Botterill Should Have Plenty of Trade Targets on Defense

Through just under a month it seems as if Jason Botterill’s train of thought on reshaping Buffalo’s blueline is similar to that of his predecessor.

Addressing the lack of talent and depth on Buffalo’s blueline would be the priority of any general manager and while the market for defenseman will be tight, there are more avenues to explore than the most popular bandied about on Twitter. Anaheim and Minnesota might be the most popular targets, but there are plenty of other teams who may find themselves in a tight spot when the expansion draft comes around.

Botterill took the first step towards shoring up the defense corps by finishing the Victor Anitpin saga. He could have easily walked away from the puck moving Russian but Antipin’s resume and Buffalo’s glaring need for help likely kept Botterill from pulling the contract offer off the table. Despite not knowing what he will offer at the NHL level, Antipin is already Buffalo’s fourth – if not third – best defenseman despite never having set foot on the ice for the team. Antipin’s resume is certainly that of a mid-pair defender but at the very worst he’d see third pairing minutes if his game doesn’t translate for whatever reason. His addition not only helps fill a hole on Buffalo’s blueline but it gives the team another puck mover, something they badly needed.

Puck moving defensemen will likely be the name of the game for Botterill and the Sabres. Even though Antipin wasn’t a player he had sought out to sign, wrapping up the contract says enough about Antipin’s ability and the type of player Botterill is likely to covet. Taking a look at Pittsburgh’s blueline can tell you that much more as Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley and even deadline acquisition Marc Streit are adept puck movers. Not all of those players can be traced directly to Botterill’s former duties with the Pens, but it’s unlikely he had no influence over acquiring them either.

Pittsburgh may even be a team Botterill attempts to pull another defenseman from as the offseason progresses. While the Pens aren’t backed into a corner like Chicago or Minnesota, they still need to make a decision on a few contributors. Ian Cole, Justin Schultz and Brian Dumoulin all need to be protected in expansion, as do Patric Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin and Bryan Rust. Meanwhile, the Pens already have three forwards with no movement clauses, meaning they’ll need to choose between leaving a number of young forwards exposed or dangling multiple defensemen.

Players in bold are likely to be left exposed in expansion, thus potential targets on the trade market.

What seems to be the most likely route for the Pens is to expose Ian Cole while protecting Schultz, Maatta and Letang. That would also leave Dumoulin exposed (along with Derrick Pouliot) available to be selected by Vegas in expansion, thus creating an opportunity for another GM to strike.

Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 5.30 – Missing Pieces

Since all we seem to do is jinx the Sabres with most of our post-game shows, we figured it would be best to talk about something other than the game that was just played. So Chris and Tyler sit down to see what’s still missing from Buffalo’s rebuild as the season progresses. Most of the conversation hinges on the blueline, which should surprise nobody. Be sure to listen and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or on another podcast app.

Subscribe to The Instigator Podcast on iTunes

Subscribe to The Instigator Podcast on Google Play

The Instigator Podcast 5.26 – Veteran Presence

After a brief layoff Chris and Tyler are back in action not 24 hours after Buffalo’s comeback win against the Kings. This week’s podcast covers the impressive debut of Brendan Guhle, the continued struggle of finding the right spot for Josh Gorges and some insight on the veterans on Buffalo’s roster who are outperforming expectations.

Catch The Instigator Podcast here or grab it on your mobile device via iTunes or Google Play.

Subscribe to The Instigator Podcast on iTunes

Subscribe to The Instigator Podcast on Google Play

The Instigator Podcast 5.19 – System Adjustments Keep Sabres on Track

After the injuries to Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, Sabres fans had a disappointing outlook for the season to come. However, the team rebounded from their disappointing opener with an impressive win against the Oilers. Chris and Tyler discuss how Buffalo’s system let them down in the home opener but helped carry them in their win against Edmonton.

As always, you can listen to the podcast here or find it on your mobile device:

Subscribe to The Instigator Podcast on iTunes

Subscribe to The Instigator Podcast on Google Play

The Instigator Podcast 4.9 – 2015-16 Season Preview

Tyler and Chris are back after summer break and we’re talking about the outlook for the 2015-16 Sabres season. We spend some time looking at some question marks surrounding the defense corps, just how long of a look Brendan Guhle will get and realistic expectations for this year’s team.

Revamped Blueline a Key in Buffalo’s Turnaround

As the Sabres open their preseason campaign this evening against Minnesota, portions of the reshaped roster will be front and center for the first time. While this includes players like Jack Eichel, Buffalo’s beefed up blueline will be on display as well.

Buffalo returns most of their defensive corps from the end of the 2014-15 campaign as Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Rasmus Ristolainen and Mike Weber will all see significant minutes this season. However, Mark Pysyk is expected to be in Buffalo full-time along with new additions Carlo Colaiacovo and Cody Franson. Those new faces should each play their own role in turning the corner after two years of woeful defensive results.

While Ristolainen will remain on the shelf for a little while longer due to a pre-camp injury, the club opened camp with a pretty clear picture of what their defense pairs will look like. Gorges is skating alongside Bogosian, Weber is paired with Pysyk while Colaiacovo and Franson are the next pair up. One would presume that Ristolainen steps in with Pysyk when he’s healthy, but that’s hardly set in stone at this point.

Based on the current pairings, it would seem that Gorges and Bogosian will serve as the team’s top pair with Pysyk and Ristolainen potentially seeing second pairing minutes. Colaiacovo and Franson are likely best used in manageable situations – something Murray mentioned after signing Franson – which would be ideal for a third pair made up of two veterans who can contribute offensively.

Assuming Weber is penciled in as the seventh man for the time being, he will likely be utilized when Dan Bylsma is looking to ice a heavier lineup or even a defensive corps with more of a tendency to stay at home.

Depth beyond the top seven is far more impressive than it was just a year ago. Of course, the top seven is far more impressive than it was a year ago. Jake McCabe is the prohibitive favorite to be the first call up and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t recalled on a fairly regular basis. Chad Ruhwedel, Matt Donovan and Bobby Sanguinetti all have NHL experience and while they’ll each see more time in Rochester than Buffalo, they provide fair replacement value should the Sabres be hit by an injury bug. Continue reading

Questions linger with crowded house on blueline

Ever since Doug Janik and Rory Fitzpatrick took the ice for game seven of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals, defensive depth has been a focal point of how the Buffalo Sabres have been built.

The 2013-14 season will be no exception as the Sabres are heading to training camp with ten (TEN!) defensemen who will be battling for a spot on Buffalo’s NHL roster. For a team who struggled to find consistency on the back end last season, the plethora of rear guards on the roster isn’t a bad thing.

Of the ten defensemen I count as NHL ready, a few have all but sealed their spot on the roster entering the season. Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers and Mike Weber are all a sure thing to have an NHL job this season and newly acquired Henrik Tallinder should join them.

Where things get interesting is filling out the remaining three or four spots for the team. It’s particularly fascinating when you consider Rasmus Ristolainen as one of the players jockeying for a spot. Continue reading