Targeting Cap Dumps Might Fetch the Sabres the Talent They Need

For a team hoping to reshape their identity this offseason, the Buffalo Sabres are seriously short on talent and assets which can be parlayed into the type of deals which would bring about any sort of marked improvement.

Outside of Ryan O’Reilly, who could fetch a king’s ransom should he be traded, the Sabres have scant few assets they can give up in trades. They’re short on picks and expendable prospects with value. O’Reilly is the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue and San Jose’s first round pick is another valuable option but there isn’t much beyond that.

One avenue available to Botterill is a path he’s ventured down once during his time as the Sabres GM. Taking on salary to land the player he’s seeking. Even with the added cap hit that Jason Pominville carried, the deal that brought Pominville and Marco Scandella to Buffalo was a coup for the Sabres. Botterill was able to acquire a solid defenseman for his top four for a pair of forwards who were quickly becoming spare parts in Buffalo. The Sabres took on about $3mm in cap when it was all said and done, a minor uptick to unload dead weight and seriously upgrade the blueline.

It’s a tactic Botterill is in position to take advantage of once again this summer. Continue reading

Two in the Mailbox – Draft Day Mailbag

There’s a ton of scuttlebutt about dealing O’Reilly, if the third overall pick is actually in play and we have official word that the Sabres are in the goalie market after confirming Robin Lehner won’t be back.

So here’s a quick pre-draft mailbag to whet your appetite ahead of this evening.

Matt/@matt_hervan – Where are the deals?

I don’t know, Matt. But I’m getting sick of waiting.

Ron/@Ehlanded – For fun, if Buffalo had the third pick in draft and not first, who would the fans be clamoring to draft? Continue reading

O’Reilly Decision Will Set the Course for the Offseason

Aside from selecting Rasmus Dahlin, Jason Botterill has quite the to-do list this summer and deciding to deal Ryan O’Reilly will likely serve as the flash point for the rest of Botterill’s maneuvering this offseason.

This isn’t just because there are a multitude of suitors who have been connected to O’Reilly in recent weeks. But because the potential ask and return has been as varied as the teams being connected to the center. The roster will look a whole lot different if Botterill obtains the third overall pick as opposed to receiving a package of players and prospects for O’Reilly. Thus, Botterill’s actions will be shaped by what he receives for O’Reilly in the coming days – if he’s moved at all.

Table via Left Wing Lock

Perhaps the biggest hurdle in dealing O’Reilly is finding adequate cover for all the things he offers to the Sabres. For all the complaints about his lack of speed, O’Reilly remains an incredibly effective centerman. He eats minutes against difficult competition with nearly 60% of his starts coming in the defensive zone at even strength. Through all of that he manages to have a positive relative impact on his teammates and maintains a quality and consistent level of offensive production.

There are few players around the league who could step in and fill O’Reilly’s role, meaning if he is traded, Botterill will have his hands full in filling O’Reilly’s very large shoes. That doesn’t mean the Sabres shouldn’t move O’Reilly, his skill set alone makes him an incredibly valuable trade chip and whatever locker room issues are at play add another layer to moving him. There will be a trickle down on the roster once he’s moved though, make no mistake about that. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.32 – What to do with Pick 32

The official selection of Rasmus Dahlin is hours away and one of the most popular questions in Sabres Nation is who the Sabres will select with the 32nd pick. We discuss the various options for the Sabres in the second round while also touching on Mike Hoffman being shipped from Ottawa to San Jose to Florida. We also touch on Barry Trotz’s resignation and the Domi-Galchenyuk trade.

 

Botterill Displays Impressive Foresight in Dealing Fasching

Thursday’s acquisition of Brandon Hickey and Mike Sislo was a minor trade in almost every sense. None of the players involved are trending to become stars in the NHL but Jason Botterill showed a fair bit of savvy in swapping Hudson Fasching for Hickey and Sislo.

Fasching was pretty well down the pecking order on the wing at the conclusion of last season with a host of younger players poised to vault him. Cliff Pu and Victor Olofsson will arrive for their rookie seasons this fall and they’ll add to a group that includes Justin Bailey, Danny O’Regan, Nick Baptiste, Alex Nylander, CJ Smith. Andrew Oglevie, Rasmus Asplund and Sean Malone are other forward prospects who are going to garner a fair amount of attention as well. Even without the additions of Pu and Olofsson on the wings, Fasching was falling out of the spotlight.

It’s been noted that his healthy scratch in the playoffs likely sealed his fate with the organization and if the trade didn’t make it clear enough, it is fairly evident that Botterill wasn’t planning on tendering Fasching with a qualifying offer. Botterill was able to acquire negotiating rights to a player he has more interest in rather than letting the burly winger walk for nothing.   Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.31 – Sabres Trade Chatter is Picking Up

There are a lot of rumors floating around the Sabres these days and in this week’s podcast we work to sort through the various rumors and identify just where the Sabres stand in terms of the players who are likely to move on this summer. We also touch on potential trade targets for Jason Botterill to focus on while sorting through the mess in Ottawa and putting a crown on the Capitals first Stanley Cup Championship.

 

Who Can the Sabres Target as Linus Ullmark’s Partner?

Three years removed from trading a first round pick for a player they hoped would cement their future at the position, the Buffalo Sabres goal crease remains in flux.

Linus Ullmark is poised to step into a full-time NHL role for the first time but who will partner with him for at least the 2018-19 season is still a question. Despite holding control over his RFA rights, it seems increasingly doubtful that Robin Lehner will be back in Buffalo for another season.

Ullmark’s progression has been steady to this point in his career and there’s no doubt he’s ready for this promotion. However, he’s never handled starter’s minutes at the NHL level. So it stands to reason that Jason Botterill will want to ease Ullmark into a starters role, though his 20 game foray in 2015-16 should provide some baseline for the workload he can handle.

There is something working in Ullmark’s favor here and that is he is no stranger to heavy workloads. He saw the majority of minutes with Modo in the SHL and has been a horse for the Amerks for the past two seasons. He’s played 55 and 44 games over the last two years and he led the AHL in minutes (3201:55), shots faced (1678) and saves (1525) in 2016-17.

What’s unknown is the number of games the Sabres hope to give Ullmark this season. Do they hope to get him in upwards of 50 games? Or is a 50/50 split a more manageable workload for a rookie goaltender playing behind a roster which is expected to see quite a bit of upheaval?

The only scenario I think we can fully rule out is Ullmark playing as a true backup. Even if Lehner is brought back, I doubt Ullmark gets into fewer than 35 games with his partner getting the lion’s share. The Sabres want to see if Ullmark is indeed their goaltender of the future and they won’t be able to accurately evaluate that if he gets a backup’s share of the games.

I’m hoping to see the Sabres pick up another younger netminder who can play in tandem with Ullmark. A peer who can push him for time while also opening another avenue to find a number one goaltender. Signing a veteran that they can string along on a one or two-year deal would be an acceptable option, but I think the younger route offers the Sabres a better long-term outlook, especially with a goaltender market as thin as this year’s. Continue reading