Under normal circumstances the Sabres goaltending depth chart would have been difficult to navigate this year. Prior to the confirmation that teams would be operating with a taxi squad it was looking like it could be a problem.
While Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark are effectively locked in as the top two goalies, finding appropriate playing time for Jonas Johansson, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Dustin Tokarski was going to require creativity. In a typical regular season the Sabres would have the ability to split their minor league goaltenders between Rochester and Cincinnati, easing the burden on the Amerks’ coaching staff to get the right players enough playing time. With Cincinnati not participating this season, the potential for a three-headed monster in the Rochester crease could have been cause for concern.
Aside from finding the right tandem in Buffalo to give the Sabres the best opportunity to end their playoff drought, the most important task with Buffalo’s goaltenders is the development of Luukkonen. It seems unlikely that he would have been destined for Cincinnati given the strides he took last year, though the Cyclones would have been a vital relief valve for the organization to utilize to prevent any one goalie from sitting too long. Continue reading
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.
- 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
While the Sabres didn’t lose Linus Ullmark to the Vegas expansion draft, Buffalo’s goaltending pipeline remains a weak point within the organization; something that will need to be addressed this summer.
It appears evident that Cal Petersen will exercise his right as a free agent and sign with one of the league’s other 30 clubs. UPDATE: Jason Botterill confirmed today that Petersen will test free agency, adding that he doesn’t expect Petersen to sign with the Sabres.
That leaves the Sabres with only Jonas Johansson and
restricted free agent Jason Kasdorf (edit: Kasdorf still has a year left) in the pipeline. With Ullmark set to graduate to full-time duty as Robin Lehner’s backup, the Sabres will need to get to work on finding help in net.
Count on the draft being the first step towards remedying the situation. The Sabres will draft at least one goaltender this weekend and may have been slated to spend a late round pick on a second had they not shipped their sixth round pick to Vegas as part of the expansion draft. Spending a pick on Jake Oettinger or Keith Petruzzelli (profiled in Kris Baker’s draft preview) would provide the Sabres a high value prospect to groom over the next couple of seasons. Both fit the blueprint of a modern NHL goaltender; a big body that can move well and both would instantly upgrade Buffalo’s goaltending depth.
Beyond the draft, the Sabres could use a few assets to take on key minutes in Rochester and to push Lehner and Ullmark. At the very least, the Sabres need to acquire one goalie this summer. Kasdorf is most likely to be shuttling between Rochester and Cincinnati, if not taking permanent residence with the Cyclones after a rough rookie season. A goaltender to work in tandem with Johansson in Rochester, if not a player capable of ascending to a higher level with additional growth, will be needed. Continue reading
Buffalo Sabres training camp was supposed to have opened last Friday. Instead, Tyler Ennis agreed to hop over the pond to Switzerland, Christian Ehrhoff was beginning his stint back in Germany and other Sabres were pondering European deals as well.
While it doesn’t seem as if the Sabres will be starting up any time soon, the Amerks have been injected with some extra talent (from their parent club) and have a deep, overpopulated roster to sort through before the puck drops on the AHL season.
The most difficult decisions for Ron Rolston and his staff will be at forward and defense, where the surplus of players is significant. However, the most delicate situation that Rolston and the organization as a whole will need to deal with is in net.
David Leggio is back for another season with the club but will have some interesting company this season. Rookies Nathan Lieuwen and Connor Knapp will each be entering their initial professional seasons but in a situation where two’s company and three is typically a crowd.
Leggio is the unquestioned starter after finding his way into Rolston’s good graces with consistently solid play last year. This was a pleasant surprise for the WNYer because of the contract given to AHL journeyman Drew MacIntyre who was signed to provide more stability as Buffalo’s third goaltender. However, one year removed from outperforming Jhonas Enroth in Portland, Leggio did it again to another goaltender who was tabbed as the superior talent.
The big step here is that Leggio is just one injury away from stepping in as the Sabres backup. This is likely something that the Sabres are at least somewhat concerned with because of the massive question mark that is Leggio’s ability at the NHL level. While he is a very good AHL goalkeeper, there is nothing that indicates how strong he would be filling time in the show.
Leggio’s presence will stabilize the Amerks crease and give the team a reliable starter for a majority of their regular season contests. He should also serve as a tutor of sorts for Lieuwen and Knapp. Where the situation gets sticky is the way in which the two rookies will be rotated. Continue reading