Wednesday, July 18, 2018

C.J. Smith contract pushes Sabres pro contracts to 47. Only Reinhart left.

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 7-17-2018


The Buffalo Sabres announced yesterday afternoon announced the signing of restricted free agent forward C.J. Smith to a one-year, two-way deal. Smith's contract will pay him $874,125 at the NHL level and, according to CapFreindly, a $70,000 minor league salary. Buffalo GM Jason Botterill sent qualifying offers to six RFA's late last month and to this point five have signed at that qualifying offer with all of those contracts being one-year, two-way deals. In addition to Smith, Sean Malone, Nicholas Baptiste, Danny O'Regan and Justin Bailey are now under contract with Buffalo.

The only remaining RFA is 2014 second-overall pick Sam Reinhart who just finished his three-year entry-level deal after a one-year entry-level slide.

The 23 yr. old Smith just came off of a stellar campaign where he was named Rochester Americans rookie of the Year. His 17 goals and 44 points placed the UMass-Lowell product third on the Amerks in scoring and 10th amongst AHL rookies. Although somewhat small at 5'11" 185 lbs., the Des Moines, Iowa native plays an honest two-way game on the wing and isn't afraid to take on whatever comes at him on the ice. He's also been able to produce at every level and showed off his competitive edge at the pro prospect-level by scoring six points (2+4) in three 2017 Prospect Challenge games last year.

Reinhart's contract negotiations are much more difficult than the previous five in that he has three full seasons plus a nine-game audition with the Sabres under his belt. In 249 games the 22 yr. old Reinhart has 65 goals and 140 points but his Jekyll and Hyde 2017-18 season makes projections extremely difficult. The 6'1" 192 lb. forward who does his best work on the wing was virtually non-existent through the 2017 portion of the schedule scoring only 11 points (5+6) through the first 38 games before blowing up for 20 goals and 19 assists in 44 games beginning January 1.

Which Sam Reinhart will the Sabres be signing? For how long? And how much?

The Smith signing brings the total number of pro contracts in Buffalo to 47 with only Reinhart left to go. The Sabres roster right now has 21 players--12 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies--while the rest of the organization has 26 pro player contracts including Matt Moulson who's contract was buried in the minors last season and looks to be so this season.

With August coming, the dog days of summer are upon us and the hockey world, but Botterill will still have some work to do. After the expected signing of Reinhart, the Sabres will have 13 forwards with both Baptiste and Bailey out of waiver options and likely to be claimed if sent down. Defenseman Casey Nelson is in the same boat and it's assumed the Sabres will want to keep him bringing the total to eight d-men right now. Add in the two goalies and that would be 25 roster players, not including defenseman Brendan Guhle who's expected to be in the mix out of camp.

Something's got to give.

Until then, all eyes are on Reinhart and his contract at this point.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

And then there were two. Sabres/Justin Bailey agree to deal.

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 7-16-2018


It certainly makes sense that the two remaining Buffalo RFA's--Sam Reinhart and C.J. Smith involve deals that are more difficult to hammer out than putting ink to paper on qualifying offer numbers. Sabres GM Jason Botterill signed C, Sean Malone late last week and on Sunday morning the team announced that forwards Nicholas Baptiste and Danny O'Regan signed as well. Less than six hours later winger Justin Bailey was signed to a one-year, deal.

All four of those forwards signed for one-year, two-way deals for their qualifying amount at the following NHL numbers:

Malone--$787,500
Baptiste--787,500
O'Regan--874,125
Bailey--715,000

All of their AHL salaries are listed at $70,000 according to CapFreindly.

It's a sink or swim year for Bailey, whether it's in Buffalo or somewhere else as the Sabres are loaded with forwards and not enough room for all of them on the big club. The 23 yr. old powerforward has an intriguing size/skating package and although his skills seem somewhat limited at this time, the 6'3" 214 lb. winger has enough to draw interest should the Sabres waive him at any point.

Bailey was drafted in the second round (52nd-overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft by then GM Darcy Regier. He's one of those players who's on his third GM and a revolving door of coaches at both the NHL and AHL level. He showed plenty of promise in the OHL putting up career numbers in his final season split between the Kitchener Rangers and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He turned pro for the 2015-16 season putting up a very solid stat-line of 45 points (20+15) in 70 games for  the Rochester Americans and also got a taste of the NHL with eight games played for the Sabres, but failing to hit the scoresheet.

