Two in the Mailbox – Arena Thoughts, Very Bad Trades and Offseason Targets for the Sabres

Two in the Mailbox, the (sometimes) weekly mailbag on the Sabres, goalie stuff, Buffalo and anything in between, is back. You can submit to the mailbag using #2ITBmailbag on Twitter or emailing 2intheboxbuffalo@gmail.com.

The mailbag is back post-Asplund and pre-draft. Before jumping into the questions for this edition, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the arena as it’s been in the news quite a bit recently.

The evolving arena renovations news has been very interesting to follow and it’s something I have a lot of interest in. I re-posted my arena renovations wish list last week to share my thoughts with anyone who may have missed it the first time around. Obviously that list is pretty pie in the sky in terms of some of the stuff I’m hoping for.

However, things on this front haven’t quieted down. It doesn’t appear that any work has started at One SHK III Plaza, which isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s very clear this is at the front of mind for a lot of people. Kim Pegula’s recent comments caused quite a stir and as a result a few people submitted questions regarding potential renovations for this week. This is me addressing those questions but also adding my two cents on the current status with the arena.

The idea of the Sabres building a new area is extremely intoxicating. Although KeyBank Center was built right in the middle of a big boom in new facilities around the NHL, it seems to lack a lot of the flexibility other arenas offer. I feel that the atrium gets over looked for how unique the space is, but beyond that, it’s a very utilitarian structure. There wasn’t a lot of thought given to common areas, nor is there much flexibility to create that type of space either. Add in other factors like the tall roof and there’s plenty of reasons that a mulligan would be preferable.

I struggle to see a new arena making sense given the amount of hype and investment made with HarborCenter. There is a lot of boasting about having the only “three rink” facility in the NHL. Even if that claim is a little creative, the layout of the two buildings certainly plays a role in keeping the Combine and potentially landing other key arena-focused events. A new building, even if it was built just down the block on the surface lots, eliminates that convenience.

That being said, Mike Harrington noted that current projections have the current renovation budget at about $50 million and, frankly, that number seems extremely low to me. If the target is to bring KeyBank Center up to par with the rest of the league, that cost would need to exceed $100 million. And if they’re in line to spend $100 or even upwards of $200 million on renovations which they’ll be somewhat handcuffed on – due to the building’s current layout – does it make more sense to bump the budget closer to $500 million and get the state-of-the-art arena of your dreams?

When it comes to spending other people’s money, I’m something of an expert. It would be incredibly exciting to get a shiny new arena downtown. Just look at what the Red Wings did with Little Caesars Arena for an idea of some of the trends in new arena design. But if the Pegulas are going to require a large public buy-in, I wouldn’t be nearly as excited at the prospect. That factor really poisons the well for me and pushes my preferences towards a renovation since the requirement for public money would be that much less (plus the other issues I mentioned above). But in a vacuum? Give me the new toy and let’s see how cool they can make it.

Now, on to your questions. Continue reading

Murray’s makeover moves forward with aggressive draft day moves

It was a whirlwind of a weekend for Tim Murray and the Buffalo Sabres as Buffalo’s GM maneuvered to acquire a new starting goaltender, a legitimate top-six forward and a potential franchise defining talent with the first three picks at his disposal.

Oh, yeah, NOW you smile. – Terry Pegula.

The selection of Jack Eichel was all but guaranteed the moment the Oilers card was pulled during the draft lottery. But trading for Robin Lehner, David Legwand, Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn was hardly an expectation. The new acquisitions, coupled with this week’s signings, set the stage to push Buffalo’s rebuild forward significantly.

In January I wrote about the arsenal of assets Murray had at his disposal. At that time Murray held five of the first 60 picks in the draft along with a boatload of prospects at various levels of development. Today his roster is drastically altered. O’Reilly, Kane and Eichel are set to redefine the team’s top-six while Zach Bogosian and Robin Lehner will be vital pieces on the backend. Murray’s moves at the draft table completed a vital step of the rebuild and should push the Sabres firmly on the path back to competitiveness. Continue reading

Shaping the Sabres Part 2: Draft Day

Part two of the Shaping the Sabres series centers around the entry draft in Sunrise, FL.

