent to St. Louis on Sunday night wondering what could have been here.

"It's frustrating, not what you want," O'Reilly said Monday on a conference call with reporters who cover the Blues and Sabres. "I love that city and love those guys on that team. I think they're a team that's very close, too. There's a lot of good pieces. It will be interesting to see what will happen with them.

"Obviously I'm disappointed. I wanted to be better and win there. It didn't happen and changes were made. Definitely I think they're in good hands and there's some great things to come there."

O'Reilly, of course, was traded in a 5-for-1 deal in the wake of his infamous comments on locker cleanout day in April when he said he had lost his love for the game. He said Monday he had no regrets on that front.

"I stand by them," he said. "I think I wanted to make a change. I wanted to personally do things different, be more honest and show I'm kind of making an effort to take responsibility and make that change. I just don't think it was perceived in maybe the best way. Sometimes that happens. I stand by it. Having a change and being traded, I'm happy with it."

“I’ve worked with Ryan in the past in international events, and I know he has a great passion,” St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong said Sunday. “I’ve certainly been guilty of saying things I was thinking and wishing I didn’t say them. He probably would add that to the list of things he wished he would have kept internal, but it was out there.

"He’s got great passion for the sport, he’s got great passion to compete and to win and, hopefully, this gives him the boost that hopefully he feels is necessary."

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O'Reilly said he "knew there had been some action" on the trade front but didn't know if St. Louis remained in the picture after the Blues signed Toronto's Tyler Bozak to a free-agent deal.

"It's disappointing to see that I wasn't a guy, a piece that could help," O'Reilly said of the Sabres. "But with that, I'm more excited there's another team that wants me ... a team that's got a ton of good pieces and is trying to win right now. That's what I want to be a part of.

"That's just the way the game goes. I don't know if it was my comments at the end of the year that got it rolling. But when your team finishes in last place, you expect changes to happen and I think they want to go younger."

The Blues had 94 points last season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011 with a loss to Colorado on the last day of the season. In the previous two years, they had been eliminated by Western Conference champion San Jose and Nashville, respectively.

"I plan to help this team get there and help this team win," he said. "You look at the playoffs now, all you have to do is get in and you have a chance of winning the Cup. I want to compete and this is one of the best chances to get that. I feel like I have a spark in me now. This is something different."

O'Reilly's son, Jameson, was born in Buffalo in December and he'll certainly have the city in mind every pay day, as the Pegulas and former GM Tim Murray provided him the seven-year, $52.5 million contract he carries with him to St. Louis.

"I do thank Buffalo for everything that they've done for me," O'Reilly said. "They've been monumental in my life and I wish everyone there the best of luck."

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