The Instigator Podcast 10.45 – When do the Sabres Go for It featuring Chad & Anthony of Expected Buffalo

Chad and Anthony from Expected Buffalo join the show for another roundtable discussion. This time we talk about when the Sabres will be ready to take the next big step in their rebuild and when the right time for it will be. We talk about how this summer has helped shape the next step in their rebuild and look ahead to whether or not next summer will be the time that Kevyn Adams starts making big splashes. We wrap up by touching on the prospects who could be most impacted by future acquisitions and even toss out a few favorites we’d like to see the Sabres target.

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The Instigator Podcast 10.35 – Sabres 2022-23 Season Recap

Another season is in the books and we look back at the way the Sabres played over the course of 2022-23 and what it means for them going forward. While we don’t assign grades to any individual, we break down each of the team’s position groups to see where the bright spots were and where the Sabres need to improve most.

We wrap up the show with a brief conversation on the NHL playoffs and which early storylines in the postseason stand out most to us.

Offseason Offers the Sabres a Path to Improve in Goal

As the season heads into its final month, one of the biggest holes on Buffalo’s roster for the offseason is in net.

The Sabres are currently set to the summer with no goaltenders under contract and a lot of questions over what the future in the crease looks like. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is a restricted free agent and is the only sure thing the Sabres have in terms of playing games in either Buffalo or Rochester in 2022-23. Beyond that, it’s a crapshoot.

Buffalo will need to acquire a minimum of two goaltenders this summer. One to play the lion’s share of the games in Buffalo and the other to share time in Rochester (ideally with one of Buffalo’s promising young collegiate prospects).

Any assumption that Luukkonen should be stepping in as Buffalo’s starter for the 22-23 season is premature to me. Luukkonen has played only 13 NHL games between two seasons and he suffered an injury in each of those runs. Even taking into account the poor play in front of him in Rochester, his resume isn’t that of a goalie who is ready to step into an NHL starter’s job. I think it would be far more appropriate for Luukonen to play somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-to-35 games behind a steadier veteran presence.

Bringing Craig Anderson back has been a popular refrain as he’s offered a reliable option since returning from injury. There’s a reason the Sabres odds against Winnipeg tonight are only +140 at Betway and not much steeper. There’s also a reason that the over/under of 6.5 for tonight’s game is a good bet of late. Anderson has been a big reason the Sabres vibes have been so good. However, his numbers this year are still quite average. He’s sporting a -5 goals saved above expected and his .901 save percentage falls in line with the downward trend of his last few full seasons in Ottawa.

Consider as well, he is 41 years old and missed a significant portion of the season to injury. Does he fit the profile of a goalie who can help the Sabres take the next step?

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Sabres Cap Space Offers Unique Opportunity to Broker Deadline Deals

With less than a week to go to the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, one of the most common talking points has been how the lack of salary cap space has kept early negotiations to a minimum.

The Sabres head to the deadline with a handful of pending UFAs who will make decent bargain rentals for contending teams. But the real value Buffalo has at the deadline is their salary cap space.

As of this writing, CapFriendly shows the Sabres with over $55 million in space, the most in the NHL by $10 million. CapFriendly projects them to end the year with $13 million in space. That puts the Sabres in a perfect position to leverage that cap space to acquire useful assets at the deadline, something that Kevyn Adams recently said he hopes to do.

Buffalo isn’t the only team with space to broker a deal and the rumor mill doesn’t indicate that Monday will chock full of deals. Taking advantage of their cap space may be easier said than done, but there should be at least a handful of big contracts moving which would allow the Sabres to serve as a broker.

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Two in the Mailbox – Visions of 2025?

Back with another edition of the 2ITB Mailbag. Thanks to those who wrote in and if you want to participate in the next one, send me a tweet tagged with #2ITBmailbag.

@passoffpads – The year is 2025 and the Sabres are preparing for the Stanley Cup Finals (because even we can dream). Who is the goalie? Who is the captain? Who is the leading scorer? Who is the coach?

