Over-Thought: Sabres Need to Shop for College Free Agent Goalies

The final weeks before the deadline always seem to drag. Probably because the same rumors keep getting recycled, debunked and then re-reported. This week’s edition as rumor-heavy as you might expect two weeks out from the deadline, but I suspect next week’s will be chock-full of rumors.

Check out this week’s edition of 31 Thoughts here.

  1. One GM who could change the market over the next few days? Minnesota’s Paul Fenton. His team is still clinging to a playoff spot, but Mikko Koivu is out for the year. Ownership always pushes for the playoffs, but what do the Wild honestly think about their situation?

The Wild are bobbing in and out of a wild card spot and they’ve spent the last number of seasons as a playoff club unable to get over the hump. Having to get through Chicago or Nashville or the Blues at the height of their powers certainly didn’t help.

But now Minnesota’s core is beginning to age. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are both 34 and still have six years left on their deals, Jared Spurgeon is 29, Devan Dubnyk is 32 and Mikko Koivu is 35. They already parted ways with Nino Niederreiter and there have been rumors that Charlie Coyle may be on his way out. Both were already inching to their late-20s and both Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund are in the same spot. Coyle, Granlund and Zucker are hardly long in the tooth, so don’t misinterpret this as all doom and gloom for the Wild, but they’re probably approaching a period of transition. They’re not completely cooked when it comes to prosepcts but they’re not flush with young talent either. They always feel close but unable to push the right button to bring it all together. If they miss the playoffs this year I would suspect they’d be in the market for some fairly significant change come the summer. Continue reading

Over-Thought: Jackets Backed into a Corner with Bob and Bread

I’m a few days late with the OT this week but better late than never. This week’s edition is technically last week’s, with thoughts coming from Elliotte Friedman’s column breaking down the Auston Matthews extension. If you haven’t already, you can read the entire column here.

  1. Over the weekend, the feeling was Florida would not make trades for Panarin or Sergei Bobrovsky — feeling there was no need to spend assets when the Panthers liked their chances in free agency. Monday, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported the Panthers are thinking about trading for Bobrovsky, so as to give him eight years. We will see where this goes, but don’t be surprised to see Florida continue to try to clear room. Mike Hoffman, now in his fifth-straight 20-goal season, could be another to go. Teams are always looking for scorers.

This rumor keeps gaining steam and it’s an extremely unenviable position for the Blue Jackets to be in. As a member of Team Chaos, I’m all for seeing this deal go down. At the deadline. There’s an added bonus of a division rival potentially carrying $14m-plus in goaltender contracts, so I’d be happy to see the Panthers get aggressive for the pair of pending UFAs.

Today’s report that Jonathan Huberdeau could be a potential casualty for the Panthers to clear the space for the pair added even more fuel to the fire, though Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period threw some cold water on the report. This has to be a tricky one to navigate for the Blue Jackets as they’re backed into a corner on each player and it seems apparent that they’ll each be wearing new uniforms next season. They’re a strong team that’s probably one or two pieces away from being a serious contender. They’re hardly in a position to be trading their top scorer or starting goalie. They should be adding in an attempt to get over the hump in the East. Do you keep Panarin and Bobrovsky as “rentals” for the postseason, make your run and deal with the fallout in the summer? Or do you try to double down? Ship them for assets in an attempt to flip the return into more bodies prior to the deadline? If Huberdeau was truly on the block, I’d be taking a long look at pulling the trigger on the deal if I were Jarmo Kekalainen. Huberdeau isn’t Panarin but he keeps you afloat offensively. Add in whatever else the Panthers will be offering (Brassard, picks, prospects) and the opportunity to leverage those assets prior to February 25. That would require a lot of moving parts but it offers the Jackets more stability for this season without the threat of the bottom falling out immediately after.

I still think this plays out in the summer. Are the Panthers confident enough that an eighth year is enticing enough to swing a deadline deal? Is there enough time for the Jackets to turn the non-NHL bodies they’d receive into more help for a playoff push? If I’m Florida I’d be working to maximize the return I can get at the draft in order to shed salary with plans on putting together two big offers on July 1. Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres Get Win in Anaheim

It was a night of firsts for the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night in Anaheim. The Sabres finally scored a five on five goal without Jack Eichel on the ice, and it helped them to their first win of the season. The 3-1 victory over

the Ducts also marked the first win as a head coach for Phil Housley.
Buffalo started quickly, as they were able to establish themselves in the Anaheim zone on the opening shift. The Sabres were able to begin executing an offensive zone line change as they continued to cycle the puck, and they were rewarded for their efforts when Johan Larsson’s shot from the left boards was not handled well by John Gibson and Justin Bailey was able to deposit the rebound after a scramble in front. The goal came less than 90 seconds into the game and was Bailey’s first of the season after a call up from Rochester; the assist registered by Nathan Beaulieu was his first point as a Sabre.

The Sabres closed out another impressive first period on the road with the 1-0 lead, and did a nice job limiting Anaheim’s opportunities to the perimeter. Chad Johnson, making his first start since the loss to New Jersey, had a relatively uneventful period despite facing two Anaheim power plays.

The second period did not begin quite as well as the first. Despite starting the period on the power play it was Anaheim who had the first good chance, with Johnson having to make a nice glove save on Josh Manson on a shorthanded three on two rush.

