Jersey Concepts for the Sabres Hypothetical Heritage Classic

It sure sounds like the Sabres and Maple Leafs are lining up a potential Heritage Classic in Hamilton on March 13. Right now the game is still firmly a rumor, but there’s a whole lot of smoke that points in the direction of a Sabres/Leafs outdoor game.

The lack of confirmation on the game likely stems from the ongoing uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and the impact that has on opening the USA-Canada border and the ability to continue hosting large events such as an NHL outdoor game. So, while the next iteration of the Heritage Classic hasn’t been officially confirmed, it seems as if all parties are aware of the intention to play the game barring any unforeseen hiccups.

That the league held off on announcing this game along with the other three outdoor game announcements made at the Stanley Cup Final tells me there’s still a fair bit of doubt surrounding the game. If I had to guess it rests mostly with any potential restrictions that could be put in place by Health Canada and the Ontario government between now and March. The border will be another issue, but a lesser one in my opinion as capacity restrictions would have a larger impact than the ease of border crossings.

Even with some of the question marks surrounding the immediate future of the event, the potential for another Sabres outdoor game is exciting. Not only is this much closer than Citi Field, but it more than likely means the Sabres will be getting another special uniform for the event.

Knowing that the Heritage Classic is an event that always draws on throwback designs for the participating teams, I’d expect something cool for the Sabres come March. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the team take the ice in a uniform that draws beyond the precise history of the Sabres franchise. Calgary, for example, wore a uniform derived from the 1924 Calgary Tigers. And given the Sabres current uniforms are a terrific homage to the uniforms they wore from 1970 to 1996, drawing inspiration from elsewhere might just offer the best possible design for fans to gobble up at the merchandise stands.

I’ve put together four jersey designs which differ from the team’s current uniforms while drawing from different vintage aspects and the larger hockey history of Western New York.

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The Instigator Podcast 9.36 – The NHL is Returning to the Olympics

The NHL will be back at the Olympic games for the 2022 Beijing Olympics. We chat about the return of NHL players after missing the last cycle and what this means for the league. We talk about the pros and cons of the agreement and what long term opportunities are being missed due to the limitations in place between the NHL, IOC and IIHF. We also touch on the new contracts for Casey Mittelstadt and Henri Jokiharju and wrap up the Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer sheet saga.

The Instigator Podcast 9.35 – Agents of Change

We’re back in the podcast saddle and tackling the news of Jack Eichel’s agency switch. We discuss the implications of Eichel switching agents to NHL power broker Pat Brisson last week. Also on the docket is the Carolina Hurricanes offer sheet to Jesperi Kotkaniemi and how the Canadiens may handle that situation. We wrap up with a Bills stadium update as more news broke on that front as we recorded.

The Instigator Podcast 9.33 – Waiting on an Eichel Deal

There was another twist in the Jack Eichel saga this past week as his agents issued a fairly strong statement and his doctor made an appearance on the 31 Thoughts Podcast. We dive in on where the trade winds are pushing Buffalo’s captain and try and handicap the current teams thought to be in the race.

We also look into Buffalo’s free agency spending and what sort of outlook the team has in the wake of a fairly active, but low-spend opening day of free agency.

The Instigator Podcast 9.32 – Breaking Down a Wild Draft Weekend

We’re back with a longer episode this week as there was a lot of action from the draft to dig into. Not only do we discuss Buffalo’s picks but offer up our favorites of Kevyn Adams’ class of 2021. The big topics were the pair of trades the Sabres made; sending Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers and Sam Reinhart to the Florida Panthers. We provide a quick update on where the Eichel sweepstakes stand and close the show with a bit of conversation on free agency.

The Instigator Podcast 9.31 – Expansion and NHL Draft Breakdown

Sandwiching this episode between the Expansion Draft and NHL Draft left us with quite a bit to talk about. We break down Seattle’s selections and their lack of side deals. We also run down the players the Sabres will have under consideration at first overall but also at the top of the second round. We close up the show with a brief Jack Eichel update and a quick rundown of Thursday’s trades.

Listen to “The Instigator Podcast 9.31 – Expansion Draft and NHL Draft Breakdown” on Spreaker.

Two in the Mailbox: Number Changes and Offseason Targets

The expansion draft is less than 48 hours away and there will be ample time for another flurry of trades between Thursday and Friday’s first round. As we sit on the precipice of the next opportunity for the league’s GMs to swing some deals, it felt like a good time to run out another mailbag. With that said, let’s jump into your questions.

@donmanski – Do we still expect to see the Sabres have more than 1 top 10 pick in the draft? I thought it was attached to Reinhart going to Columbus but can’t recall where I was it.

You never want to set too high of an expectation that a pair of NHL GMs are going to do anything. But I’ll say that the original report was fairly definitive, so there’s almost certainly some truth to it. It comes down to whether or not the Sabres pull the trigger on a Jack Eichel or Sam Reinhart trade on either Thursday or Friday. Those are the two guys most likely to fetch the Sabres that extra top-10 pick, so that’s the chatter to watch.

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The Instigator Podcast 9.30 – Expansion Considerations

It’s only Tuesday and it’s been a big week in the NHL as Duncan Keith was traded to the Edmonton Oilers and the Minnesota Wild bought out the contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. We break down each of those moves and what it means for the respective teams involved. We also tackle Buffalo’s expansion outlook and offer up our thoughts on who we expect the Sabres to protect and who we hope the Sabres will protect for next week’s expansion draft.

Sabres Faced with a Challenge in Net

Kevyn Adams took a calculated risk when he opted not to move Linus Ullmark ahead of the trade deadline this past season.

Ullmark, a pending unrestricted free agent, was one of the few bright spots for the Sabres this past year and has developed into a reliable NHL goaltender. Despite the lack of a contract extension, Adams seems to have felt it was more beneficial to keep Ullmark in the fold for future extension talks as opposed to collecting an asset for him.

Free agency is now approaching and it seems likely that Ullmark will hit the open market and likely sign with a team closer to competing. The Sabres are already short on goaltending depth, with Dustin Tokarski and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen as the only goaltenders under contract for next year. Adams was going to have to bring on at least one goalie this offseason and now it’s looking like he may need a pair.

Luukkonen’s short cameo in the spring featured a few highlights but he still looked like a prospect who needed a touch more seasoning. Tokarski also performed admirably but his rightful place is on the Rochester roster.

That means at least two goalies are needed with an organizational third not being out of the realm of possibility. The Sabres won’t be alone in the goalie market as I count at least eight teams who could (or should) be in the goalie market this summer.

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Granato Feels Like the Right Fit for Where the Sabres are Heading

The Sabres might’ve taken the scenic route but they finally arrived at a decision on their head coach.

I’m not sure many were surprised to see Don Granato earn the removal of interim from his title, but the time between the end of the season and the official announcement was notable. It probably would’ve taken a really impactful interview to sway the Sabres off Granato, but the organization left that door open in case anyone was able to present themselves in an impressive enough fashion.

Credit to the Sabres for being thorough with their search, even if the most pessimistic among us may feel it was mostly for show. For a club that doesn’t get too many things right, it’s only fair to give them credit when they earn it.

As for their choice for the 20th head coach in franchise history, we’ll see what the next three years have to offer as he officially inherits a job that’s likely going to get a lot tougher in the coming weeks and months.

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