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.

Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.2 – Bottom Six Battle will Define Sabres Camp

Sabres training camp officially opens this week – not a day too soon given the Bills performance against the Ravens. We run through some of the more intriguing options the Sabres have in filling out the few open spots in the bottom six. We also discuss how the depth Jason Botterill has managed to add should have a positive trickle down effect on the Amerks. Along the way we touch on the Sabres Prospects Challenge, the trade the Canadiens made to send Max Pacioretty to Vegas, Steve Yzerman stepping down in Tampa and the strange video put up by the Senators and Eugene Melnyk.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

iTunes
Spotify
Stitcher
iHeartRadio
TuneIn
Google Play

The Instigator Podcast 6.35 – Assessing the Roster and Botterill’s Tenure

On the heels of another impressive deal by Jason Botterill we look at where the roster stands after the acquisition of Jeff Skinner and also reflect on the job Botterill has done as GM of the Sabres.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

iTunes
Spotify
Stitcher
iHeartRadio
TuneIn
Google Play

The Instigator Podcast 6.34 – Reaction to the O’Reilly and Sheary Deals

It’s been a busy week for Jason Botterill as he’s swung two trades that will have a significant effect on his roster. We lead off with a breakdown of Botterill’s biggest trade to date, in which he sent Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis for a package of picks and players. We briefly hit on the acquisition of Conor Sheary before transitioning into a discussion of what’s next on the docket for Botterill as he still has a few holes left to fill on his roster.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

iTunes
Spotify
Stitcher
iHeartRadio
TuneIn
Google Play

Rick Martin Trade Tree Sprouts Another Branch after O’Reilly Trade

The Rick Martin trade tree’s life got a big boost when Evander Kane was dealt for a pair of draft picks at the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline. Little did we know that it would get an even bigger boost this summer as Ryan O’Reilly was dealt for a big package of players and picks.

Tage Thompson and the pair of picks the Sabres acquired give the team a trio of solid assets to build with and all three could one day contribute to future growth of the trade tree below. We’ll probably see a branch or two more from this tree before it finally runs its course.

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

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