As the Stanley Cup Finals creep closer, as does the draft and offseason. That means teams who missed the playoffs or those eliminated early are gearing up for roster changes. The most recent edition of 31 Thoughts had plenty of tidbits on those potential moves and in the newest OT, I take a look at a few that stood out.
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 bonus extension of the deadline podcast looks at some of the biggest trades that went down at the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline. We look into all of the moves made by the Columbus Blue Jackets and the arms race out West. Specifically the deals made by Nashville, Winnipeg and, of course, Vegas.
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For a team hoping to reshape their identity this offseason, the Buffalo Sabres are seriously short on talent and assets which can be parlayed into the type of deals which would bring about any sort of marked improvement.
Outside of Ryan O’Reilly, who could fetch a king’s ransom should he be traded, the Sabres have scant few assets they can give up in trades. They’re short on picks and expendable prospects with value. O’Reilly is the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue and San Jose’s first round pick is another valuable option but there isn’t much beyond that.
One avenue available to Botterill is a path he’s ventured down once during his time as the Sabres GM. Taking on salary to land the player he’s seeking. Even with the added cap hit that Jason Pominville carried, the deal that brought Pominville and Marco Scandella to Buffalo was a coup for the Sabres. Botterill was able to acquire a solid defenseman for his top four for a pair of forwards who were quickly becoming spare parts in Buffalo. The Sabres took on about $3mm in cap when it was all said and done, a minor uptick to unload dead weight and seriously upgrade the blueline.
It’s a tactic Botterill is in position to take advantage of once again this summer. Continue reading
Phil Housley sits at the center of one of Buffalo’s more interesting trade trees. A memorable player in his own right, the tree includes three, maybe four, of the most iconic players to ever suit up for the Sabres.
Housley’s tenure in Buffalo was somewhat rocky, with complaints about his lack of physicality and grit overshadowing his prowess as a play driver.
After being selected with the pick acquired for the 1975 Cup team’s favorite players, Jerry Korab, Housley was included in a blockbuster that brought the Sabres one of the league’s best scorers. Housley had blossomed into one of the game’s most dynamic offensive defensemen and Dale Hawerchuk was a bona fide superstar. He had scored 35 or more goals in eight of his first nine NHL seasons – seven with 40-plus goals – and had six 100-point seasons. The pair came with a swap of first round picks in 1990, moving the Sabres up five spots. This is where the Jets wind up winning the trade, as they say.
The Sabres selected Brady May with the 14th selection and he’d become a fan favorite and score the most famous goal in franchise history. The Jets wound up picking 500-goal and 1,000-point club member Keith Tkachuk at 19. From there the rest is history. Tkachuck would twice score 50 goals for the Jets/Coyotes before moving on to St. Louis. May was turned into a key member of the 1999 Cup team, Geoff Sanderson.
This one doesn’t have the legs of something like the Martin tree or even the (spoiler alert) Dominik Hasek trade tree. But it stretches over three decades of team history, an impressive span considering the low number of players involved.
Note: I made one slight alteration to this tree compared to the others: splitting Scott Arniel off separately. While he was a simple throw in to the Housley/Hawerchuk deal, I chose to include his branch to make the tree more robust.
After Jacob Trouba’s surprising trade request from Winnipeg, Chris and Tyler discuss the Sabres-related focus on the request and potential for the Sabres to acquire the young blueliner. We also touch on the beginning of Sabres training camp and the battle for spots in Buffalo’s bottom six. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, hit the link here to subscribe and rate.
Tim Murray has had the arsenal of assets to make a major play for talent going back to his first trade deadline as the Buffalo Sabres general manager. He will enter his second trade deadline with his second major trade in his rear-view mirror.
Murray shipped an impressive package of Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a conditional first round draft pick to Winnipeg in exchange for Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf. It’s a trade the provides the Sabres with not one, but two significant pieces that fit in both the short, and long term plans of the organization.
There is some concern that Murray may have sacrificed too much in order to complete the trade but in a world where you have to pay a premium to obtain premium talent, it lines up as a balanced transaction for both teams. Continue reading