The Instigator Podcast 8.36 – Balancing the Sabres Internal Budget

TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported that the Sabres are expecting to operate with an internal budget which could drop as low as $70 million. We spend time talking about whether or not the Sabres could effectively operate at that figure (they can’t) and what steps they can take to come close to achieving a tighter budget when it comes to spending on the team. We also touch on the hiring of Peter Laviolette and Bill Zito, the new contract for Jonas Brodin and the Nick Bjugstad trade.

Ranking the Potential NHL Lottery Winners

The NHL’s second draft lottery drops tonight with the eight eliminated Stanley Cup Qualifier teams holding equal 12.5% odds to land the first overall selection.

Maybe it was just me, but the minute the league announced that they’d be using placeholder spots for teams in the qualifying round, I knew one would wind up winning a top three pick. That feeling of inevitability wasn’t due to suspicion of foul play or some sort of fixed lottery but simply from knowing this league has perfected over complicating practically everything.

In and of itself, awarding lottery odds to eliminated teams wasn’t a poor choice. Given the gift on hindsight, the league probably would’ve been smarter to do a single drawing with the original odds once the qualifying round was done. Splitting the lottery was an odd choice which really only opened the door for complaints from fanbases (and probably some GMs) around the league. It will only become more unpopular if one of the stronger teams in tonight’s drawing wins the first pick.

The drawing itself if rife with potential controversy. You can expect a wave of negative reactions if Toronto, Pittsburgh or Edmonton win this evening. Even the Rangers, fresh off picking second last year after some lottery luck, would be a fairly unpopular result. There are also some very obvious Sabres-related pitfalls that could come out of tonight. A Leafs win would be, let’s say, inconvenient. As would a Panthers win. Really any Eastern Conference win would create challenges for the Sabres. With that in mind, let’s rank the potential lottery winners based on how it could affect the Sabres and though the additional lens of my personal preferences. Continue reading

Over-Thought: Sabres Rumors Grow by the Day

Things have gotten awfully bleak for the Sabres over these past few weeks and the demand for changes continues to grow across Sabres nation. This week’s 31 Thoughts notes that Buffalo continues to search for forward help. There’s also a blurb about replay review, which is never a great topic as this league loves getting into their own way.    Continue reading

Over-Thought: Defenseman Market is Starting to Sizzle

The Sabres have gotten off to a better start than I have this year when it comes to recapping 31 Thoughts. But I’m back on the wagon for Sabres After Dark and there are a few juicy tidbits in this week’s edition. Including trade whispers related to both Buffalo’s and Pittsburgh’s bluelines. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.20 – Botterill Speaks, Now What?

Jason Botterill held court with the press and gave his head coach a vote of confidence. He also reinforced his previous claims of the deals he’s looking to make ahead of the deadline. We air some frustrations with Botterill’s apparent approach and break down some of the recent deals to break, including Charlie Coyle to Boston and Jakub Silfverberg’s extension in Anaheim. We also offer up a few thoughts on Jeff Skinner, trying to cool off any concerns people may have regarding whether or not he’ll be signing an extension in Buffalo.

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

Over-Thought: Ready for some Deals

We’re five days from the deadline and Jason Botterill is standing by his roster, maybe to a fault. Even if the Sabres aren’t active at the deadline, there are some signs pointing to this season being a busier trade deadline than it’s been in recent years.

Elliotte Friedman had plenty of trade fodder in his latest column, including one related to the Sabres. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find this week’s 31 Thoughts here.

  1. Columbus’s offer for Duchene screams Alexander Wennberg as part of it. Wennberg desperately needs a new start; he’s got zero even-strength goals. I just don’t know if Ottawa would be willing to gamble on the contract, at a $4.9-million AAV through June 2023.

I included Wennberg in the post I wrote a few weeks ago about centers I felt the Sabres could go shop for given the somewhat narrow scope they’re thought to be looking through when it comes to trade targets. Jeremy White mentioning him as a potential Sabres target ramped up the attention on Columbus’ 24-year old pivot.

The issue with Wennberg is his production has dipped since his big 16-17 season. Was that year a true outlier or is there more for him to show? I mentioned this in the post from last month and the point stands. At $4.9 million for three more years, he isn’t on a cheap cap hit but it’s not money that will completely hamstring you either, especially as the cap goes up. Continue reading

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

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

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

Sabres Deadline Live Blog

It’s been an interesting deadline season thus far. Plenty of deals have gone down in the weeks leading up to today’s deadline and the Sabres really led the way in that department, sending Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and Jhonas Enroth away in pre-deadline deals.

I’ll use this space to track the moves made by the Sabres along with offering up a few quick thoughts on each move.

Buffalo acquires a 2016 5th Round pick from Montreal for Brian FlynnFlynnFlynn is an RFA, so it’s plausible to assume that Tim Murray wasn’t planning on qualifying him this summer. He’s a very serviceable player and I saw him as a nice fourth line forward once the roster rounded out. He does a good job on the penalty kill and has begun to show some offensive upside in the right situation.

Ultimately, Flynn was signed by the previous regime as a college free agent and simply may not be a player Tim Murray saw as a long-term part of his plans. If that’s the case, then by all means try to get as much return for him as possible. It’s still a questionable decision since they’re only getting a 2016 5th, but as a depth player who will be restricted this summer, there’s not much more to ask for.

Buffalo acquires Chad Johnson and a conditional 2016 3rd round pick for Michal Neuvirth

NeuvyThe prayers of the most ardent tank fans have been answered with this deal. Tim Murray saw the goaltender he acquired at last year’s deadline enjoy a fair resurgence over the past few weeks and leveraged his play for an additional asset in the 2016 draft. The Sabres already own the Islanders first and second round picks in the 2015 draft and now own four total picks in the third round of next year’s draft. This was solid return for a goaltender who about a month ago looked as if he was unmovable thanks, in large part, to a lengthy losing streak. This was very much a move for the Sabres’ tank as the Sabres have seen the Coyotes sell off nearly every asset they had in an attempt to nosedive to the league basement.

Johnson hasn’t been great this year as Jaro Halak’s backup and now joins Anders Lindback in what is easily the most unstable goaltending duo in the league. Johnson comes in with a 3.08 GAA to complement Lindback’s 3.71. Tank on.

Buffalo acquires 2017 2nd round pick from Minnesota for Chris Stewart

StewartCertainly not the return originally expected for Stewart as there were rumors that Tim Murray was requesting as much as a top prospect in exchange for Stewart. In the long run it will probably look like Murray waited a little too long to deal Stewart but landing a second round pick, as far in the future as it may be, is better than taking less than the original asking price. Further, the Sabres already owned Minnesota’s 2016 2nd (which they used to acquire Josh Gorges), so Murray did a good job getting a more valuable pick.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Murray’s thought process on acquiring this pick is to provide himself more ammunition for next year’s deadline and future trade offers. As the Sabres sit in a position to really hit the gas on their rebuild, having additional picks to swap is a very good position to be in.

Buffalo acquires Jack Nevins and a 2016 7th round pick from Montreal for Torrey Mitchell

Mitchell

This has been a top secret deal (for some reason) since it was announced. Turns out the Sabres grabbed a prospect who has done nothing of substance at the professional and a very late pick in 2016 for Mitchell. This was simply maximizing return for an expiring deal while also pushing another veteran out the door and Murray certainly did that. If Nevins actually plays for the Sabres, I’d be shocked. But, they got an actual body for a player who would typically be pretty worthless in any other scenario.

I’ll have a full recap up on today’s happenings soon.