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

Two in the Mailbox – What would O’Reilly and Ristolainen Swaps Look Like?

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.

Back at it post, post lottery. Let’s get to it.

Adam/@sharpndpensel – You’re Jason Botterill. You decided to reshape the roster, you want to move Ristolainen for a forward and Ryan O’Reilly for a defenseman. Who are your trade partners, and who are you targeting?

This is a topic I’ve been tossing around for a little while now. In this space, on Twitter and in private conversations. Given that this subject was submitted by a few people for this mailbag it seems like a good time to dig in deeper.

The first thing to consider is that trading two talents like O’Reilly and Ristolainen in the same summer would be fairly unlikely. That’s a lot of negotiating to consummate two deals of similar stature. But from a hypothetical standpoint, these two players offer the opportunity for the Sabres to flip their depth and shake up the locker room without becoming exposed at a key position. But the key word here is hypothetical.

Continue reading

Two in the Mailbox – Potential Lines and Pairings, Risto Workload and Very Bad Trades

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.

A quick note before we begin this week. Now that the Sabres are completely done and the offseason questions are circling the same topics, the mailbox will probably come out every other week or perhaps even take a brief hiatus as more Sabres-related topics come back into focus once the playoffs wrap up. And now, to the questions. Continue reading

Two in the Mailbox – O’Reilly Availability and the Worst Trade You’ve Ever Seen

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.

Joe/@jneumann522 – Let’s assume #90 is available, what teams would be interested and what would be a reasonable return?

O’Reilly is going to be a hot topic until he’s moved or until the season starts. He’s one of the few players who carries enough value to help the Sabres in a trade and his cap hit is big enough that a deal would be beneficial from a financial perspective as well.

You can put down just about any team with a semblance of need at center as a potential opening for O’Reilly but teams the Sabres would want to deal with would likely whittle that list down a fair bit. Carolina is an obvious candidate as they not only have a surplus of defensemen but are said to be searching for forward help. St. Louis was working on a center at the deadline after they flipped Paul Stastny. I wouldn’t even rule out Edmonton given their ongoing search for hockey players.

O’Reilly is also a divisive subject given that he’s been a steady contributor since being acquired and has plenty to offer. So the only way it makes sense to move him is if the deal addresses another area of need. Specifically the blueline. The Sabres would need to noticeably strengthen their blueline with either a current NHLer or fetch a package that includes a blue chip prospect who could step into a role on Buffalo’s D starting next year. That’s a mighty small target to hit but when you consider Buffalo’s needs and the value O’Reilly carries, it’s the only way moving him would help improve Buffalo’s roster. Continue reading

Two in the Mailbox: Ho-Sang and Potential Sabres Departures

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.

Scott/@scottymcss – Get you some Ho-Sang? Continue reading

Two in the Mailbox – Buyout Candidates, Team Speed and Bad Trades

Two in the Mailbox, the 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.

Joe/@JoeHockeySabres – Who are the Sabres buyout candidates? What are the buyout rules regarding numbers and salaries? Who will they pay?

The Sabres only have one buyout on their books (Cody Hodgson). The other two (Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino) are compliance buyouts, to the Sabres have room to work if they opt for buyouts. Here is a good rundown of the NHL’s buyout rules.

Matt Moulson seems like a pretty safe bet, even though it would probably be wiser to stash him in the AHL again and just eat that final year of his salary. On a buyout, Moulson would carry a $3.667m cap hit next year and $667K the year after. That’s a minimal net savings compared to simply keeping him one more year, but it would free up another contract space.

The most valuable buyout would probably be Zach Bogosian. His run of injuries have been incredibly detrimental to his time in Buffalo and he has two more seasons left at a cap hit over five million. Buffalo would gain a fair bit of flexibility if they chose to buy him out. From a contract perspective, cap perspective and even clearing a roster spot for a player with more availability such as Casey Nelson or perhaps even Will Borgen, depending how ready he is come October. Continue reading

Two in the Mailbox – When Does Mittelstadt get Signed, Next Year’s Goalies and Pipeline Graduates

Two in the Mailbox, the 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.

Matt/@matt_hervan – Which Casey signs a contract first, Mittelstadt or Nelson?

Sign this man

This is a good one. There’s been some chatter that Mittelstadt will return to Minnestoa for another season rather than signing to play in Rochester. There’s no guarantee that’s what Jason Botterill would want him to do – although it’s likely given his m/o – but that’s an option that would be on the table which could also keep the clock on his entry-level deal from starting. However, if Mittelstadt is to sign it’s my belief that it will come this spring after his season with the Gophers comes to a close. The Sabres would have the ability to pitch him on getting pro games right away, even burning a year of his ELC if it comes to that. He’d get a chance to make his NHL debut and he’d be able to play in the playoffs with Rochester as well, which should be a decent selling point for the player just as it would be an attractive development step for the club.

Getting Nelson extended seems like it’s going to be an offseason task. He’s unrestricted thanks to his Group VI UFA status but he really fits the mold of a true RFA. So it seems likely that once the season wraps up that Botterill will get to work on penning a new contract between Nelson and his agent.

It’s worth noting that my assumptions here are based on rumors and media reports on both player’s contract status. It would be just as easy to view Nelson as a player the Sabres will prioritize now rather than waiting until the summer when the clock is really ticking. Same goes to Mittlestadt as there’s been more than a few reports indicating the full court press will come in the summer.   Continue reading