In 2016-17 Bailey appeared in 32 games for the Sabres and only scored two goals and two assists. Last season he scored three goals and added an assist in 12 NHL games which shows some progress.

The right-handed Bailey was drafted as a right-winger but has spent the majority of his pro career playing his off wing as Buffalo is severely lacking left wingers. This may or may not have affected his play but regardless of what side he plays on inconsistency is killing whatever hopes he has of sticking with the big club. Bailey is like many we've seen over the years in that he'll look great for a couple of game, and in the process living up to every positive thing written about him, but fade to the point where he was sent back to Rochester.

This season, however if he doesn't stick with Buffalo and he gets sent down, he probably won't clear waivers and he'll be playing for another team.

The Sabres are loaded with players at this point of the off season. They have 12 NHL forwards right now not including Bailey or Baptiste and minus Reinhart as well. They have seven NHL defensemen which doesn't include Casey Nelson who would need to clear waivers and Brendan Guhle who many see as making a strong push to be on the opening night rosters, but is waivers-exempt.

Also something to keep an eye on is the number of pro contracts Buffalo has. After the Sabres sign Reinhart and Smith they'll have used up 49 of the 50 standard player contracts allowed by the NHL. Something's got to give as that's not a lot of wiggle room heading into the season.

That's something to worry about some other day as Botterill now shifts his focus to Reinhart and Smith. With Reinhart's contract being a more difficult to negotiate, we may see Smith singed sometime soon followed by a Reinhart deal at a later date.



Monday, July 16, 2018

Jason Botterill checks off two more from his RFA list.

Published by hockeybuzz,com, 7-15-2018


Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill is beginning to kick it in gear with his restricted free agents. On Thursday the Sabres and Sean Malone agreed to a one-year, two way deal and it was announced today that Buffalo also came to terms with both Nicholas Baptiste and Danny O'Regan.

The soon to be 23 yr. old Baptiste, who was selected in the third round (69th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft, was signed to a one-year, two-way contract at his qualifying offer of $787,500. Baptiste has a lot going for him with his size (6'1" 205 lbs.) and his exceptional speed and skills augmented by a very nice repertoire of shots that he can score from anywhere with. However his pro career thus far has been marked by inconsistencies.

Look for Baptiste to have every opportunity to make it with the Sabres in a top-nine role as he is no longer waiver-exempt and it's doubtful that Botterill would send him down and risk losing him to waivers.

O'Regan came to Buffalo via the Evander Kane to San Jose trade. The 5'10" 184 lb. former Boston University standout has excelled at the AHL level but struggle a bit in the NHL and is waivers-exempt. He also signed a one-year, two-way deal which will pay him his qualifying offer of $874, 125 at the NHL level.

Botterill has three more restricted free agents left to sign, Sam Reinhart, C.J. Smith and Justin Bailey from a list that started out at six.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

What's in store for Botterill's five qualified RFA's? Today, C.J.Smith

Published by hockeybuzz.com.7-14-2018


Late last month Sabres GM Jason Botterill qualified six Buffalo restricted free agents. According to the Buffalo News, these were the players, their salaries last season and their qualifying offers:

--F Justin Bailey $650,000/$715,000
--F Nick Baptiste $750,000/$787,500
--F Sean Malone $750,000/$787,500
--F Danny O’Regan $832,500/$874,125
--F Sam Reinhart $832,500/$874,125
--F C.J. Smith $832,500/$874,125

On Thursday the team announced that F, Sean Malone was signed to a one-year, two-way deal for $787,500 at the NHL level with a minor league salary, according to CapFreindly.com, of $70,000. That leaves Botterill with five RFA's to sign.

Today we look at F, C. J. Smith.

Former GM Tim Murray signed Smith out of UMass-Lowell to a two-year entry-level deal on March 30, 2017. The 5'11" 180 lb. left winger got in two games for the Sabres that season burning one year of his contract and spent the entire 2017-18 with the Rochester Americans recording 17 goals and adding 27 assists. Those 44 points placed him third on the Amerks and 10th amongst all AHL rookies in scoring.

