Hellebuyck is the Rare Goalie Worth the Acquisition Cost

Finding an upgrade in goal is perhaps the most pressing need of the offseason for Kevyn Adams and the Buffalo Sabres. The sting of missing the playoffs by such a narrow margin is only that much more frustrating when you think of the number of games that slipped away due to leaky goals and below average goaltending.

Devon Levi certainly didn’t wilt under the spotlight after making his NHL debut, and he’ll have the inside track at one of the NHL roster spots come training camp. Who the team chooses to play in tandem with him will be an extremely important decision. It seems unfair to expect Levi to take the bulk of the starts at just 21. Not only would it be unfair to him to add that much more pressure to the situation, but the team would be asking him to take on a workload (45-plus starts) he was ever asked to handle between college or junior.

The incumbents, Eric Comrie and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, provide some insurance for the club, though neither truly impressed last year. At even strength, the pair finished with a -5.6 and -7.1 goals saved above expected, respectively. To expect either to share any notable level of workload with Levi – let alone starter’s duties – would be a significant gamble for a team with playoff aspirations in 2023-24.

Assuming the team agrees that neither Luukkonen or Comrie have the ability to provide Levi with a stable partner, they’ll need to mine free agency or the trade market for a suitable option. Perhaps the most notable name that has been floated is Connor Hellebuyck, the perennial Vezina candidate with one more year left on his contract at $6.16 million cap hit. Hellebuyck’s rumored availability has sparked a fair bit of debate over his contract status, workload and acquisition cost.

Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 11.35 – Sniffing Out the Hellebuyck Smoke

The Conference Finals are set to begin and we run through the matchups in the East and West, giving our outlook on both series. We transition to a discussion about Connor Hellebuyck and the fresh rumors connecting him to the Sabres.

The Instigator Podcast is sponsored by Betstamp. Download the Betstamp app by visiting betstamp.app/instigator

The Instigator Podcast 11.34 – Blackhawks Win the Lottery, Sabres to Pick 13

Now that the draft lottery has been drawn, we discuss the Chicago Blackhawks winning the right to pick first and the reaction to their lottery win. We also take a look at the Sabres staying put at pick 13 and determine what options the Sabres will have at this year’s draft.

The Instigator Podcast 11.33 – First Round Reflection

The first round of the NHL Playoffs are behind us and we reflect on some of the teams who were dispatched early. We dig in to the potential fortunes of the Winnipeg Jets and the New York Rangers while sprinkling in some thoughts on the Calgary Flames (though they didn’t make the playoffs). The show kicks off with a conversation about newly signed prospect, Viktor Neuchev and when we might see Nikita Novikov follow with his entry level contract.

The Instigator Podcast 11.32 – Remembering Some Goals (and Guys)

Round one of the NHL Playoffs are still rolling along and we offer up some thoughts on how the series have played out thus far. In addition, we discuss one of the hottest topics of the playoffs: officiating.

Our main topic is a discussion around a Tweet asking what goal you celebrated hardest for. We offer up a handful of memorable highlights to try to best answer the question posed by the tweet.

The Instigator Podcast 11.30 – End of the Line

The Sabres playoff push came up short and we serve up a post mortem as the dust settles on the chase for a wild card spot. We examine the 2022-23 Sabres season and identify some of the games that stand out most as squandered opportunities to capture points for a team that will so narrowly miss the playoffs. We also look ahead to what could be an exciting and busy offseason thanks to such a promising season.

The Instigator Podcast 11.29 – Levi Time?

Devon Levi has hit the ground running for the Sabres with a pair of impressive starts over the last week. We talk about how impressive his play has been and try to determine how many more games he will see between now and the end of the season. We also touch on Tuesday’s loss to the Panthers and the implications it will have on Buffalo’s playoff hopes. The show closes with a frank discussion about the Arizona Coyotes and how much more rope the league should be giving the franchise before exploring other options.

The Instigator Podcast 11.28 – Mock GM Meeting featuring Joe Yerdon and Lance Lysowski

Joe Yerdon and Lance Lysowski of Maintenance Day join the show for a roundtable conversation on a number of hot topics from around the NHL. We tried something a little different this week and got together for a mock GM meeting that allowed us to tackle a number of topics which we see as ways to improve the league. We touch on off-ice topics like playoffs and the World Cup and on-ice issues like overtime and the shootout.

Thanks again to Joe and Lance joining the show.

For Your Consideration: Bringing Back Shoulder Patches

Are the Sabres blue uniforms to blame for their struggles on home ice? Most definitely yes (read: no).

It hasn’t gone unnoticed just how different things have gone for the Sabres when they’ve worn their black and red alternate jerseys compared to their standard home uniforms. The Sabres enter Friday’s game against the Devils with an 8-1-1 record in the goatheads and a dismal 5-19-2 in anything else on home ice.

Even though the real solutions to their home ice woes (goaltending, team defense, better luck in general) will have to come from the general manager’s office, it couldn’t hurt for the Sabres to consider a few tweaks to their home uniform to make the team look a tiny bit better when they take the ice at KeyBank Center.

Buffalo’s blue jerseys have long been fairly bland and unforgettable. There’s a little too much blue and not much else to break it up. The white stripes the team chose to add to their 2021 uniform redesign didn’t help much as they just look like the silver stripes so many fans wanted removed in the first place. I’m not sure why the Sabres avoided shoulder patches on their home and away jerseys, but reintroducing a shoulder patch would be a cool starting point for sprucing up the home uniforms. Pulling out the white trim from the socks and jersey stripes and resurrecting the pants striping from the pre-1996 jersey redesign would be two other items I’d like to see considered.

Interestingly, the Sabres haven’t won a playoff series since they removed shoulder patches from their jerseys. Of course, they still had shoulder patches in 2010 when they lost to Boston, but that’s of little importance to the larger conversation (what makes the jerseys look cool). The Sabres have had shoulder patches on their jerseys for 39 of their 53 seasons and it seems high time to bring them back.

Continue reading

Rick Martin Trade Tree Grows with Rasmus Asplund Trade

Slowly but surely, the branches on the Rick Martin tree are thinning out. There are only a few areas left where additional trades could extend the tree even further. Rasmus Asplund was one of those few players and his move to Nashville keeps the trade tree going until at least 2027, if not longer depending on the outcome of the seventh round pick they received. The updated version of the trade tree is below. Open the image in a new window if you want the high-res version.