Over-Thought: Sabres Need to Shop for College Free Agent Goalies

The final weeks before the deadline always seem to drag. Probably because the same rumors keep getting recycled, debunked and then re-reported. This week’s edition as rumor-heavy as you might expect two weeks out from the deadline, but I suspect next week’s will be chock-full of rumors.

Check out this week’s edition of 31 Thoughts here.

  1. One GM who could change the market over the next few days? Minnesota’s Paul Fenton. His team is still clinging to a playoff spot, but Mikko Koivu is out for the year. Ownership always pushes for the playoffs, but what do the Wild honestly think about their situation?

The Wild are bobbing in and out of a wild card spot and they’ve spent the last number of seasons as a playoff club unable to get over the hump. Having to get through Chicago or Nashville or the Blues at the height of their powers certainly didn’t help.

But now Minnesota’s core is beginning to age. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are both 34 and still have six years left on their deals, Jared Spurgeon is 29, Devan Dubnyk is 32 and Mikko Koivu is 35. They already parted ways with Nino Niederreiter and there have been rumors that Charlie Coyle may be on his way out. Both were already inching to their late-20s and both Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund are in the same spot. Coyle, Granlund and Zucker are hardly long in the tooth, so don’t misinterpret this as all doom and gloom for the Wild, but they’re probably approaching a period of transition. They’re not completely cooked when it comes to prosepcts but they’re not flush with young talent either. They always feel close but unable to push the right button to bring it all together. If they miss the playoffs this year I would suspect they’d be in the market for some fairly significant change come the summer. Continue reading

What’s Next for the Sabres Hall of Fame?

Dominik Hasek was the last person inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame. That came in March of 2014, just a few months before his Hockey Hall of Fame induction and a little over two years since Dale Hawerchuk and Rick Jeanneret were inducted.

In the five years since Hasek’s induction, the only major changes on the Sabres alumni landscape was the retirement of his number (one year later in January 2015) and the erection of Tim Horton’s statue in October of 2014. According to the Sabres Hall of Fame listing on the Alumni Association website (which does not yet include Hasek on the list of inductees), the current five-year induction hiatus matches the longest stretch the organization has gone through. They also went five years with no action between 1989 and 1994. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.19 – Evaluating Housley

We’re back after another break to take a look at just what Phil Housley has done well and what he’s done poorly. We run through the questionable lineup decisions he’s been part of and some of the odd on-ice deployment he continues to favor. Along the way we also touch on the women’s game, as they’ve captured quite few headlines in recent weeks between the exploits of Kendall Coyne Schofield at the NHL Skills Competition and setting a new attendance record with the NWHL All Star Game in Nashville.

Over-Thought: Jackets Backed into a Corner with Bob and Bread

I’m a few days late with the OT this week but better late than never. This week’s edition is technically last week’s, with thoughts coming from Elliotte Friedman’s column breaking down the Auston Matthews extension. If you haven’t already, you can read the entire column here.

  1. Over the weekend, the feeling was Florida would not make trades for Panarin or Sergei Bobrovsky — feeling there was no need to spend assets when the Panthers liked their chances in free agency. Monday, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported the Panthers are thinking about trading for Bobrovsky, so as to give him eight years. We will see where this goes, but don’t be surprised to see Florida continue to try to clear room. Mike Hoffman, now in his fifth-straight 20-goal season, could be another to go. Teams are always looking for scorers.

This rumor keeps gaining steam and it’s an extremely unenviable position for the Blue Jackets to be in. As a member of Team Chaos, I’m all for seeing this deal go down. At the deadline. There’s an added bonus of a division rival potentially carrying $14m-plus in goaltender contracts, so I’d be happy to see the Panthers get aggressive for the pair of pending UFAs.

Today’s report that Jonathan Huberdeau could be a potential casualty for the Panthers to clear the space for the pair added even more fuel to the fire, though Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period threw some cold water on the report. This has to be a tricky one to navigate for the Blue Jackets as they’re backed into a corner on each player and it seems apparent that they’ll each be wearing new uniforms next season. They’re a strong team that’s probably one or two pieces away from being a serious contender. They’re hardly in a position to be trading their top scorer or starting goalie. They should be adding in an attempt to get over the hump in the East. Do you keep Panarin and Bobrovsky as “rentals” for the postseason, make your run and deal with the fallout in the summer? Or do you try to double down? Ship them for assets in an attempt to flip the return into more bodies prior to the deadline? If Huberdeau was truly on the block, I’d be taking a long look at pulling the trigger on the deal if I were Jarmo Kekalainen. Huberdeau isn’t Panarin but he keeps you afloat offensively. Add in whatever else the Panthers will be offering (Brassard, picks, prospects) and the opportunity to leverage those assets prior to February 25. That would require a lot of moving parts but it offers the Jackets more stability for this season without the threat of the bottom falling out immediately after.