Smith came to Buffalo after an impressive career with the River Hawks leaving college after his junior season with 125 points (56+69) in 120 games. The 2017 Hockey East Tournament MVP was a coveted free agent when he decided to leave UMass-Lowell, but according to Buffalo Hockey Beat's Bill Hoppe, Murray was a "heavy influence" to sign with Buffalo. Murray was fired a month later and Smith, despite being unsure where he stood with the new GM and coach, ended up having a stellar season in Rochester and could surprise coming out of camp this Fall.

Although top-six left wingers are a position of need right now for the Sabres, Smith may not see that type of action in Buffalo this season. At least to start. The shifty Smith has speed and skill and can finish, as shown in his rookie campaign, but may end up being the type of player slated for top-line minutes in the AHL and/or a top-nine slot with the big club on a recall basis.

Smith's NHL salary was $925,000 the last two seasons but his two-way deal paid him only $70,000 in the AHL. With the way he plays, the honest effort he gives and the upside that he still has, a two-year deal may be in the offing for him with a possible structure having the first year a two-way and the second a one-way. It wouldn't be surprising to see his AHL salary jump to six figures with his NHL salary being in the $700,000 range.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Take him of the list. RFA Sean Malone signs a one-year deal with Buffalo.

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 7-12-2018


The Buffalo Sabres announced today that the team has reached an agreement with restricted free agent forward Sean Malone. According to the press release Malone signed a one-year, two-way deal where the NHL salary is $787,500. His AHL number hasn't been released thus far.

Malone just completed his first pro season scoring 12 goals and adding 10 assists in 73 games for the Rochester Americans. The 22 yr. old West Seneca, NY native signed his two-year entry-level deal last April 8 and made his NHL debut that same night thus burning the first year of his deal. Malone got off to a rough start in Rochester while acclimating to the pro game but picked things up in February of this year. From February 16 until the end of the regular season, a span of 26 games, Malone scored eight goals and added five assists.

A lot of positive things have been said about the Harvard grad as he began to fully get a grasp on the pro game and many had him with a decent shot at making the Sabres out of camp. Jon Vogl, who with the Buffalo News before heading to The Atlantic wrote after the Amerks were swept out of the playoffs that "[Malone's] stock went up in a hurry. The West Seneca native started on the fourth line, but he was double-shifting by the end and was the Amerks' go-to guy on faceoffs."

Kris Baker has been following the Sabres prospects well before landing a gig with The Athletic last month. He tweeted this about Malone after the rookie scored his 10th goal of the season in Rochester, "Sean Malone is going to be a excellent bottom-six forward for the Sabres, but for now he continues to grow into his role on the farm."

With Buffalo GM being a staunch supporter of players incubating in the minors for as long as necessary, and with the additions of veteran forwards Patrick Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka, along with the fact that the Sabres are deep down the middle, Malone's odds of making the Sabres out of camp are drastically reduced at this time. But like Baker said, he looks as if he'll be in the bottom-six mix for Buffalo for a long time beginning in 2019-20.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

What's in store for Botterill's six qualified RFA's? Today, Nicolas Baptiste

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 7-11-2018


Late last month Sabres GM Jason Botterill qualified six Buffalo restricted free agents. According to the Buffalo News, these were the players, their salaries last season and their qualifying offers:

--F Justin Bailey $650,000/$715,000
--F Nick Baptiste $750,000/$787,500
--F Sean Malone $750,000/$787,500
--F Danny O’Regan $832,500/$874,125
--F Sam Reinhart $832,500/$874,125
--F C.J. Smith $832,500/$874,125


Today we look at F, Nicolas Baptiste.


The story of Baptiste covers three Sabres GM's. He was selected by the Sabres in the third round (69th-overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft as Darcy Regier was nearing the end of his long tenure in Buffalo. When Tim Murray took over in January 2014, one of his earlier moves came in May when he signed Baptiste to his entry-level deal. Present GM Jason Botterill took over from Murray in May, 2017 and he qualified the restricted free agent this year.

