Sabres Deadline Preview: Not Quite Buyers but Not Quite Sellers

The roller coaster ride the Sabres have been on this season hit another high point as the team rolled into their bye week. Despite falling to Chicago 5-1 and failing to get much help from the out-of-town scoreboard, the Sabres crawled within two points of a playoff spot on the eve of their bye week.

Sunday’s aftermath pushed the Sabres to a four point deficit, but their current state is a far cry from when they were fighting just to stay out of the Eastern Conference basement. Buffalo’s pre bye-week push has likely created a bit of a pickle for Tim Murray as his club is now far closer to buyer than seller status for next week’s trade deadline.

Buffalo’s narrow margin to the playoffs will erode over the next five days but they will gain back some of the games they held in hand over teams they’re chasing. It’s an imperfect argument, but the Sabres will be well within striking distance of a playoff spot, creating a difficult decision on selling expiring assets, let alone anyone else. Continue reading

Potential Return Helps Justify Moving Kane

Raise your hand if you didn’t want the Sabres to move on from Evander Kane this past summer. How about at the end of November, shortly after he had returned from breaking his ribs on opening night?

Put your hands down. Liars.

I too thought it was time for Tim Murray to cut bait from his big-ticket acquisition after Kane found himself in hot water for the second time in roughly six months. It seemed like the right choice to make; find a team searching for a bit more offense and see if you couldn’t get a little defensive help coming back the other way.

Now, just a few months later, my tune has changed. Slightly. Kane has scored at a torrid pace since early December, racking up 21 goals in three months’ time, all while going goalless through November – likely a side effect from returning from his broken ribs too early. Kane has now posted back-to-back 20 goal seasons for the Sabres despite missing 17 games last season and another 12 so far this year. He’s had injury issues through most of his career as his style of play isn’t conducive to completing an 82-game slate. However, his goal scoring has been something of a constant despite failing to hit the 70 game mark since 2011-12 (he did play all 48 games of the lockout shortened 2013 season). Continue reading

Scouting the Amerks – Blueline Focus

With 27 games left in the regular season every game in Rochester has vital importance. Things are looking very grim, as they are a staggering 10 points out of the playoff picture. The optimism that has come with the successes of Bailey and Rodrigues at the top level is not trickling down to the struggling AHL Affiliate. Instead serving as a ghastly reminder of lost talent in a time of desperation. During back-to-back losses this week, two Amerks stood out. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 5.34 – Talking Postgame Comments and the Sabres System with Bill Hoppe

Bill Hoppe joined the show this week to discuss the post game comments after Sunday’s loss to the Vancouver Canucks and where the weak points in Buffalo’s system lay. We also discuss the outlook on Buffalo’s UFAs as the trade deadline approaches. We want to thank Bill again for joining the show, you can find him on Twitter at @BillHoppeNHL and Buffalo Hockey Beat

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Sabres Should be Safe in Goal for Vegas Expansion

One of the storylines to track as the NHL inches closer to this summer’s expansion draft is what choices each team will make in goal. Due to their current contract situation, the Sabres are among the teams that have work to do in that department.

Unlike with forwards or defensemen, each team has a very simple set of rules to follow. You can protect one non-exempt goaltender and each team must expose at least one goaltender who is under contract for the 2017-18 season. Restricted free agents can be exposed so long as they have been tendered by their current club. It’s very straightforward and there’s little wiggle room when it comes to making a choice.

All three of Buffalo’s goaltenders are currently on expiring contracts and none have been extended at this time. Anders Nilsson is really the only one who is a threat to leave as a free agent as both Linus Ullmark and Robin Lehner are restricted free agents. That means Lehner and Ullmark will almost certainly receive their qualifying offers and negotiate a new deal for 2017-18, thus eliminating much of the guesswork when it comes to expansion. So while none of Buffalo’s goaltenders are signed through next season, they’re in much better shape than Calgary or Philadelphia, for example.

Note: All teams choices are projections and are subject to change. Only signed or notable non-exempt goalies were included on the above spreadsheet.
Note: All teams choices are projections and are subject to change. Only signed or notable non-exempt goalies were included on the above spreadsheet.

The Sabres are hardly the only team without a precise roadmap in goal in terms of the upcoming expansion draft. Philly and Calgary both have a pair of UFAs to decide on and a host of teams have goalies with NMCs but no signed backups who can be exposed. Chicago, Columbus, Nashville, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Washington all either have starters with an NMC or an obvious choice as to who they’ll protect. However, each has work to do in order to lock in a goalie who will be eligible to be exposed. Many of these teams will simply need to qualify their RFAs, so the work for many will be simple. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 5.33 – Eichel, Booing and more Sabres Deadline Talk

Chris and Tyler spend far too much time discussing the fallout from Jack Eichel’s harmless comments following the Sharks victory in addition to hitting on Buffalo’s You Can Play Night and the fast approaching NHL trade deadline. We also focus in on the continued rumors surrounding the Coyotes and Islanders while hitting on a few more trade deadline storylines as Brian Gionta, Dmirty Kulikov and Cody Franson are starting to come up on watch lists.

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The Instigator Podcast Interview – Featuring NFL Cleat Customizer Polo Kerber

This week’s Instigator Interview features Buffalo’s own Polo Kerber of Sole High. Sole High’s popularity has skyrocketed as Polo and his team have become the go-to for custom cleats throughout the NFL. We chat about the customization process, some of Sole High’s more notable NFL clients and an upcoming project they’ve worked on with Alex Ovechkin.

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