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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The Instigator Podcast 10.25 – Cap Considerations to Influence Sabres Moves

The Sabres will have some work to do in order to reach the cap floor for the 2022-23 season. That will mean some creative moves will need to be made via free agency and the trade market in the coming weeks and months in order to hit the minimum salary cap figure. We run down a list for forwards, defensemen and goaltenders who the Sabres could target to not only fill their cap void, but to help push the team closer to competitiveness for the coming season.

The Instigator Podcast 9.39 – Offseason Update with Joe Yerdon

Joe Yerdon joins the show yet again as we discuss the Sabres work at the draft and free agency. We touch on how Taylor Hall will impact the roster and whether or not his acquisition gives the Sabres enough fire power to take the next step. Jack Quinn is on the table as well as we run through the draft and the tepid reaction to Quinn’s selection.

The Instigator Podcast 8.25 – NHL Beginning to see Coronavirus Impact

As coronavirus causes cancellations throughout the global sports scene, we spend some time this week discussing just how things are going in North America and what impact the NHL will eventually see as governments and health organizations around the world attempt to curb the spread of the virus. We discuss the short term impacts already in place such as limiting locker room access and the potential for the Sharks to play in an empty building. We also explore the larger impacts should things get worse and the league is forced to see multiple games (or even playoffs) played without fans. This week’s show had to get cut a bit short so I tried to make up for it by running through a few thoughts on potential college free agent targets at the tail end of the episode.

The Instigator Podcast 5.10 – Re-signing Risto and Examining the Remaining UFAs

Chris and Tyler come together to discuss the lack of a contract for Rasmus Ristolainen while looking at some of the recent deals inked by RFAs around the league. Meanwhile we discuss the remaining options (or lack thereof) on the free agent market in the event that Tim Murray needs to find a final body or two for his club. You can subscribe to The Instigator on iTunes or tune in via Stitcher by hitting the links.

The Instigator Podcast 5.7 – Breaking Down Okposo and the Sabres Remaining Offseason Moves

We’re back to break down the Buffalo Sabres’ signing of Kyle Okposo, acquiring Anders Nilsson and the trio of AHL deals made by Tim Murray. We also take a look at the next steps Murray will be taking as the summer progresses. You can find The Instigator Podcast on iTunes and Stitcher by following the links.

Inside the Numbers: Mike Hoffman, Offer Sheet Target

The NHL Draft has come and gone and free agency is on the horizon. The Buffalo Sabres and Tim Murray made a move with the Florida Panthers to kick off day two of the draft that evened out their defense ranks, bringing in Dmitry Kulikov and shipping out Mark Pysyk.

Shifting our focus from the defense, the Sabres need to add a top six winger to provide a desperately needed shot in the arm offensively. Last season, despite the 27 point improvement  from 2014-2015, Buffalo still ranked in the bottom five in even strength GF%, GF, and GF in all situations. That kind of offensive production won’t let you sniff a playoff spot, let alone contend once you make it.  Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 5.6 – Talking Kulikov, Pysyk and Sabres Free Agency with Matthew Coller

This week we are joined by Matthew Coller of WGR 550 to discuss the aftermath of the Dmitri Kulikov/Mark Pysyk trade from both an on-ice and analytical perspective. We also jump into options for the Sabres on the free agent market as the opportunity to acquire Steven Stamkos, Kyle Okposo or others looms for Friday.

Thanks again to Matthew for joining us for this episode. As always, you can catch the podcast below or tune in via Sticher or on iTunes as well.

 

Sabres Free Agent Targets – Forwards

A quiet draft weekend from Tim Murray may leave the Sabres GM as a more active player in the free agent shopping spree this summer. He indicated as much after the draft, although even had Murray netted more than just Dmitri Kulikov over the weekend it seems as if he still would have been a player in free agency this summer.

There has been plenty of talk about Steven Stamkos and the Sabres’ role as a player for the star. However, Stamkos will come with a hefty cap hit that may actually be better spent elsewhere. The Sabres will and should still take a long, hard look at Stamkos given the skill he possesses and the resume he boasts. But there are plenty of other quality options available to explore. Here’s a list of some of the players I could see Murray extending offers to this year. Continue reading

Sabres Free Agent Targets – Defensemen and Goalies

The acquisition of Dmitir Kulikov balanced out the pairs on Buffalo’s blueline and may leave Tim Murray done for the offseason when it comes to his defense corps. However, he hasn’t found a true puck mover for his power play and it would seem advantageous to acquire at least one more body to fill that role.

The market really thinned out when Alex Goligoski and Keith Yandle signed their respective deals. Perhaps the Sabres just wait until Brendan Guhle is ready for NHL time, maybe that even means this season. Given the thin market, Murray may simply choose to add depth, but there are a couple attractive options available, including two listed here.

Additionally, the Sabres are without a backup goaltender at this moment. Assuming Linus Ullmark will play another season in Rochester, the Sabres will be looking for a replacement for Chad Johnson. Those options remain far more plentiful than along the blueline as free agency approaches. Continue reading