As the Stanley Cup Finals creep closer, as does the draft and offseason. That means teams who missed the playoffs or those eliminated early are gearing up for roster changes. The most recent edition of 31 Thoughts had plenty of tidbits on those potential moves and in the newest OT, I take a look at a few that stood out.
The startling reality that faces the Sabres after yet another season without the playoffs is the club needs yet another round of big roster changes after their maneuvering over the past two summers has gone for naught.
Jason Botterill and Phil Housley’s first year saw ten new faces brought to Buffalo. They were just shy of repeating that figure again this season. While it’s not out of the question that the team they inherited was already heading to the basement before the pair stepped in. The franchise was already suffering in the wake of below average drafting and owned a handful of bad contracts while lacking depth. That they wound up finishing worse than Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma’s final year is perhaps more of an inevitability than a surprise. Regardless, Housley and Botterill will own the results of the last two seasons. It will all rest on Botterill’s feet and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be around to see the team climb back to respectability.
That leaves him will the difficult task of overhauling his roster for the third-straight summer. Last year’s overhaul brought only a minute improvement in the standings, buoyed by the 10-game win streak but destroyed by the January-to-April collapse. Does he have another trick up his sleeve, or will Botterill be resigned to a more conventional path to improvement?
Botterill’s best opportunity for unearthing talent at discount prices may come from targeting the teams run out of the first round of the playoffs. Teams like Pittsburgh who were frustrated at their early exit, or the Jets and Lightning whose cap situations will likely require trades to be made. Between tight cap situations and disappointing exits, there could be room for the Sabres to pounce. Continue reading
In the wake of the first two eliminations in this year’s playoffs, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at how Jarmo Kekalainen’s aggressive trade deadline strategy may have been applied to the 2007 Sabres. So we endeavored to apply a similar approach to what the Sabres could have done in 2007 while staying within the limits of the salary cap and realistic moves that were available at that time. Along the way we unpack the series sweeps suffered by the Penguins and Lightning, discuss the signings of Casey Fitzgerald and Jacob Bryson and touch on the disappointing attendance at this year’s Frozen Four.
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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 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
With news breaking this week that the NHL and NHLPA have agreed on the structure for a future expansion draft, the maneuvering and preparations across the league can begin in earnest.
Reaching an agreement on no movement and no trade clauses was among the most important unanswered questions surrounding the way teams will form their protected lists. With the potential for an expansion draft taking place as early as next summer, the need for that determination was obviously important.
One position that will get plenty of focus will be between the pipes. As there is only one option for protecting goaltenders, there is a near guarantee that a pair of solid goaltenders are headed to Vegas should a draft take place next summer.
The requirement that no movement clauses must be protected could put pressure on a number of general managers to make a move this summer – or prior to next year’s deadline – to ensure they aren’t losing a goaltending asset for nothing. Continue reading