Another season is winding down and the future in net for the Sabres is up in the air once again. That’s exciting for a few reasons. First and foremost, the opportunity to improve in net opens the door for the Sabres to take a big step back to respectability as they work through this rebuild.
Second, and most importantly, a new goalie (or goalies) means new goalie gear.
Thanks to the Sabres rich history in goal, there have been buckets of goalies whose mask design or gear choices have been terrific. With the 2021-22 NHL season ready to wrap up, it felt like a good time to look back at 10 of the best sets of goalie gear in Sabres history.
You’ll notice that no one from the era of vintage pads did not make the cut. That’s simply because vintage pads are quite ambiguous. There’s nothing that really sets Roger Crozier apart from Gerry Desjardins or Gary Bromley besides their masks (and we’ve already ranked those). Those terrific vintage sets all have their place in history, but when it comes to the best looks in team history, they can’t compare to the way more modern pads pop with different color combinations.
This isn’t a ranking so much as a collection of the sets I feel look the best. So, the list isn’t in any particular order. Though I did save the best for last.
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?
In honor of the NHL Trade Deadline, it’s time once again to take a few reader questions.
I’m looking forward to Monday’s deadline as I think the Sabres are poised to move at least two or three players off the roster. And there’s potential for even more moves both out and in. Unless Kevyn Adams makes zero moves on Moday, it will be hard to say it was an underwhelming deadline.
As we touched on this week’s podcast, I’m hopeful that Adams will bring in a player who will be in Buffalo not just for the final weeks of the season, but well into the future. A younger player, ideally with term, who could add to the growing confidence over what Adams and the Sabres are trying to build. That’s easier said than done, but it wouldn’t be the first time the organization brought in a notable piece for the future at the deadline. Here’s hoping the next one comes on Monday.
Before we get to the questions, we should celebrate the beauty of the Armchair GM submissions on CapFriendly. It’s been far too long since we shared any of these, so let’s make up for lost time with some Very Bad Trades.
A few thoughts here. First, Kaapo Kahkonen has had a decent season for the Wild but he hasn’t yet risen to the level of a number one goalie. Marcus Foligno has also carved out a very valuable role in Minnesota, so the idea that just Casey Mittelstadt (whose has been very underwhelming when not injured) could fetch you both of these players is silly. Yet, that deal is trumped by the following offer of the Arizona Coyotes offering a first and a third for Victor Olofsson and recent healthy scratch, Anders Bjork. I’m not sure how to arrive at that particular valuation, but it seems…inaccurate. Olofsson ought to have some value this summer (or at the deadline) but Bjork’s value will have cratered and while the Coyotes do need players on contracts, they also desperately need draft capital.
Sure, I guess. There are other players in the NHL though. We don’t always have to do Pat Kane.
It’s been a busy week in the NHL and we open this week’s episode with a conversation over Aaron Dell’s suspension and the bind that it has put the Sabres in to with their goaltending. Not only do we discuss how the suspension affects the Sabres but the actions Dell took and if he was deserving of the penalty he received.
Along the way, we touch on the new hirings of Kent Hughes, Patrick Allvin and Émilie Castonguay. The Philadelphia Flyers’ recent exploits were also a topic as the club held a press conference addressing their current struggles and the path forward.
We wrap up with a discussion about Owen Power and Devon Levi’s future once the Olympics wrap up and just how they can fit into the Sabres roster after the Olympics, NHL Trade Deadline and the completion of their respective NCAA seasons.
One half of the Maintenance Day podcast team joined the show this week as Joe Yerdon was back once again. Unfortunately, Lance Lysowski was unable to join for our roundtable discussion. We touch on the Sabres difficult injury luck and how they will be addressing their goaltending pipeline as Devon Levi and Erik Portillo continue to impress in the NCAA. We also touch on the NHL’s announcement of rescheduled games and how the stretch run is going to be a challenge for teams to handle as the games will be coming fast and furious.
