Two in the Mailbox – Buyout Candidates, Team Speed and Bad Trades

Two in the Mailbox, the 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

Joe/@JoeHockeySabres – Who are the Sabres buyout candidates? What are the buyout rules regarding numbers and salaries? Who will they pay?

The Sabres only have one buyout on their books (Cody Hodgson). The other two (Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino) are compliance buyouts, to the Sabres have room to work if they opt for buyouts. Here is a good rundown of the NHL’s buyout rules.

Matt Moulson seems like a pretty safe bet, even though it would probably be wiser to stash him in the AHL again and just eat that final year of his salary. On a buyout, Moulson would carry a $3.667m cap hit next year and $667K the year after. That’s a minimal net savings compared to simply keeping him one more year, but it would free up another contract space.

The most valuable buyout would probably be Zach Bogosian. His run of injuries have been incredibly detrimental to his time in Buffalo and he has two more seasons left at a cap hit over five million. Buffalo would gain a fair bit of flexibility if they chose to buy him out. From a contract perspective, cap perspective and even clearing a roster spot for a player with more availability such as Casey Nelson or perhaps even Will Borgen, depending how ready he is come October.

The figures on the buyout would stretch Bogosian’s hit over four seasons with cap hits of $1.142m in the first two years and $2m in the final two years. That equates to cap savings of $4m in each of the first two years and a loss of $2m in those final two years. A total net savings of $4m, with $4m in space opened in the next two seasons creates extremely valuable wiggle room to operate under. That’s what makes Bogosian such an attractive option in my opinion. His current injury recovery might complicate matters as he may not be eligible to be bought out when the window opens. If he is, I’d be curious to see if Botterill takes advantage.

Garret/@GFalk87 – It seems every time Botterill is interviewed he mentions improving the team speed. Do you think that happens all internally? I was trying to think of some potential trades they could make: Burakovsky comes to mind as a guy for a chance of scenery move

The solution will definitely come from internal change. You can cherry pick NHL free agents and target certain players in trades but the draft and college free agent signings will be the primary avenue for injecting speed and elite skaters into the roster. The last few offseasons have brought about an impressive crop of strong skaters. CJ Smith, Casey Nelson, Casey Mittelstadt, Marcus Davidsson, Rasmus Asplund, Cliff Pu, Brendan Guhle, that list goes on a fair bit depending how deep into drafts you want to dig.

The greatest benefit to trades is the ability to obtain NHL talent as opposed to having to sit on prospects while they develop. But the draft gives you at least four or five players to plug into the pipeline at one time. So there will certainly be a combination of the two, but the sheer volume offered by the draft and college free agents is the true path forward.

Jared/@jxredNHL – Do you think the Sabres just use the winter classic jerseys for their alts next season?

We got two third jersey questions this week. Fun! I think it would be very surprising to see the Sabres opt for a different jersey design for a third jersey next year. The Winter Classic uniform is wildly popular and given how terrible the design and promotion of the Turd Jersey was, the team would be foolish to not take the easy win by shoving the Winter Classics into the rotation and to wear them as often as they possibly can.

Very Bad Trades

New feature! As part of the mailbag I will grab the worst trade (or maybe trades) from HFBoards or CapFriendly and share them with you here along with a very brief FJMing of the very worst armchair GMs among us.

Our first entry comes from CapFriendly user Shibbal18. They hit all the key ingredients for a good CapFriendly armchair GM. Assume the Sabres are getting Rasmus Dahlin? Check. Include Nathan Beaulieu in a trade? Check. Assume the Sharks 2nd round pick becomes a first? CHECK!

Of course the hallmark of this entry is the Very Bad Trade® at the center of this offseason gameplan. Here we see the Sabres sending Alex Nylander, Johan Larsson, Beaulieu, Victor [sic] Antipin, Nick Baptiste, a second round pick and Robin Lehner in exchange for Anthony Mantha, Nick Jensen and the very bad, no good contracts of Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm.

