Two in the Mailbox: Rebuilds, Coaches and GMs, Oh My

Congratulations to the Sabres for once again failing to play a meaningful game in March. This season comes with the added bonus of having started in January.

As a result of the current state of the only Buffalo pro sports team competing, this week’s mailbag is a little bleak. We have questions on rebuild potential, prospects and the owners.

@smellglove – How would a rebuild put the organization in a better position than where it currently stands?

That’s going to depend on what you define as the main issue plaguing the Sabres. If you think their pipeline needs to be restocked so there’s a chance at building internally, you’re probably going to favor a rebuild. If you think clearing cap so the team has a chance to reallocate dollars is key, you will also favor a rebuild. However, if you think the team needs to add talent, you may look more favorably on staying the course, to a certain extent.

For me, the decision to rebuild will hinge on Jack Eichel. If we’re to believe he and the team are barreling towards a trade, then I think the only real option facing the Sabres would be to rebuild. I can’t see a scenario where the Sabres come out ahead by making a “hockey trade” involving Eichel. Their holes will remain, as will their cap issues. So if they’re trading Eichel, they’re almost certainly going to have to strip the team down, selling off the likes of Reinhart, Ristolainen and others and embarking on another rebuild through accumulating draft picks and prospects. On one hand, it gives them the ability to restock their cupboards and adds flexibility in the future. On the other, they’ll once again be banking on draft capital and prospects for a lot of the heavy lifting.

They really may not have any choice but to rebuild at this point, even though it’s not going to be palatable to anyone, including myself. Bu there are very few alternatives presenting themselves.

@kdogg7775 – What’s the Sabres Goal song?

Scholars speak of a song sung by DJ Kool that once filled the rafters of Key Bank Center with joy. But those days are long past and the DJ booth sits empty, dust collecting on the fog horns, waiting for the day that a Buffalo Sabre shoots the puck past an opposing goalie.

@greysuits – When do the Sabres trade Hall, and what can they get for him? Is there any chance Reinhart signs anything other than a 1 year deal after this season?  Is it too late for the Sabres to trade for a goalie at this point?

The Athletic published their first deadline target list and one executive who was quoted said he thinks the best the Sabres will do is a second-round pick for Hall. I don’t know if that’s a fully fair assessment of Hall, but a package similar to what Evander Kane got might be a realistic expectation, where the first-round pick is determined based on how far the team who acquires him manages to advance in the playoffs. The Sabres retaining salary may also help juice an offer when the time comes. Though they’ve never seemed to have a penchant for that sort of thing. You should also keep in mind Hall’s no movement clause. If reports that he likes it in Buffalo are true, he may opt not to waive, leaving the Sabres with no ability to cash in on his rental status.

Sam’s extension will hinge on what the Sabres are willing to offer and the team’s success. If the team stinks all the way down the stretch and the Sabres are playing hardball, he’ll take the team to arbitration and walk himself to UFA status as quickly as possible. If things get a little better or if the Sabres finally see the value in his game, a longer extension may be in the cards.

The ship has probably sailed on a goalie. I don’t think this is a team that takes itself seriously because if they did, they would have found an alternative for Carter Hutton at this point. Jonas Johansson had a decent outing against the Flyers over the weekend, but this is simply not a tandem any team can trust to be successful over any serious period of time. Maybe they surprise us and make an acquisition, but I think this team is happy to let another season wither and die. Besides, it doesn’t really matter what goalie they have if they continually fail to score goals.

@tonepucks – O/U 91 wins for the White Sox?

Is Frank Thomas still there? Is the team taking those vitamins he’s always doing commercials for? What are those pills for anyway?

Let’s go over 91 wins for the White Sox. Why not?

@buffalocentric – What happens first? We hear from one of the owners or a player scores a goal.

Ha. Good joke. Does the statement that moving away from (716) in favor of another owner count as hearing from the owners?