The Sabres’ one goal advantage nearly lasted until the second intermission, but another lapse on the power play led to the Ducks tying it up shorthanded. This time Rasmus Ristolainen and Ryan O’Reilly combined to misplay a puck at the Anaheim blue line, and Chris Wagner was able to take advantage and beat Johnson on a partial breakaway. The shorthanded goal was the fifth the Sabres have given up in just six games.

The Sabres were able rebound from their special teams issues before the period was out. The Anaheim defense had difficulty dealing with an odd carom off the boards, and Benoit Pouliot was able to get the puck to Sam Reinhart who tipped the puck in. The goal was Reinhart’s first of the season, and first in 12 games dating back to last season.

Buffalo was able to keep the Ducks at bay during the third period, and Johan Larsson was able to add some insurance in the final minute with an empty netter thanks to some terrific work by Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly on the forecheck.

• Jacob Josefson left the game and did not return after suffering a lower body injury.

• Evander Kane took three more minor penalties, and none of them were particularly smart. Kane has not committing six minor penalties in six games.

• Buffalo wraps up their four game road trip with the first meeting in history between the Sabres and Vegas Golden Knights. It will also mark the first game Will Carrier plays against the Sabres after being selected in the expansion draft in June.

The Curious Case of the Third Round Picks Buffalo Shipped Away

The third round of the NHL Draft is hardly an electrifying portion of the event. The picks all hold fair value on the floor and in trade negotiations, but in either case you’re not referring to any blockbuster moves.

However, the Buffalo Sabres’ own involvement in the 2016 third round was actually somewhat interesting. Not so much for the picks they made, but for the ones which found their way to other teams.

At one point or another, the Sabres held five picks in this year’s third round. Buffalo would only wind up making a pair of selections in the round after entering the weekend with a trio of picks. Cliff Pu would be selected 69th (nice) and Casey Fitzgerald 86th while the other three selections previously held by the Sabres found their way to other cities. Continue reading

Murray Should Focus on Value not Handedness in Defensive Pursuit

Tim Murray has made it no secret that he’s in the market for a defenseman this summer, specifically a puck moving, power play quarterback. It’s also been noted that acquiring a left handed defenseman to help balance Buffalo’s current left-right disparity is likely high on Murray’s shopping list as well.

In a perfect world Murray would find a defenseman that checked all of those boxes. For example, Cam Fowler checks nearly every single one of those boxes nicely. Not only does he meet many of Buffalo’s needs, but there’s an expectation that he will be on the block in Anaheim this summer. So there’s certainly a natural fit there.

There are also rumors swirling about Fowler’s Anaheim teammates Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. Tyson Barrie is thought by some to be a spare part in the eyes of Colorado management and even Kevin Shattenkirk’s name is making the rounds in the rumor mill. All five of these names are terrific defensemen who would drastically impact Buffalo’s blueline in the offensive end and when it comes to puck possession (Fowler’s fancy stats aren’t as impressive as the others, for what it’s worth).

The one issue is that three of the five defensemen mentioned above are right handed and the Sabres already have five righties on the roster. While maintaining a good balance between right and left handed blueliners is a key around the league, this may be a case where ignoring that stance suits the Sabres better. Continue reading

Expansion Rules will Create Crisis for some GMs

With news breaking this week that the NHL and NHLPA have agreed on the structure for  a future expansion draft, the maneuvering and preparations across the league can begin in earnest.

Reaching an agreement on no movement and no trade clauses was among the most important unanswered questions surrounding the way teams will form their protected lists. With the potential for an expansion draft taking place as early as next summer, the need for that determination was obviously important.

One position that will get plenty of focus will be between the pipes. As there is only one option for protecting goaltenders, there is a near guarantee that a pair of solid goaltenders are headed to Vegas should a draft take place next summer.

The requirement that no movement clauses must be protected could put pressure on a number of general managers to make a move this summer – or prior to next year’s deadline – to ensure they aren’t losing a goaltending asset for nothing. Continue reading

Trading Ryan Miller: Who will be looking to buy?

This will serve as the second portion to a post that I put up last week on the prospects of trading Ryan Miller

After exploring which teams may or may not make Ryan Miller’s no-trade list, I wanted to take things a step further and determine which teams may serve as suitors for the netminder. By doing so I wanted to determine which teams would have little interest in him as well.

As is well-known, Miller’s no-trade clause allows him to veto a trade to eight different teams. This may end up being a list that significantly handcuffs Darcy Regier but it could also serve as a list that does indeed limit options, but doesn’t prevent Regeir from effectively doing his job.

I decided to include the 11 different teams which Miller may veto a trade to on this list. I wanted to provide a comprehensive collection of the direction I’d assume each NHL club to take if approached about Ryan Miller.

Count the Rangers (Lundqvist) and Penguins (MAF) in a group of teams who would not provide themselves with a significant upgrade in acquiring Miller. Boston (Rask), Nashville (Rinne), Los Angeles (Quick), Vancouver (Schneider), Montreal (Price) and Detroit (Howard) are also on this list. Each of those seven teams have determined their goaltender of the future (and present) and wouldn’t provide their team with any sort of significant upgrade by bringing Miller into the fold.

There is another large group of teams who have a solid netminder and fall in the middle of the road when I consider potential suitors. They probably all lean closer to a no than a yes and here’s why: Continue reading