Mantha is a very good player and he’d be nice to toss into Buffalo’s top six. He’d be great to target, but not for this pile of seemingly random assets. Conversely, he isn’t so good that it would make taking back two albatross contracts worth it – nor do they make the crappy Sabres side adequate for the offer. So we have a unicorn of sorts in that the deal is both too rich and too poor for both teams to consider. I mean, why wouldn’t the Sabres want Abdelkader for five more years at $4.250m and Helm for three more years at $3.850m? And why would the Red Wings say no to two third pair defensemen, two bottom six forwards, a prospect whose development has been slow thus far, a second round pick and a restricted free agent goalie?

Typically you see a pile of garbage “traded” for a player (or players) well above the actual value of the package “offered”. Rarely do you see one pile of garbage traded for another pile of garbage. Special stuff.

David/@davidjcervi – Have we learned anything of value this season other than Eichel=great?

I think so. Nothing so ground breaking that you’d look at 2018-19 and feel a great swell of confidence regarding their outlook, but there are a few slivers of hope worth enjoying.

A lot of Rochester’s success has mostly been driven by AHL vets as opposed to prospects, but there have been a few key players at the center of Rochester’s improvement. Brendan Guhle, Casey Nelson, CJ Smith and Linus Ullmark have been big contributors and they’re probably safe bets for NHL spots next season. Nicolas Baptiste hasn’t scored at the rate he did last year but his time with the Sabres makes him look like a likely contributor as well.

Getting some contribution from those guys is definitely promising and I think Jason Botterill hasn’t gotten enough credit for acquiring Marco Scandella. Scandella has been a steady presence and if you add in the promise Guhle and Nelson have shown, there is reason to believe the defense corps is getting closer to turning things around. But that’s about all I’ve got.

Kevin/@kevinpalmer Why is Ed Helms annoying to me? What do you do with the Bailey, Baptiste, Fasching Group? What are the three big questions going into the offseason? WTF do you do with Lehner? What expectations do you have for Olofsson? So if Nylander has 15 points in 15 games, seems to be doing more down low. But most of his 15 points are secondary assists and came in clusters are we supposed to think he still sucks?

Lot of questions from Kevin. Let’s work from the top to the bottom shall we? I can’t help you with Ed Helms. I enjoy him just fine but if you dislike him that’s fine too.

On Bailey, Baptiste, Fasching, I think we’re seeing some clarity on where they’ll shake out. Bailey seems to be trending towards more of a 4A type guy than a full-time NHLer. That is likely due to unfortunate circumstances than the lack of skill or effort on his end. But for some reason he just can’t keep it together long enough when he’s recalled. That goal he scored against Vegas was terrific and the exact type of play you’d think he’d make. Lots of speed, soft hands and a good finish. But then that kind of goes away and he winds up scratched or sent down. Baptiste is looking like the best of the bunch at the moment even if it’s just as a bottom six speedster. His scoring touch might develop after another year or two of full-time NHL play which would make him a nice mid-round steal.  Fasching definitely brings up the rear here. He’s been up and down with the Amerks and it’s looking like Murray’s gamble on his big post-draft year was ill-fated. They could really use Brayden McNabb right about now.

I’d let Lehner walk. Maybe you can get a later pick for his negotiating rights but Ullmark is ready to the point that they can use him in tandem with a 1B/2A type vet (think Jaro Halak) and have an acceptable pair in goal.

We’ll see when Olofsson gets an NHL contract but he’s going to need a year or two in the AHL to adjust to the small rink, pace of play, etc. etc. I don’t have sky-high expectations simply because there are plenty of hurdles for him to clear before he’s knocking on the door for an NHL job. But it is nice to see a seventh round pick show so much upside.

And Alex Nylander. He’s become a divisive figure in Sabres Nation. I think his turnaround is super promising. It seems like he’s playing with more pace, with a better nose for the puck and the type of results people expected from him when he was drafted. It stands to reason that he’s fully recovered from his groin injury and his struggles earlier in the year were a result of that. I was never at a point of thinking he sucked or was a bust, but his middling production definitely caused me to move him out of consideration as a player who could help very soon and as someone who was going to require a longer development track. I’m not too worried that he’s picking up secondary helpers, by all accounts he’s been right in the mix lately, so my hope is that this surge is a sign that he was hampered by injury and he’s ready to take a big step forward in his development.

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