The Instigator Podcast 6.32 – What to do with Pick 32

The official selection of Rasmus Dahlin is hours away and one of the most popular questions in Sabres Nation is who the Sabres will select with the 32nd pick. We discuss the various options for the Sabres in the second round while also touching on Mike Hoffman being shipped from Ottawa to San Jose to Florida. We also touch on Barry Trotz’s resignation and the Domi-Galchenyuk trade.

 

Botterill Displays Impressive Foresight in Dealing Fasching

Thursday’s acquisition of Brandon Hickey and Mike Sislo was a minor trade in almost every sense. None of the players involved are trending to become stars in the NHL but Jason Botterill showed a fair bit of savvy in swapping Hudson Fasching for Hickey and Sislo.

Fasching was pretty well down the pecking order on the wing at the conclusion of last season with a host of younger players poised to vault him. Cliff Pu and Victor Olofsson will arrive for their rookie seasons this fall and they’ll add to a group that includes Justin Bailey, Danny O’Regan, Nick Baptiste, Alex Nylander, CJ Smith. Andrew Oglevie, Rasmus Asplund and Sean Malone are other forward prospects who are going to garner a fair amount of attention as well. Even without the additions of Pu and Olofsson on the wings, Fasching was falling out of the spotlight.

It’s been noted that his healthy scratch in the playoffs likely sealed his fate with the organization and if the trade didn’t make it clear enough, it is fairly evident that Botterill wasn’t planning on tendering Fasching with a qualifying offer. Botterill was able to acquire negotiating rights to a player he has more interest in rather than letting the burly winger walk for nothing.   Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.31 – Sabres Trade Chatter is Picking Up

There are a lot of rumors floating around the Sabres these days and in this week’s podcast we work to sort through the various rumors and identify just where the Sabres stand in terms of the players who are likely to move on this summer. We also touch on potential trade targets for Jason Botterill to focus on while sorting through the mess in Ottawa and putting a crown on the Capitals first Stanley Cup Championship.

 

Who Can the Sabres Target as Linus Ullmark’s Partner?

Three years removed from trading a first round pick for a player they hoped would cement their future at the position, the Buffalo Sabres goal crease remains in flux.

Linus Ullmark is poised to step into a full-time NHL role for the first time but who will partner with him for at least the 2018-19 season is still a question. Despite holding control over his RFA rights, it seems increasingly doubtful that Robin Lehner will be back in Buffalo for another season.

Ullmark’s progression has been steady to this point in his career and there’s no doubt he’s ready for this promotion. However, he’s never handled starter’s minutes at the NHL level. So it stands to reason that Jason Botterill will want to ease Ullmark into a starters role, though his 20 game foray in 2015-16 should provide some baseline for the workload he can handle.

There is something working in Ullmark’s favor here and that is he is no stranger to heavy workloads. He saw the majority of minutes with Modo in the SHL and has been a horse for the Amerks for the past two seasons. He’s played 55 and 44 games over the last two years and he led the AHL in minutes (3201:55), shots faced (1678) and saves (1525) in 2016-17.

What’s unknown is the number of games the Sabres hope to give Ullmark this season. Do they hope to get him in upwards of 50 games? Or is a 50/50 split a more manageable workload for a rookie goaltender playing behind a roster which is expected to see quite a bit of upheaval?

The only scenario I think we can fully rule out is Ullmark playing as a true backup. Even if Lehner is brought back, I doubt Ullmark gets into fewer than 35 games with his partner getting the lion’s share. The Sabres want to see if Ullmark is indeed their goaltender of the future and they won’t be able to accurately evaluate that if he gets a backup’s share of the games.

I’m hoping to see the Sabres pick up another younger netminder who can play in tandem with Ullmark. A peer who can push him for time while also opening another avenue to find a number one goaltender. Signing a veteran that they can string along on a one or two-year deal would be an acceptable option, but I think the younger route offers the Sabres a better long-term outlook, especially with a goaltender market as thin as this year’s. Continue reading

Two in the Mailbox – Arena Thoughts, Very Bad Trades and Offseason Targets for the Sabres

Two in the Mailbox, the (sometimes) weekly mailbag on the Sabres, goalie stuff, Buffalo and anything in between, is back. You can submit to the mailbag using #2ITBmailbag on Twitter or emailing 2intheboxbuffalo@gmail.com.

