Sabres Improved Depth will Make for Tough Roster Decision

It wasn’t long ago that the conversation centered on Sabres training camp involved more questions about which players could take an unexpected leap to in order to fill a much-needed spot in the lineup.

Thanks to a flurry of summer trades and a bit of lottery luck, the Sabres roster features more locked positions than gaping holes. The acquisitions of Conor Sheary and Jeff Skinner filled out a thin left side while Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka may not be offensive dynamos, offer much-needed stability deeper down the lineup.

Who Fills Out the Bottom Six

Buffalo top-six is all but settled at this point. Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt Sam Reinhart, Sheary and Skinner are written in pen. Kyle Okposo might as well be too, though I suppose there’s room for him to bump to the third line if Phil Housely feels they can ice a third scoring line. Where the real battles will occur are in the bottom six, where there are probably three spots truly up for grabs.

Berglund is going to be Buffalo’s “third” center. He’ll likely be tasked with handling more difficult matchups, defensive zone draws and some (keyword: some) of the other duties that were previously filled by Ryan O’Reilly. Berglund won’t come close to covering all of those responsibilities, but he’s the one center in Buffalo’s camp best suited to take on a chunk of them. He’s another player whose spot was never going to be in question, though one factor that could be at play is whether or not Housley wants to inject more offense into the lineup.

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Quick Thoughts on Alex Nylander’s Recall

Alex Nylander will be making his season debut this evening against the Ottawa Senators and his recall has drummed up quite a bit of debate from fans of the Sabres and their AHL affiliate.

Nylander’s year has been quite forgettable. A groin injury during the Prospects Challenge wound up costing him the early months of the campaign and he was still hobbled upon returning. His performance at the World Junior Championship was deemed pedestrian despite averaging a point per game. It wasn’t until the spring that his game seemed to round into form, seeing him register a stretch in which he registered 15 points in 15 games. That still leaves his numbers well below what you’d expect of a top-10 selection with plenty of questions about his status with the organization moving forward.

His 28 point (10+18) season in 2016-17 wasn’t met with celebration or concern as it ranked square in the middle of U20 players playing in the AHL. However, the lack of a step forward this season has raised red flags. Prompting questions to be asked about the logic of his recall for the final three games of the Sabres season.

While he may not have earned his recall, the decision to do so offers management the opportunity to add to their evaluation of his developmental arc. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.26 – Development Benchmarks and Reshaping the Core

While some people are Mad Online that Alex Nylander has been recalled, it seems like a smart decision for an organization seeking answers throughout their pipeline. We dig into appropriate development benchmarks and how a potential three-game cameo can offer the Sabres an additional window into a player’s development. We also hit on Pierre LeBrun’s reports that Jason Botterill appears open to moving players out of the core and explore what types of moves he’d need to make in order to reshape the key contributors on his roster.

Two in the Mailbox – Buyout Candidates, Team Speed and Bad Trades

Two in the Mailbox, the 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.

Joe/@JoeHockeySabres – Who are the Sabres buyout candidates? What are the buyout rules regarding numbers and salaries? Who will they pay?

The Sabres only have one buyout on their books (Cody Hodgson). The other two (Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino) are compliance buyouts, to the Sabres have room to work if they opt for buyouts. Here is a good rundown of the NHL’s buyout rules.

Matt Moulson seems like a pretty safe bet, even though it would probably be wiser to stash him in the AHL again and just eat that final year of his salary. On a buyout, Moulson would carry a $3.667m cap hit next year and $667K the year after. That’s a minimal net savings compared to simply keeping him one more year, but it would free up another contract space.

The most valuable buyout would probably be Zach Bogosian. His run of injuries have been incredibly detrimental to his time in Buffalo and he has two more seasons left at a cap hit over five million. Buffalo would gain a fair bit of flexibility if they chose to buy him out. From a contract perspective, cap perspective and even clearing a roster spot for a player with more availability such as Casey Nelson or perhaps even Will Borgen, depending how ready he is come October. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.17 – World Junior Championships Outlook

Finishing minutes before Alex Nylander was officially loaned to Team Sweden by the Sabres, Chris and Tyler discuss the outlook for this year’s World Junior tournament. We offer up some thoughts on the medal favorites while also providing a few games worth circling for the upcoming tourney.

Best Value Games for the 2018 World Junior Championships

Things are going to be quite a bit different in Buffalo when you compare things to the last time the World Junior Championships came to town.

Downtown is far more vibrant, Canalside is slightly more developed and HarborCenter will serve as the second home for the tournament. No more jaunts to Dwyer Arena to catch the secondary matchups, which not only means that the corner of Perry and Washington will be home to more action throughout the tournament, some of the intriguing non-marquee matchups will be easier to access.

You can get an up close look at Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for single digit prices at this year’s World Juniors.

The WJC will always have a handful of can’t miss preliminary matchups and this year will be no different. The outdoor game between the US and Canada, which is reported to have a surprisingly low attendance number (paywall) at the moment, is the obvious headliner, but Russia-Sweden, USA-Finland and Canada-Finland will be well worth the cost of attendance as well. What fans in Buffalo should be aware of are the slate of games lacking headliners which will be both affordable and appealing from a Sabres-fan perspective. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 6.10 – Looking for Answers in an Ugly Start

It was a brutal weekend for the Sabres, dropping games to the Islanders and Devils in brutal fashion. We take a look at what’s gone wrong over the first three games and what the Sabres can do to right the ship.