It’s been a busy week for Jason Botterill as he’s swung two trades that will have a significant effect on his roster. We lead off with a breakdown of Botterill’s biggest trade to date, in which he sent Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis for a package of picks and players. We briefly hit on the acquisition of Conor Sheary before transitioning into a discussion of what’s next on the docket for Botterill as he still has a few holes left to fill on his roster.
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The Rick Martin trade tree’s life got a big boost when Evander Kane was dealt for a pair of draft picks at the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline. Little did we know that it would get an even bigger boost this summer as Ryan O’Reilly was dealt for a big package of players and picks.
Tage Thompson and the pair of picks the Sabres acquired give the team a trio of solid assets to build with and all three could one day contribute to future growth of the trade tree below. We’ll probably see a branch or two more from this tree before it finally runs its course.
It’s easy to get overly excited about development camp. Any group of highly skilled, largely NHL-caliber hockey players will typically look pretty good working through drills. Especially small-area skill drills with minimal defensive challenge. There’s plenty to glean from the week as fans, media and coaches have the opportunity to see players perform in a variety of settings but crowning greatness from the endeavor can be tricky.
I’ve been guilty of taking too much away from the camp myself. Back in 2012 I was convinced that Judd Peterson was sure to be a late-round gem due to his development camp performance. Since then I’ve tried to avoid falling into the same trap. I’ve found it helpful to focus on individual growth and skills rather than trying to project any sort of impact onto the Buffalo Sabres roster. In other words, I’m not trying to name an MVP based on the stickhandling drills they did on Friday.
There are some obvious caveats to this. Casey Mittlestadt’s coming out party last year helped to erase some of the doubts people had about him heading into the draft. Even just a few weeks removed from his draft Mittelstadt was among the most skilled players at the camp and his play certainly inspired confidence in the fanbase, and perhaps the organization as well. But there are just as many cases where an impressive camp performance won’t accurately reflect where a player stands organizationally. So I try to keep that in mind when attending camp.
With that in mind, I’m going to try something a little different with my round up. This will be more of a notebook, touching on players who showed either growth or intriguing upside based on their play. Continue reading →
A Twitter conversation led NHL.com’s Joe Yerdon and I to sitting down for a podcast on the goalie market and how it affects the Sabres. We run through the pros and cons of the thin free agent crop while also touching on some more interesting trade options which could come to light.
For a team hoping to reshape their identity this offseason, the Buffalo Sabres are seriously short on talent and assets which can be parlayed into the type of deals which would bring about any sort of marked improvement.
Outside of Ryan O’Reilly, who could fetch a king’s ransom should he be traded, the Sabres have scant few assets they can give up in trades. They’re short on picks and expendable prospects with value. O’Reilly is the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue and San Jose’s first round pick is another valuable option but there isn’t much beyond that.
One avenue available to Botterill is a path he’s ventured down once during his time as the Sabres GM. Taking on salary to land the player he’s seeking. Even with the added cap hit that Jason Pominville carried, the deal that brought Pominville and Marco Scandella to Buffalo was a coup for the Sabres. Botterill was able to acquire a solid defenseman for his top four for a pair of forwards who were quickly becoming spare parts in Buffalo. The Sabres took on about $3mm in cap when it was all said and done, a minor uptick to unload dead weight and seriously upgrade the blueline.
It’s a tactic Botterill is in position to take advantage of once again this summer. Continue reading →
There’s a ton of scuttlebutt about dealing O’Reilly, if the third overall pick is actually in play and we have official word that the Sabres are in the goalie market after confirming Robin Lehner won’t be back.
So here’s a quick pre-draft mailbag to whet your appetite ahead of this evening.
Matt/@matt_hervan – Where are the deals?
I don’t know, Matt. But I’m getting sick of waiting.
Ron/@Ehlanded – For fun, if Buffalo had the third pick in draft and not first, who would the fans be clamoring to draft?Continue reading →
Aside from selecting Rasmus Dahlin, Jason Botterill has quite the to-do list this summer and deciding to deal Ryan O’Reilly will likely serve as the flash point for the rest of Botterill’s maneuvering this offseason.
This isn’t just because there are a multitude of suitors who have been connected to O’Reilly in recent weeks. But because the potential ask and return has been as varied as the teams being connected to the center. The roster will look a whole lot different if Botterill obtains the third overall pick as opposed to receiving a package of players and prospects for O’Reilly. Thus, Botterill’s actions will be shaped by what he receives for O’Reilly in the coming days – if he’s moved at all.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle in dealing O’Reilly is finding adequate cover for all the things he offers to the Sabres. For all the complaints about his lack of speed, O’Reilly remains an incredibly effective centerman. He eats minutes against difficult competition with nearly 60% of his starts coming in the defensive zone at even strength. Through all of that he manages to have a positive relative impact on his teammates and maintains a quality and consistent level of offensive production.
There are few players around the league who could step in and fill O’Reilly’s role, meaning if he is traded, Botterill will have his hands full in filling O’Reilly’s very large shoes. That doesn’t mean the Sabres shouldn’t move O’Reilly, his skill set alone makes him an incredibly valuable trade chip and whatever locker room issues are at play add another layer to moving him. There will be a trickle down on the roster once he’s moved though, make no mistake about that. Continue reading →