Let me just start by saying, I love your optimism. If the Sabres are a Cup contender in the 24-25 season, quite a few things will have needed to go right for them. The 2020 and 21 drafts will need to be paying dividends and the picks they’re set to make next June and in 2023 may have a say in that as well. I think Don Granato would still be the coach in this scenario, as the ramp up to Cup contender in that 24-25 season (or 25-26) would need to start in October of 2022. The likes of Owen Power, Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka will need to fill big roles and Granato will be the one welcoming them to the league next fall, so it’s only logical to conclude that the Sabres would be riding a wave that he helped start.

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Sabres Fill Need with Subban Acquisition

Help is on the way to the Sabres goal crease. The Sabres acquired Malcolm Subban from the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, addressing a glaring weak spot in the wake of Craig Anderson’s absence.

Even without the vagueness surrounding Anderson’s recovery, it was becoming apparent that the Sabres needed reinforcement in net. Dustin Tokarski has started to battle some inconsistency as the bell cow and Aaron Dell simply hasn’t played anywhere near an NHL level since being recalled.

It’s been Dell’s play in particular which has highlighted the need for some sort of upgrade in net. He’s made five total appearances and has posted a ghastly 4.56 GAA and .862 SV%. Those numbers are actually being boosted by the two relief appearances he’s made, where he turned aside 24 of 25 shots across roughly 60 total minutes of action. In games Dell has started, he’s posted an 0-3-0 record with an .833 SV% and a 6.06 GAA. He’s been sloppy, struggled with angles and has been generally unreliable since the Sabres called him up to replace Anderson.

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Looking Forward in the Wake of the Eichel Deal

Kevyn Adams pulled out the final piece of his rebuild in dealing Jack Eichel to Vegas on Thursday. The move the entire hockey world had been waiting on since the spring was finally completed, ending a months-long saga once and for all.

The Sabres come away with Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, a first round pick and a second in exchange for their wantaway star. It’s a package that on the heels of Thursday’s deal, feels mostly adequate, if not slightly underwhelming. Of course, you’re always going to want more when you’re trading a player of Eichel’ stature. That’s just par for the course.

Overall, I think Adams did well here. If a deal with Vegas was going to be made, Krebs was the piece they needed to get. Add in the first-round pick with fairly minimal protections (pick pushes to 2023 if Vegas is picking in the top 10) and two key futures that were believed to be q requirement for the deal were included. Tuch comes over on a team-friendly deal with plenty of term. At 25 he’s right in the window the Sabres should be looking for as they build out the roster. Maybe an additional mid-level prospect like Lucas Elvenes would have moved the needle a bit more. Or perhaps building a condition on to the 2023 second rounder that would make it a first based on Eichel reaching some basic games played benchmarks beefs this up a bit. But given the circumstances and the leverage each side had; I don’t think Adams deserves too much heat for this deal. At least in the short term.

The real value of this deal will play itself out in the long term for both sides. Particularly the Sabres. At best the first-round pick will be a year from contributing, if not longer. The second rounder will require more than that. Which is fine. The Sabres have wisely stockpiled picks and prospects over the last six months, an effort that has started to replenish a depleted pipeline. Krebs also represents a great deal of long-term value for the club. He’s only seen action in 13 NHL games between last spring and the start of this year. What he has to offer as an NHL player is still an untapped well and given his pedigree as a prospect, should be exciting for Sabres fans to track.

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The Instigator Podcast 10.9 – Jack Eichel Traded to the Vegas Golden Knights

We went into emergency pod mode to offer up our reaction to the trade that sent Jack Eichel and a 2023 3rd round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, a 2022 1st round pick and a 2023 2nd round pick. We offer up our thoughts on the quality of the return the Sabres got and what sort of players you can expect to see in Krebs and Tuch.

The Instigator Podcast 10.2 – The Eichel Saga Takes Another Turn

Joe Yerdon is back for another guest appearance and to discuss all of the fallout from the first press availability of Sabres camp. On the docket is the decision to remove the captaincy from Jack Eichel and how the continued lack of a deal affects the Sabres in both the short and long term. We also run down the camp roster and the players we’re most excited to see battle through camp and the preseason.

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.