I have next to no expectation that the owners will say anything publicly. Not that I’d want them to anyway. Every time they’re in public they wind up with a mouthful of foot. As much as I’d like to hear what the owners have to say for the trainwreck they’re presiding over, I don’t need Terry to gee golly his way through a question or for Kim to use 18 words she got from a Gladwell book without answering a question.

Put me down for a goal. A five-on-five goal at that! The team is rudderless and the pair doing the steering have played a major role in that.

@nateosu29 – Any juicy trade rumors out there?

I’ve got nothing for you. Obviously the Eichel gossip is out there but those aren’t really rumors, it’s just speculation. Instead, let me float something the Sabres should be doing: pursuing the Flames.

Things are not going all that well in Calgary and we’re on year two of hearing that a shakeup is imminent. I don’t know how they’d do it without sacrificing some serious assets, but Matthew Tkachuk is a truly excellent player and if the Flames are vulnerable, and the Sabres pony up, it would be a trade that could really bring about some change for the Sabres. Tkachuk is one of the power forward unicorns akin to Tom Wilson; a guy who is super physical and super skilled. Now, getting him would mean giving up some serious assets. I’m talking unprotected firsts or even someone like Dahlin. But for a player of that skill level, you’d have to consider it.

@bvfa12 – How much have the Pegulas wasted on wrong/poor hires?

@mrpotter – Do the Pegulas still owe Botts, Bylsma, Housley money?

I’m fuzzy on the rules when it comes to execs and coaches being hired elsewhere since some guys have their contracts wiped once they get a new job. Rex Ryan’s ESPN deal comes to mind here. I know that Bylsma signed a five-year pact and that was in 2015, so they’re either out from under that given his job with the Red Wings, or about to be this summer. Same goes for Housley and Botterill since they’re both working but not in the same role.

If I had to guess – and I’m sure someone out there has the actual answer – you’re paid by your team for the full value of your deal until it expires. There might be something in place in the event someone gets a job equal to or better than the one they lost, but if they take a demotion I’d imagine they still get compensated. With that in mind, the Sabres are still on the hook for Botterill, Housley and perhaps a bit for Bylsma. I believe Murray is off their books.

That’s a lot of teak for the super yacht going up in smoke.

@sabresamerknews – When can we expect William Worge Krue

I’m not going to hold my breath on this one. A late round pick and a defenseman whose production even in Allsvenskan has been minimal? Probably not trending towards any great results. If he were to get a pro deal it would likely come after this season or next. But I’m not counting on it.

@mariom1776 – When are we going to hear from the GM? Someone has to be accountable by now?

Doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen any time soon. I think the entire organization is out of answers. Krueger got caught holding the bag on Eichel and almost fully contradicted everything he said about Jeff Skinner on his radio hit Tuesday morning. The owners wanted to make an insular hire because they didn’t feel like they could trust hockey people anymore and it has led to a stripped down front office with very little insulation for criticism.

It strikes me that they are enamored with the work Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have done with the Bills and wanted to replicate that dynamic with Krueger dictating his needs to the GM, and the GM then executing on those wishes. Obviously things aren’t working and now they’re dealing with the fallout of their actions. Krueger speaks a fair bit and while a lot of it is gobbledygook, he’s at least on record. There’s really only three other people left to speak and they are Adams and the owners. And I certainly don’t expect to hear from the latter any time soon.

@scottymcss – When is the last time a Pegula was spotted at a Sabres game?

Totally spitballing here but I do remember seeing him on camera during a game pre-lockdown. So relatively recently given all that’s been going on.

@itsmaverick – Should we have traded Eichel two weeks ago or a month ago?

You don’t trade your best asset in the midst of a slump. That would be a monumental mistake for the team to make. Also, thanks to Krueger confirming Eichel is banged up, you have that to consider too. I don’t know how serious his injuries are but despite not looking himself this year, he was still leading the team in points prior to sitting out those few games. Which is notable considering how bad everyone in blue and gold have looked. If there’s anyone who is going to lead them out of this, it’s the guy who received Hart votes less than a year ago.

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