The Sabres goaltending woes have continued for a second-straight season as the injury bug has bitten the team hard. We discuss the most recent injuries to Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Malcolm Subban and what it means for Buffalo’s outlook. We also discuss Jack Quinn’s NHL debut and the promise he showed in his first game for the Sabres. The show opens with a discussion of Evander Kane’s latest exploits and whether or not the Oilers should be pursuing him as hard as they appear to be.
Malcolm Subban has been acquired, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been recalled and there’s still no end in sight for Buffalo’s issues in net. We discuss what options are left to the Sabres as they navigate an injury crisis to their goaltenders and how it could affect the remainder of the season. Along the way we touch on the latest round of firings as Jim Benning and Travis Green are out in Vancouver and Alain Vigneault has been fired by the Flyers.
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Help is on the way to the Sabres goal crease. The Sabres acquired Malcolm Subban from the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, addressing a glaring weak spot in the wake of Craig Anderson’s absence.
Even without the vagueness surrounding Anderson’s recovery, it was becoming apparent that the Sabres needed reinforcement in net. Dustin Tokarski has started to battle some inconsistency as the bell cow and Aaron Dell simply hasn’t played anywhere near an NHL level since being recalled.
It’s been Dell’s play in particular which has highlighted the need for some sort of upgrade in net. He’s made five total appearances and has posted a ghastly 4.56 GAA and .862 SV%. Those numbers are actually being boosted by the two relief appearances he’s made, where he turned aside 24 of 25 shots across roughly 60 total minutes of action. In games Dell has started, he’s posted an 0-3-0 record with an .833 SV% and a 6.06 GAA. He’s been sloppy, struggled with angles and has been generally unreliable since the Sabres called him up to replace Anderson.
The Sabres have a goaltending problem. To be clear, they’ve had a goaltending problem.
Going back to the 2020 offseason, the Sabres have been dealing with suspect goaltending talent. In an offseason that saw them attempt to upgrade at center (Eric Staal) and land one of the top UFAs (Taylor Hall) in what was ostensibly one last push to break their playoff drought with the existing core. Despite the big ticket acquisitions that summer, Kevyn Adams didn’t address the talent he had in net. Opting to run Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark back after the former posted an .898 save percentage the prior year.
It’s been a similar story this year. Granted, it was going to be difficult to find any notable free agent talent, let alone a goaltender, on the heels of a last place finish. But despite Craig Anderson’s hot start, his injury has left the Sabres exposed once again.
Adams deserves some leeway for the situation he inherited and is currently managing through, as the ability to lure a premier free agent for this season was always going to be a long shot. Opting not to exploit the trade market is a questionable decision, however, and it’s proving to be disastrous as Dustin Tokarski has regressed and Aaron Dell simply hasn’t been good enough. Meanwhile, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been off to an ugly start for the Amerks, effectively leaving the Sabres with no options in net until Anderson is healthy again.
Kevyn Adams took a calculated risk when he opted not to move Linus Ullmark ahead of the trade deadline this past season.
Ullmark, a pending unrestricted free agent, was one of the few bright spots for the Sabres this past year and has developed into a reliable NHL goaltender. Despite the lack of a contract extension, Adams seems to have felt it was more beneficial to keep Ullmark in the fold for future extension talks as opposed to collecting an asset for him.
Free agency is now approaching and it seems likely that Ullmark will hit the open market and likely sign with a team closer to competing. The Sabres are already short on goaltending depth, with Dustin Tokarski and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen as the only goaltenders under contract for next year. Adams was going to have to bring on at least one goalie this offseason and now it’s looking like he may need a pair.
Luukkonen’s short cameo in the spring featured a few highlights but he still looked like a prospect who needed a touch more seasoning. Tokarski also performed admirably but his rightful place is on the Rochester roster.
That means at least two goalies are needed with an organizational third not being out of the realm of possibility. The Sabres won’t be alone in the goalie market as I count at least eight teams who could (or should) be in the goalie market this summer.