Baptiste has a helluva package as a prospect that GM's can easily fall in love. He has size and skill and a great set of hands and is an extremely fast skater. Some of those traits are on display here, via sabres.com, as he scores his first goal of the 2017-18 season for the Blue and Gold:



That's the Baptiste that's so intriguing. He hits the afterburners in the neutral zone, skates in all alone and deposits the puck with ease.

Having not been able to remember when that goal was scored I had to do a little research and unfortunately, it was relatively easy to find and that's the downside to Baptiste--he only scored four goals in 33 games this season. For his career he Baptiste has 10 points (7+3) in 47 NHL games.

This is a big year for both Baptiste and fellow 2013 draft pick Justin Bailey as they're out of waiver options. The duo will be given every opportunity at camp to meaningfully contribute to the Sabres this season and it's up to them to get the job done.

A player like Baptiste who has blazing speed should be drooling at the opportunity to possibly play on a line with Jack Eichel. It's a situation he got a taste of in the OHL back in 2014-15 after the Erie Otters acquired him from the Sudbury Wolves. Baptiste was traded to the team that had Connor McDavid and although he had minimal playing time on McDavid's wing, Baptiste ended up tallying 53 points (26+27) in 41 games.

It's really all there for Baptiste from a skill and skating perspective but what's missing is consistency and confidence. One would be hard-pressed to see Botterill offer more than a one year deal to Baptiste as this is a 'show me' year, but even if it's stretched out to two years, we're probably looking at a $700K salary at best.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What's in store for Botterill's six qualified RFA's? Today, Danny O'Regan

Late last month Sabres GM Jason Botterill qualified six Buffalo restricted free agents. According to the Buffalo News, these were the players, their salaries last season and their qualifying offers:

--F Justin Bailey $650,000/$715,000
--F Nick Baptiste $750,000/$787,500
--F Sean Malone $750,000/$787,500
--F Danny O’Regan $832,500/$874,125
--F Sam Reinhart $832,500/$874,125
--F C.J. Smith $832,500/$874,125


Today we look at F, Danny O'Regan.


Published by hockeybuzz.com, 7-10-2018


He was part of the Evander Kane trade at the 2018 NHL trade deadline when the Sabres sent Kane to the San Jose Sharks. He was also a team mate of Jack Eichel, Evan Rodrigues and Brandon Hickey at Boston University when the Terriers lost to the Providence Friars in the National Championship game.

A couple quick notes on that, O'Regan put the Terriers up 3-2 with less than nine minutes to go on an assist from Eichel and the Terriers peppered Friars goalie John Gilles with 52 shots, Eichel had six, O'Regan five, Rodrigues one, and Hickey three.

The 24 yr. old O'Regan was drafted in 2012 by the Sharks in the fifth round (138th-overall) and joined the Sharks organization after four years at BU where he scored 154 points (66+88) in 154 games. O'Regan followed his college career with an equally strong 2016-17 AHL season where the  rookie lead the San Jose Barracuda in scoring with 58 points in 61 games, lead all rookies in goals with 23 and was awarded the Dudley "Red" Garrett Award as the AHL's rookie of the year.

O'Regan was on the cusp of making the Sharks roster after camp last season but was sent back to the Barracuda scoring seven goals and adding 18 assists in 31 games as he was shuffled back and fourth between the two pro teams. He appeared in 22 games for the Sharks before being traded to Buffalo. He spent 18 games with the Rochester Americans scoring six goals and adding nine assists and dressed in the Blue and Gold for two games in early March.

O'Regan checks off a lot of boxes for Botterill as the 5'10" 185 lb. forward defies his smaller size with a strong work ethic and excellent skating while proving he can score at every level he's been at thus far. However, the NHL is the big jump and so far his scoring prowess hasn't transferred.

Which leads us to this coming season.

It wouldn't be too surprising to see him with a one or two year, deal with a little more added to his AHL salary. According to CapFreindly, O'Regan's NHL salary was set at $858,750 while making $70,000 in the AHL. He's a pretty big get for the Sabres in that he could really give a big boost to Rochester should he not make the Sabres out of camp. That might boost his AHL salary over six figures and we could see a Casey Nelson-type, two-year contract where the first year is a two-way deal ($650K NHL/$150K AHL) with the second year being a one-way $650,000 deal.