Chris: With our predraft trades locked away, that brings us to the draft table in Sunrise. I’d love to manufacture a deal using Buffalo’s other high picks and a prospect or two to grab an NHL-ready right winger. However, I’m unsure that the 21st and 31st picks along with a combination of prospects could land the type of top-six talent the Sabres need.

For example, players like Nino Niederretier and Wayne Simmonds are highly valued assets who are vital pieces for their respective franchises. Even including a prospect like Hudson Fasching or Justin Bailey wouldn’t likely get such a deal done, and adding anything else would make the offer from the Buffalo end far too lopsided. But that would still be the first avenue I explore.

Assuming any wingers worth chasing are out of the question, there are two players in the draft not named McDavid or Eichel who I am very high on: Timo Meier and Zach Werenski.

Draft day trade
The proposal and players Chris would target at the Sabres’ draft table.

Meier was a late riser who posted 90 points with Halifax this year while Werenski was dynamic as a freshman at Michigan. Werenski will need to slip to at least ninth or tenth overall to be an option for the Sabres while Meier has been pegged anywhere from eight or nine to the mid-teens. I’d take the guess work out of the equation and ship a package including the 21st and 31st picks to Colorado to secure the 10th pick. I’d even include an additional pick – perhaps a 3rd in 2016 – to help grease the rails.

Picking between the two (specifically Meier and Werenski) would be a mighty challenge. The organizational need for defensemen is obvious and grabbing a swift skating, left handed puck mover like Werenski would see me drafting for need and talent.

However, Meier is lauded as one of the few players in the draft who are nearly pro ready. Even if he isn’t ready for game one, snagging someone who would be that much closer to an NHL role (on the right wing no less) would be a boon for the rebuild. Continue reading

Shaping the Sabres Part 1: Crease Crashing

This is the first part of a three-part project in which Tyler and Chris discuss the moves they make if they occupied the general manager’s role with the Buffalo Sabres.

The draft is two weeks away and the Sabres rebuild will truly be in full swing when Tim Murray walks to the podium and announces Jack Eichel as the second overall pick. With that in mind we thought it would be interesting to deviate from the typical GM for a day articles and offer up our own version. Tyler and Chris will be going back and forth with our own plans for how we’d go about building the roster as the draft approaches.

The rules are simple, free agency, trades (of players and picks) and buyouts are all on the table and nothing is assumed. So if either of us sees Dylan Strome as the preferred number two pick, so be it. The one thing we won’t be doing is mocking the entire Sabres draft. So short of noting which players we like at 2, 21, 31 and 51, don’t expect to see much more beyond that. Otherwise we have a blank slate and blank checks signed by Uncle Terry himself.

*** Continue reading

2ITB Special: 2015 NHL Mock Draft

Guest Post by Matt Kopnak

Ed Note: The NHL Draft is fast approaching and we all know Jack Eichel will be officially named a Buffalo Sabre on June 26. The rest of the first round has a fair share of intrigue surrounding it and Matt Kopnak (follow him @mattkopnak) took some time to hammer out a mock draft for 2ITB. He has a few interesting picks sprinkled in and this will serve as a great precursor to the Mock Draft Instigator Podcast that will be coming in the very near future.

Enjoy Matt’s mock draft and stay tuned for the upcoming Instigator Mock Draft Podcast Spectacular. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 4.4 – What do to with 21

Tim Murray’s most recent interview on WGR highlighted the general manager’s interest in Halo along with his thoughts on the 21st pick. He mentioned Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov as a potential target with the 21st pick while also mentioning his interest in moving up in the draft.

Tyler and Chris chat about the best course of action with the 21st pick while also touching on the NHL Combine and other future NHL events that the Sabres are looking to land.