Another Look at the Center Market

As the season was slipping away the general consensus was that the Sabres needed help at center to help reverse their slide down the standings.

That help never came, of course, with a number of potential targets swapped ahead of the deadline, leaving the Sabres to move for Brandon Montour and look ahead to 2019-20. As the deadline approached, I wrote this post to see just what was available around the league at center.

With whispers that Rasmus Ristolainen will be moved growing into a dull roar, I thought it might be wise to run down a similar list to see if anything has changed between January and now. Ironically, many of the same names I highlighted in January could conceivably still be acquired despite being moved prior to the deadline.

There aren’t too many centers around the league who fit the Sabres’ need on the second line, are on favorable contracts and who are truly available. That might make it more favorable for the Sabres to leverage their best trade chips to acquire a more skilled winger as opposed to taking a lesser center just because that happens to be on the to-do list. It’s tantamount to drafting the best player available or drafting for need.

If a center is what the Sabres hone in on between now and training camp, here is a look at which teams may be worth reaching out to and which players would make some sense. Continue reading

Over-Thought: Wading into the Offseason Rumor Mill

Depending how things shake out over the next few days, Jason Botterill will have just missed out on having an awfully busy month of May. The Sabres’ head coaching vacancy has been filled by Ralph Krueger, Buffalo made their first free agent signing of the summer and reports indicate that Botterill is inching closer to an agreement with Jeff Skinner on a contract extension.

The scouting combine ought to help push trade negotiations further ahead and that’s with one potential blockbuster already hanging out there. The most recent 31 Thoughts blog offered up plenty of juicy talking points on trade rumors and more. Check it out here if you haven’t already. Continue reading

Could First Round Exits Offer Sabres a Trade Partner?

The startling reality that faces the Sabres after yet another season without the playoffs is the club needs yet another round of big roster changes after their maneuvering over the past two summers has gone for naught.

Jason Botterill and Phil Housley’s first year saw ten new faces brought to Buffalo. They were just shy of repeating that figure again this season. While it’s not out of the question that the team they inherited was already heading to the basement before the pair stepped in. The franchise was already suffering in the wake of below average drafting and owned a handful of bad contracts while lacking depth. That they wound up finishing worse than Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma’s final year is perhaps more of an inevitability than a surprise. Regardless, Housley and Botterill will own the results of the last two seasons. It will all rest on Botterill’s feet and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be around to see the team climb back to respectability.

That leaves him will the difficult task of overhauling his roster for the third-straight summer. Last year’s overhaul brought only a minute improvement in the standings, buoyed by the 10-game win streak but destroyed by the January-to-April collapse. Does he have another trick up his sleeve, or will Botterill be resigned to a more conventional path to improvement?

Botterill’s best opportunity for unearthing talent at discount prices may come from targeting the teams run out of the first round of the playoffs. Teams like Pittsburgh who were frustrated at their early exit, or the Jets and Lightning whose cap situations will likely require trades to be made. Between tight cap situations and disappointing exits, there could be room for the Sabres to pounce. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.18 – Post All Star Outlook

After honoring the Sabres’ bye week we are back in action with some post All Star fun. We run down Peter Chiarelli’s firing in Edmonton and Toronto’s acquisition of Jake Muzzin. We also use the Muzzin acquisition as a way to reflect on Buffalo’s current status ahead of the trade deadline. In the theme of the last few episodes, we determine the tough decisions Jason Botterill will need to make regarding not only trade targets but the price he wants to pay to upgrade this roster.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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Exploring who the Sabres can Shop for at Center

The Sabres are in an unusual position heading into this season’s trade deadline. They’re no longer sellers but they’re still a ways off from being a traditional buyer. As the rental market isn’t going to favor Buffalo’s needs in either the short or long-term.

That’s a good thing. The Sabres aren’t a piece or two away from an Eastern Conference championship, nor are they stagnant, sitting on their hands hoping to stockpile more draft picks. At the very least they’re on schedule with the vision that Jason Botterill has set for the franchise. They may even be slightly ahead of schedule. I certainly think the fanbase would say they are in hopes of seeing the team stay ahead of schedule.

Between rumor reporting and media appearances with Botterill it’s pretty clear that the plan of attack is to only use a first round pick if it’s for a young player with term. That will narrow the trade market but also puts the Sabres in a position to hunt for bigger game. Rather than circling the rental market, Botterill has the opportunity to seek out a player who can plug into the Sabres core for longer than a few weeks.

If the next few weeks go well, I wouldn’t be shocked if Botterill sought out a pending UFA in an effort to give the Sabres one last boost for the stretch run (it is worth noting that Jeff Skinner may have been viewed as that guy), I don’t expect him to use a first round pick to do it.

The trade I wish the Sabres had been in on was the one that sent Nick Schmaltz from Chicago to Arizona. He’s exactly the type of player I hope the Sabres can find on the trade market: under 28, 200-foot player with term (team control in this case). It’s worth noting that 22-year old centers on their entry-level contracts don’t exactly grow on trees. But he checks about every box when it comes to who the Sabres should be targeting.

In terms of that particular deal I don’t think the Sabres had the ammo to make the deal that ultimately went down. Even with their extra first round picks, they don’t have a former lottery selection lying around that they could offer up like Arizona did with Dylan Strome.

Even if Schmaltz is no longer attainable, the Sabres won’t be without options when it comes to the trade market. So I decided to run through the other 30 rosters around the NHL to see just who might be worth targeting in a deal. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 7.15 – Post-Holiday Wish List

We’re back from the holidays with a wish-list of sorts of players we’d like to see the Sabres chase in order to shore up the thin areas of the team’s roster. We talk about some realistic options and a couple really optimistic ones as well. We also touch on the rosters for the 2019 All Star Game while offering up an alternative option which might provide more latitude for deserving players to be selected for the game.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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Two in the Mailbox: Finding Help Down the Middle after Berglund Departure

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.

At this rate the mailbag is going to be monthly rather than sometimes weekly. Either way, a lot has happened since the last iteration with Patrik Berglund’s contract termination being the most recent and the biggest headline.

We discussed Berglund for the first half of this week’s podcast and the one thing that I think will be misconstrued with his contract being terminated is that the Sabres can or should exercise the option on any player they please. Kyle Okposo, Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella are just a few of the guys I imagine fans are going to flood the mentions of writers with once Berglund’s termination is official.

The fact of the matter is that these scenarios are extremely unique and require a concrete violation in most cases (Jake Dotchin or Mike Richards, for example) for the team to have solid ground to stand on. So while you may want the Sabres to have the liberty to cut bait with Okposo with no questions asked, it’s just not in the cards. So why waste your time hoping for it? Continue reading