I still think this plays out in the summer. Are the Panthers confident enough that an eighth year is enticing enough to swing a deadline deal? Is there enough time for the Jackets to turn the non-NHL bodies they’d receive into more help for a playoff push? If I’m Florida I’d be working to maximize the return I can get at the draft in order to shed salary with plans on putting together two big offers on July 1. Continue reading

Just What Does Botterill Have to Offer in a Trade?

For the first time in a while the Sabres are in a position to buy ahead of the trade deadline. Or, at the very least, use their picks and prospects to add rather than selling bodies to build assets.

Their post-November slide is complicating matters, as they’re doing impressive work to fall out of playoff contention. That slide will likely temper Jason Botterill’s urge to get too aggressive prior to the deadline as a struggling team with picks to spare isn’t won’t get much charity from around the league. Of course, they probably weren’t getting too many cheap offers at the peak of their winning streak either.

We aren’t privy to any conversations Botteril is having during the season, so we’ll never know how active he is during the year. But Botterill hasn’t taken much of a shine to in-season trades in his short term as general manager. And it’s the general manager’s job to assess the market as it fluctuates to determine when to pull the trigger. He’s made five in-season (counting the Deslauriers deal made on the eve of last year’s opener) trades and only one was of any real significance. That being the deal that sent Evander Kane to San Jose and it was no secret that deal was coming.

Botterill’s done most of his work in the offseason, when prices are typically lower and more players are usually available. Even with the Sabres finally back in the conversation, he may still opt to make his big moves in the offseason for those two reasons. That will frustrate a lot of fans as you’d hope Botterill is at least working to keep his team competitive down the stretch.

The other obstacle facing Botterill is what exactly he will be able to offer that other clubs will value when it comes time. Buffalo’s pipeline isn’t packed with talent – one reason that Botterill is likely reticent to deal his firsts. Nor are the players they have in the pipeline obvious talents another team would covet. There is talent to be offered, just not the overabundance you’d want when it comes to a continued retooling.

I compiled a list of players and picks that are either obvious assets for Botterill to use in trade talks, or names that I’ve seen mentioned by fans in various instances. Not all of these are even likely to be moved, but an attempt to compile a somewhat comprehensive list of assets that could be packaged or players who could be moved in order to create new opportunities for others. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.18 – Post All Star Outlook

After honoring the Sabres’ bye week we are back in action with some post All Star fun. We run down Peter Chiarelli’s firing in Edmonton and Toronto’s acquisition of Jake Muzzin. We also use the Muzzin acquisition as a way to reflect on Buffalo’s current status ahead of the trade deadline. In the theme of the last few episodes, we determine the tough decisions Jason Botterill will need to make regarding not only trade targets but the price he wants to pay to upgrade this roster.

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Over-Thought: Rumor Season is About to Hit Full Throttle

Doing a breakdown of Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts is hardly an original venture but it was something I did every now and then for Dave Davis and The Buffalo Star. In an attempt to get some more content on the site I thought I’d resurrect this feature here at 2ITB for your reading enjoyment.

A primer, for those who may not be familiar with the practice: I’ll take a handful of topics from the most recent 31 Thoughts published by Sportsnet and offer up a few additional thoughts and opinions on the news of the week. The original text will be bold.

If you haven’t read this week’s edition yet, you can find it here.

  1. On Burakovsky: The Capitals have asked for a couple of mid-to-high round draft picks in exchange (seconds and thirds would be a good get) for him. That would give them more flexibility and assets to chase what they need. Even with a seven-game losing streak, absolutely no one is writing them off.

The Sabres haven’t been directly connected to Burakovsky yet but he’s better than at least five of Buffalo’s current wingers. If they plugged him into a top-six role, there’s reason to believe he’d surpass the production he’s had the last three years in Washington. He’d certainly be more effective than he’s been in Washington this year considering he’s struggled to crack the Capitals’ lineup.

That he’s been unable to cement a regular spot is disconcerting. He’s a quality player with elite skill, someone I’ve personally been a fan of going back to his time with the Erie Otters. However, he’s bordering on project territory and that’s not something I’d be too keen on seeing the Sabres take on. Luckily the expected price on Burakovsky is pretty low. A second and a third round pick would be pretty affordable and it could dip lower if his production stays stagnant leading up to the deadline.

If the Sabres could somehow leverage the Capitals to move Burakovsky for less than a 2nd and a 3rd (perhaps they’d like the added depth Nathan Beaulieu would offer along with a draft pick) I’d be very pleased with acquiring him. It’s a situation worth tracking as the opportunity to pair Burakovsky with a more aggressive deal to add young talent at center would represent a strong step towards remaining in the playoff conversation in 2018-19. Continue reading