The mailbag is back post-Asplund and pre-draft. Before jumping into the questions for this edition, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the arena as it’s been in the news quite a bit recently.

The evolving arena renovations news has been very interesting to follow and it’s something I have a lot of interest in. I re-posted my arena renovations wish list last week to share my thoughts with anyone who may have missed it the first time around. Obviously that list is pretty pie in the sky in terms of some of the stuff I’m hoping for.

However, things on this front haven’t quieted down. It doesn’t appear that any work has started at One SHK III Plaza, which isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s very clear this is at the front of mind for a lot of people. Kim Pegula’s recent comments caused quite a stir and as a result a few people submitted questions regarding potential renovations for this week. This is me addressing those questions but also adding my two cents on the current status with the arena.

The idea of the Sabres building a new area is extremely intoxicating. Although KeyBank Center was built right in the middle of a big boom in new facilities around the NHL, it seems to lack a lot of the flexibility other arenas offer. I feel that the atrium gets over looked for how unique the space is, but beyond that, it’s a very utilitarian structure. There wasn’t a lot of thought given to common areas, nor is there much flexibility to create that type of space either. Add in other factors like the tall roof and there’s plenty of reasons that a mulligan would be preferable.

I struggle to see a new arena making sense given the amount of hype and investment made with HarborCenter. There is a lot of boasting about having the only “three rink” facility in the NHL. Even if that claim is a little creative, the layout of the two buildings certainly plays a role in keeping the Combine and potentially landing other key arena-focused events. A new building, even if it was built just down the block on the surface lots, eliminates that convenience.

That being said, Mike Harrington noted that current projections have the current renovation budget at about $50 million and, frankly, that number seems extremely low to me. If the target is to bring KeyBank Center up to par with the rest of the league, that cost would need to exceed $100 million. And if they’re in line to spend $100 or even upwards of $200 million on renovations which they’ll be somewhat handcuffed on – due to the building’s current layout – does it make more sense to bump the budget closer to $500 million and get the state-of-the-art arena of your dreams?

When it comes to spending other people’s money, I’m something of an expert. It would be incredibly exciting to get a shiny new arena downtown. Just look at what the Red Wings did with Little Caesars Arena for an idea of some of the trends in new arena design. But if the Pegulas are going to require a large public buy-in, I wouldn’t be nearly as excited at the prospect. That factor really poisons the well for me and pushes my preferences towards a renovation since the requirement for public money would be that much less (plus the other issues I mentioned above). But in a vacuum? Give me the new toy and let’s see how cool they can make it.

Now, on to your questions. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.30 – The Vegas Juggernaut

After a little time off we’re back with a slightly different approach to a Cup Final preview. Given that game one went down the day before we recorded, simply offering up a preview would be dirty pool. So instead we opted to discuss just how difficult this Vegas team is going to be to knock off. While Tyler isn’t as confident as I am that Vegas is fated to win this series, we revisited their roster construction and just what’s working for them as they steam towards a championship. We also hit on the recent signings by the Sabres and how Lawrence Pilut, Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Asplund will affect the team’s pipeline this coming year.

The Instigator Podcast Interview Featuring Rob LaLonde of Buttendz

As a Good Friend of the Pod™ Rob LaLonde basically has an open invite to come on the show and talk hockey and I was really excited to get him back on after he spent the winter traveling to the 2018 Winter Olympics and the Let’s Play Hockey Expo at the Minnesota State Tournament. 

Rob and I discuss a host of topics including the impressive growth of Buttendz around the NHL, how influencer marketing has been such an effective tool for hockey companies like Buttendz, Warrior and others. We also discuss how the sport is growing in new markets like Korea, Japan and China and the work Rob has done with youth teams in those countries.