Two in the Mailbox: Number Changes and Offseason Targets

The expansion draft is less than 48 hours away and there will be ample time for another flurry of trades between Thursday and Friday’s first round. As we sit on the precipice of the next opportunity for the league’s GMs to swing some deals, it felt like a good time to run out another mailbag. With that said, let’s jump into your questions.

@donmanski – Do we still expect to see the Sabres have more than 1 top 10 pick in the draft? I thought it was attached to Reinhart going to Columbus but can’t recall where I was it.

You never want to set too high of an expectation that a pair of NHL GMs are going to do anything. But I’ll say that the original report was fairly definitive, so there’s almost certainly some truth to it. It comes down to whether or not the Sabres pull the trigger on a Jack Eichel or Sam Reinhart trade on either Thursday or Friday. Those are the two guys most likely to fetch the Sabres that extra top-10 pick, so that’s the chatter to watch.

As to who pulls the pick is anyone’s guess. Eichel has been connected to about 29 other teams in one way shape or form. With the most fervent chatter connecting him to Anaheim and third overall. Reinhart has been mentioned as a potential target for Columbus in addition to Vancouver. I wouldn’t advise anyone to have high expectations for the coming days just because there are so many moving parts involved and it feels like a tall order to get a trade of that magnitude sorted out. But crazier things have happened at the draft.

@elitheproph – What will be the first sign that the Sabres are taking Karmanos’ and Ventura’s advice seriously (or not)?

I think there’s some credit to be given regarding Jeff Skinner in this regard. I don’t know if I trust previous regimes to have taken that step. At a minimum I’d say it’s a good sign. I realize that some people are disappointed by the decision to protect Ristolainen over Borgen but I’m not losing sleep over that. Though I reserve the right to change my mind if Risto plays 26 minutes a night for another god forsaken season.

Kidding aside, I think you’ll start to see their finger prints on the roster once some of the bigger items get checked off the to-do list. This isn’t likely to be a summer like 2020 where the Sabres land some big names. So finding cost effective talent on the fringes of the roster will probably be as good a sign as any that Karmanos and Ventura’s voices are being heard.

@pastagut – Is Olofsson really changing his number and if he is would I look stupid getting his new number on my 50th anniversary jersey?

I’m not sure Ryan is getting enough credit for being the first person I saw to find Olofsson’s new number on the Sabres app. OneBuffalo app? Whatever. These two questions are somewhat moot since the Sabres announced Olofsson’s number change on Monday. But I’m always happy to dig into number changes.

Before this was official I poked around Google to see what other numbers Olofsson had worn previously in his career and 12 was the most common digits I’d found. So his decision to switch to 71 is curious in that respect. I’ll add that 71 is a visually attractive number and I’d go so far as to say this is an upgrade over 68. It sucks for everyone who bought Olofsson jerseys with 68 on them the last two seasons. Especially since number changes are a non-starter on NHL jerseys. That’s a tough look.

As for Andrew’s second question, getting the new number on an old jersey, I’d qualify that as a jersey foul. I have a pretty strict view on what is or isn’t foul, so keep that in mind. But he never wore 71 on the 50th sweater, so I’d steer clear of that. He did wear 68 for that season and I don’t see any reason not to get that number on the sweater even though he’s since changed to 71. It doesn’t erase his history in that particular jersey. If you had an old Blackhawks jersey you wouldn’t get Hasek 39 on it, your go with 31 or 34. I’d think of it that way; if the player wore the jersey, pick the number he wore the jersey with.

@sabersrumormill – Do a couple names like Halak or Landeskog hold any merit for a Sabres rebuild this off season?

Buffalo’s rebuild, if done right, is going to take a couple more years to ramp up. So springing for someone of Landeskog’s pedigree is a non-starter for where the Sabres are today. The only way I could possibly see that sort of thing happen is if the club decides to double down once more and try to make one last ditch run at a playoff berth with this core. Highly unlikely in my opinion. Guys like Landeskog – who will likely be the top free agent if he hits the market – and Halak – who will be looking for a competitor for one final Cup run – aren’t going to be jumping at any offers from the Sabres. Nor should the Sabres be giving too much thought to tabling an offer given where they’re headed.

@eternal_rebuild – Ideal UFA targets? This has kind of gone under the radar with all the trade and draft talk.

Some of their UFA strategy is going to be shaped by the deals they may or may not make before the 28th, so that’s worth keeping in mind here. The other piece to this is that staring down the barrel of a rebuild drastically alters the type of UFAs a team will pursue. Buffalo won’t be sending any max offers to the likes of Gabriel Landeskog or Dougie Hamilton, they’ll be looking for value additions that can strengthen the fringes of the roster.

I’m of the belief they should be creating opportunities for their younger players to get meaningful playing time. So, overloading on veteran free agents could be precarious, but they will need a body or two to plug a couple holes and offer some guidance to the younger core players. With that In mind, here are a handful of names who could be interesting targets. Be warned, none of these are sexy options:

  • Alex Wennberg/Erik Haula: Two centers who may find themselves squeezed by the flat cap market. Wennberg’s tripled his goal output from 2019-20, so he may in line for some more attractive options, but as bridge options, they could be worthwhile additions.
  • Brandon Pirri: An analytics darling who somehow hasn’t been able to stick in the league the last few years. I’m not entirely sure there will be an ideal fit on Buffalo’s roster, but a player with a bit
  • Mark Pysyk: An old friend who I’d be curious to inquire on. I doubt the Sabres will be desperate for defensive depth, but rounding out the 4-7 roles on the blueline could be a decent gig for Pysyk.
  • Riley Sheahan: I really liked Sheahan last year and I’d love to see the Sabres bring him back for another run.

@grantvoges – Carey Price waived NMC for the expansion draft?!?!?!

He sure did. It’s going to be a long couple of days to get to Wednesday night and we get clarity on whose bluff gets called when it comes to Price. I’m not sure the Kraken are going to go for it based on his salary and remaining term. I think they could do better things with that $10M in cap space.

@tpcr80n – Best solution to Sabres goaltending?

The short answer is Linus Ullmark. But I’m not overly confident they get a deal done with him given some of the opportunities that may exist in free agency. Getting Ullmark re-signed gives the Sabres a quality starter to lean on for the coming seasons. If it comes to replacing Ullmark, I would look for veterans on short-term deals as the option for this season. I don’t see this year’s roster as a world beater, so I’m not expecting a tandem that can land the Jennings to man the Buffalo net. I offered up a few more thoughts on this blog post recently.   

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