Where and How Does Botterill Trim the Roster?

For the third-straight offseason, Jason Botterill has been active in adding new blood to the Sabres locker room. For the first time in his tenure, he also faces a near necessity of needing to shed bodies as well.

There are quite a few usual suspects who have been along for far too much of Buffalo’s prolonged playoff drought and many fans were looking forward to the fat being trimmed by Botterill’s “roster surgery”. Improvements came quickly once the draft wrapped up. Jimmy Vesey, Colin Miller, Henri Jokiharju and Marcus Johansson all figure to feature prominently for the Sabres this year. As far as attrition goes, the only body to be shipped was Alex Nylander, sent to Chicago in exchange for Jokiharju, leaving fans wondering when the other shoe will drop.

There’s still over a month until training camp opens and it’s not completely unusual for deals to come through into August or September (Jeff Skinner and Erik Karlsson just last year), so it’s not as if Botterill is out of time to clean up the roster. But he has work to do. The right side of the defense is packed with bodies and the left side isn’t far behind while the Sabres could compile about three fourth lines with the number of bottom-six forwards they have.

Just looking at potential fourth line candidates is a waking nightmare in terms of skill and salary:

W

 

C

 

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Zemgus Girgensons

Johan Larsson

Kyle Okposo

CJ Smith

Vladimir Sobotka

Curtis Lazar

Arttu Routsalainen

JS Dea

Scott Wilson

Rasmus Asplund

Remi Elie

Looks awesome. Can’t wait. Continue reading

Jokiharju Deal Sets Table for Big Decisions

Jason Botterill hasn’t been shy about making changes to his roster this summer. It’s the third summer in a row where he’s taken strides to overhaul the roster and this offseason has been defense-heavy.

His latest transaction was certainly the biggest surprise of the offseason, though the deal probably won’t be remembered as a blockbuster. Acquiring Henri Jokiharju in exchange for Alex Nylander saw a pair of former first rounders shipped to new locales under two different sets of circumstances.

Jokiharju had become a fan-favorite for the Blackhaws, playing big minutes early last season under Joel Quenneville. As players began returning from injury, Jokiharju’s minutes rolled back before he was loanded to the Finnish World Juniors team and then Rockford, following Jeremy Colliton’s hiring.

There were be questions about Jokiharju’s long-term outlook with the Blackhawks with Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell in the pipeline. But he still won a whole lot of favor early on, with many seeing him as a star in the making.

Unlike Jokiharju, who appeared to be a fan favorite for the Hawks, Nylander had really fallen out of favor with most of the Sabres fanbase. He had struggled to gain the footing to earn a full-time NHL job. Injuries played a big role in that and his work ethic has often been credited as another major contributing factor in his inability to stick in Buffalo. Still, he never looked completely out of place during his NHL recalls. Perhaps it was just an attitude issue and he needed to be in the NHL to give an honest effort – not something you’d care to deal with in your organization – but it doesn’t feel out of the question.

Nylander certainly wasn’t on anyone’s list of untouchables, but just based on his 12-game cameo it seemed like he was going to get an opportunity to win a spot in the fall.  Instead he’s off to Chicago in a deal that involved two players you wouldn’t have thought would be on the move just a few weeks back. In a way these are the best kind of deals because it’s a hockey trade. It’s didn’t involve futures for a player or leveraging a cap dump, it was a simple player-for-player swap.

It’s a little bit like the Cody Hodgson/Zack Kassian deal from a few years back. I’m excited to see the Sabres snag another good skater who has a good aptitude for driving play offensively. He’s shown the ability to manage zone entries well and his passing ability ought to make him a threat offensively.

This trade adds yet another body to Buffalo’s already bloated blueline, putting Jason Botterill into a unique game of chicken when it comes to his roster. Continue reading

Another Look at the Center Market

As the season was slipping away the general consensus was that the Sabres needed help at center to help reverse their slide down the standings.

That help never came, of course, with a number of potential targets swapped ahead of the deadline, leaving the Sabres to move for Brandon Montour and look ahead to 2019-20. As the deadline approached, I wrote this post to see just what was available around the league at center.

With whispers that Rasmus Ristolainen will be moved growing into a dull roar, I thought it might be wise to run down a similar list to see if anything has changed between January and now. Ironically, many of the same names I highlighted in January could conceivably still be acquired despite being moved prior to the deadline.

There aren’t too many centers around the league who fit the Sabres’ need on the second line, are on favorable contracts and who are truly available. That might make it more favorable for the Sabres to leverage their best trade chips to acquire a more skilled winger as opposed to taking a lesser center just because that happens to be on the to-do list. It’s tantamount to drafting the best player available or drafting for need.

If a center is what the Sabres hone in on between now and training camp, here is a look at which teams may be worth reaching out to and which players would make some sense. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.36 – Season Finale? Jokiharju’s on You

The Marcus Johansson signing was reason enough to get together for our tentative season-ending podcast, but then Jason Botterill served up a whopper on Tuesday afternoon. The Sabres acquired Herni Jokiharju from the Blackhawks in exchange for Alex Nylander. It’s a big deal that sees a pair of former first rounders swapped and another young, puck-moving defenseman added to the Sabres stable. It also slots in another solid, right-hander to an already crowded blueline. We run down the acquisition of Jokiharju, potential Ristolainen deals and how the Sabres blueline could shake out.

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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The Instigator Podcast 7.35 – Joe Yerdon Returns for a Free Agency Breakdown

Joe Yerdon returns for the second week in a row to breakdown the Sabres action (or lack thereof) on the opening day of free agency. We run down the depth signings that were made, the logjam on defense and in the bottom six and what lies ahead for the Sabres as they attempt to reshape their roster. Along the way we hit on the UFA goalie carousel, the Jimmy Vesey trade and the acquisition of Colin Miller.

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:

iTunes
Spotify
Stitcher
iHeartRadio
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Sabres Continue to Construct a “Modern” Blueline

Recent Sabres draft pick Ryan Johnson was quickly described as a modern, or new-age, defenseman by the pundits on NBCSN. A swift skating player who can serve as a one-man breakout and effectively push the rush up ice. It’s a descriptor that can be applied an ever growing segment of Buffalo’s blueline, from prospects right to the top pair.

Whether or not he’ll be around to see the fruits of his labor, Jason Botterill appears to have a fairly specific way to be molding his defense corps; with mobile defensemen capable of driving play in the offensive zone and positively affecting breakouts. Look no further than the last two acquisitions he’s made on defense for evidence of the type of player he’s targeting. Continue reading

Colin Miller Acquisition Extends Martin Trade Tree Once Again

The massive Rick Martin/Don Edwards combined trade tree got a couple of new branches this offseason. The official designation on San Jose’s pick saw the selection moved to Anaheim as part of the Brandon Montour trade. The other pick from the Evander Kane return, a 2019 fourth, was eventually moved so the Sabres could select Aaron Huglen in that same round. Ryan Johnson was picked with the 31st pick, received from St. Louis.

Colin Miller also became part of the trade tree as the 2021 second rounder included in the Ryan O’Reilly trade was sent to Vegas in exchange for the defenseman. This is sure to grow even larger in the coming years, we’ll see how long it takes for the next branch to sprout .