Even with Ullmark in Hand Sabres Need to Supplement their Goaltending Pipeline

While the Sabres didn’t lose Linus Ullmark to the Vegas expansion draft, Buffalo’s goaltending pipeline remains a weak point within the organization; something that will need to be addressed this summer.

It appears evident that Cal Petersen will exercise his right as a free agent and sign with one of the league’s other 30 clubs. UPDATE: Jason Botterill confirmed today that Petersen will test free agency, adding that he doesn’t expect Petersen to sign with the Sabres.

That leaves the Sabres with only Jonas Johansson and restricted free agent Jason Kasdorf (edit: Kasdorf still has a year left) in the pipeline. With Ullmark set to graduate to full-time duty as Robin Lehner’s backup, the Sabres will need to get to work on finding help in net.

Count on the draft being the first step towards remedying the situation. The Sabres will draft at least one goaltender this weekend and may have been slated to spend a late round pick on a second had they not shipped their sixth round pick to Vegas as part of the expansion draft. Spending a pick on Jake Oettinger or Keith Petruzzelli (profiled in Kris Baker’s draft preview) would provide the Sabres a high value prospect to groom over the next couple of seasons. Both fit the blueprint of a modern NHL goaltender; a big body that can move well and both would instantly upgrade Buffalo’s goaltending depth.

Beyond the draft, the Sabres could use a few assets to take on key minutes in Rochester and to push Lehner and Ullmark. At the very least, the Sabres need to acquire one goalie this summer. Kasdorf is most likely to be shuttling between Rochester and Cincinnati, if not taking permanent residence with the Cyclones after a rough rookie season. A goaltender to work in tandem with Johansson in Rochester, if not a player capable of ascending to a higher level with additional growth, will be needed. Continue reading

Minor Tweaks Equal a Major Win for Sabres Jerseys

The Sabres new uniforms aren’t royal blue and that’s okay. The slight tweaks the Sabres jerseys received in the Adidas changeover drastically improved the overall look of both the home and road jerseys.

In conjunction with Adidas and the NHL, the Sabres took a step away from the grey/silver accents that have graced the uniforms since featuring prominently during the red and black era and being utilized as an accent on the Slug jerseys. Gone are the wildly unpopular apron stripes and arm pit accents.

It’s unfortunate that there was so much hubbub regarding switching to royal blue from navy because it ultimately distracted from what was one of the better redesigns in the entire league. Prior to the rumors and guesswork – some of which I’m guilty of – I think the number one item on almost every fan’s hit list would have been the silver accents. With those two prominent and unpopular features in the trash, the Sabres uniforms are cleaner and simpler and look that much better as a result.   Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.3 – Vegas Mock Expansion Draft Extravaganza

With the expansion draft nearly here we sit down to offer up our own mock drafts before George McPhee announces the Golden Knights roster. We attempted to follow as close to the currently reported deals as we could in order to put ourselves in a similar situation to what McPhee will be facing. Additionally, we break down Buffalo’s acquisition of Nathan Beaulieu along with the other pre-expansion trades that went down over the weekend.

Here are links to each of the mock drafts we put together:

Chris’ Mock Draft
Tyler’s Mock Draft

Housley Hiring Provides a Bright Outlook

It isn’t often you find a pair of management and coaching candidates so universally accepted by a fanbase, but the Sabres have found just that in Jason Botterill and Phil Housley.

You’d be hard pressed to find any significant contingent of the fanbase who didn’t want Housley named as head coach and the Sabres met those expectations with yesterday’s announcement. Housley comes to the Sabres after a successful turn as an assistant with Nashville, a gold medal as the head coach of the USA World Junior Championships roster and a handful of other roles tied to USA Hockey.

Nashville’s talented and active blueline was pretty much the antithesis of the defense corps the Sabres rolled out last season and hopes that Housley’s skillset in managing that group follows him to Buffalo. One of the most attractive things about him as a coach was the continued willingness of Nashville’s defenders to join the rush and push pace through all three zones. It’s a trait that came to define Housley’s Hall of Fame career and it’s something the Sabres sorely missed last year.

Alex Daugherty, co-managing editor of On The Forecheck, the Predators SB Nation blog, noted that Peter Laviolette still maintained a great deal of control over the style of play the Predators exercised while Housley served in something of a support role when it came to dictating the system and pace. What Daugherty did note was Housley’s influence on supporting that system, something that should be very encouraging to Sabres fans. Continue reading

Plenty to be Desired with USA Hockey’s Outdoor Jerseys

USA Hockey unveiled the jerseys the US will be wearing at New Era Field for the World Junior Championships outdoor game. The reception wasn’t quite as warm as they may have expected.

The jerseys, just a long sleeved Bills jersey, are not easy on the eye. The sleeves and high numbers on the shoulders look terrific. As does the back of the jersey and the collar. It’s the front where everything falls apart. Numbers on the front of a hockey jersey don’t always look out of place, but it’s easy for things to get out of hand.

Donning a special jersey for the game is a great decision, one that would have seemed silly to avoid from both USA Hockey and Hockey Canada’s perspective. So the impetus for the Bills mashup jersey is obvious. What isn’t obvious is why the powers that be decided to go in such a drastic direction. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.2 – Exploring Trade Options for Robin Lehner and Evander Kane

With the Cup Final complete, Jason Botterill has serious business to attend to. Naming a new head coach for Buffalo and Rochester are just two of the items. In recent days, Evander Kane and Robin Lehner have found their names in the rumor mill while nearly every team in the league are working to solve their respective expansion challenges. We take a look at what options are available to Botterill via trade and which options seem more and less realistic with just days left until the deadline for expansion.

Shopping Lehner is Tough with Few Replacement Options Available

A somewhat surprising name was tossed into the rumor mill this week after Bob McKenzie noted that Robin Lehner could very well be shopped by the Sabres this summer.

McKenzie noted that the Lehner’s arbitration rights and the potential to score a richer deal than Jason Botterill and the Sabres would be willing to offer being the two primary factors in shopping the netminder. He added that Botterill may not be sold on Lehner as a number one goaltender just yet. While that’s somewhat contradictory to what Botterill told Elliotte Friedman a couple weeks back, it isn’t too hard to read between the lines on what Botterill said.

The idea of shopping Lehner is a curious one. He finally got over the hump of playing a full season and replicated the strong numbers we saw in limited action during 2015-16, erasing some of the lingering questions about his durability and capability to fill the role as a number one. His season was far from perfect but given Buffalo’s depth at the position and Lehner’s fairly strong play, creating a hole on the roster doesn’t seem like a prudent decision.

Lehner’s arbitration status may be the biggest red flag in all of this as the idea of forking over $4m or more isn’t very palatable in my view. Even considering the strides he’s taken over the past season-and-a-half, I’m not sure forking over a long term, big money contract to Lehner is the answer this season. His resume is still too incomplete to justify a big contract nor is it so barren that he should be walked away from either. It’s a bit of a predicament that seems best solved by kicking the can down the road a bit with a short bridge deal. Simply walking away from him leaves the Sabres with a glaring hole where they don’t need to create one. Continue reading