Exploring who the Sabres can Shop for at Center

The Sabres are in an unusual position heading into this season’s trade deadline. They’re no longer sellers but they’re still a ways off from being a traditional buyer. As the rental market isn’t going to favor Buffalo’s needs in either the short or long-term.

That’s a good thing. The Sabres aren’t a piece or two away from an Eastern Conference championship, nor are they stagnant, sitting on their hands hoping to stockpile more draft picks. At the very least they’re on schedule with the vision that Jason Botterill has set for the franchise. They may even be slightly ahead of schedule. I certainly think the fanbase would say they are in hopes of seeing the team stay ahead of schedule.

Between rumor reporting and media appearances with Botterill it’s pretty clear that the plan of attack is to only use a first round pick if it’s for a young player with term. That will narrow the trade market but also puts the Sabres in a position to hunt for bigger game. Rather than circling the rental market, Botterill has the opportunity to seek out a player who can plug into the Sabres core for longer than a few weeks.

If the next few weeks go well, I wouldn’t be shocked if Botterill sought out a pending UFA in an effort to give the Sabres one last boost for the stretch run (it is worth noting that Jeff Skinner may have been viewed as that guy), I don’t expect him to use a first round pick to do it.

The trade I wish the Sabres had been in on was the one that sent Nick Schmaltz from Chicago to Arizona. He’s exactly the type of player I hope the Sabres can find on the trade market: under 28, 200-foot player with term (team control in this case). It’s worth noting that 22-year old centers on their entry-level contracts don’t exactly grow on trees. But he checks about every box when it comes to who the Sabres should be targeting.

In terms of that particular deal I don’t think the Sabres had the ammo to make the deal that ultimately went down. Even with their extra first round picks, they don’t have a former lottery selection lying around that they could offer up like Arizona did with Dylan Strome.

Even if Schmaltz is no longer attainable, the Sabres won’t be without options when it comes to the trade market. So I decided to run through the other 30 rosters around the NHL to see just who might be worth targeting in a deal. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.17 – They Are Who We Thought They Were

At no point has the Sabres slide been at a lower point than Monday’s loss to the Oilers. In the wake of the drubbing in Edmonton we discuss just what version of the Sabres we were expecting the see and which version we’ve gotten so far. We address the expectations placed on them after the win streak and all the frustrations that have boiled to the surface since. We also offer up some potential solutions for how Jason Botterill can pull the Sabres out of the hole they’re digging.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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Will Shuffled Lines Spark the Middle of Buffalo’s Lineup?

The search for secondary scoring has been arduous for the Sabres. While there have been glimpses of effective goal support from players not named Eichel or Skinner, it’s hardly come on a consistent basis.

Splitting up the Skinner-Eichel-Reinhart line had been floated for some time given the incredible lack of scoring from any other portion of the lineup. Heading into Friday in Carolina, it looks like Phil Housley will separate the trio in an attempt to get a few more lines going against the Canes.

They might be catching Carolina at the wrong time says the guys at Mytopsportsbooks.com. The ‘Canes have won five straight heading into their tilt with Tampa Bay on Thursday night and have scored at least four goals in four straight games. Even with Jack Eichel set to come back, facing a team that’s been filling the net doesn’t make for an ideal matchup for a team whose secondary scoring has come and gone. The one silver lining is Carolina’s goaltending has been about as streaky as Buffalo’s secondary scoring, which could favor Buffalo’s chances to string together back-to-back wins since December 11 and 13. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.16 – Post-WJC Sabres Pipeline Assessment

The Sabres had three prospects take home hardware at the 2019 World Junior Championship including two with gold as Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Oskari Laaksonen helped lead the Finns to a championship. That prompted a conversation over the health of Buffalo’s pipeline. Thanks to some promising mid-round selections the Sabres blueline appears to have some long-term promise while they’re in need of a bit more firepower at forward.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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Sabres Skills Challenge was a Treat

It was nearly two years ago to the day that I ran this post about the Sabres putting on their own version of a skills competition. Obviously the Sabres and Pegula Sports appreciate my very big brain and think all of my ideas are very good. The best ideas you’ve ever seen.

Kidding aside, the Sabres resurrected a practice they dabbled with in the 90s, with the Sabres Skills Challenge. I’d venture a guess that Sabres Showdown, which debuted during the 2016-17 season was a litmus test for the full-scale event from this past Sunday, and they knocked it out of the park.

Going into Sunday I was worried that the fans may not show and there would be scores of empty seats which would likely doom any future iteration of the event. But the lower bowl and 200 level were each well-filled with some spill over into the 300 level. The Buffalo News reported the attendance to be just shy of 10,000, which is a pretty good turnout for something that a vast majority of the fanbase probably hadn’t seen previously.

The entire affair took just over an hour to complete and the Sabres Store was packed to the gills after the fact. Concessions weren’t overcrowded and from what I observed there were plenty of kids enjoying seeing the Sabres up close and personal. The special jerseys the players donned looked terrific and even though there was maybe a little lack of compete in some of the drills, it was a lot of fun to watch, especially Tage Thompson in the shootout and the Remi Elie, Marco Scandella, Rasmus Ristolainen trio in the 3-on-0 drill. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.15 – Post-Holiday Wish List

We’re back from the holidays with a wish-list of sorts of players we’d like to see the Sabres chase in order to shore up the thin areas of the team’s roster. We talk about some realistic options and a couple really optimistic ones as well. We also touch on the rosters for the 2019 All Star Game while offering up an alternative option which might provide more latitude for deserving players to be selected for the game.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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Two in the Mailbox: Finding Help Down the Middle after Berglund Departure

Two in the Mailbox, the (sometimes) 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 2intheboxbuffalo@gmail.com.

At this rate the mailbag is going to be monthly rather than sometimes weekly. Either way, a lot has happened since the last iteration with Patrik Berglund’s contract termination being the most recent and the biggest headline.

We discussed Berglund for the first half of this week’s podcast and the one thing that I think will be misconstrued with his contract being terminated is that the Sabres can or should exercise the option on any player they please. Kyle Okposo, Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella are just a few of the guys I imagine fans are going to flood the mentions of writers with once Berglund’s termination is official.

The fact of the matter is that these scenarios are extremely unique and require a concrete violation in most cases (Jake Dotchin or Mike Richards, for example) for the team to have solid ground to stand on. So while you may want the Sabres to have the liberty to cut bait with Okposo with no questions asked, it’s just not in the cards. So why waste your time hoping for it? Continue reading