Tuesday, June 6, 2017

George McPhee's potential top-three unprotected Buffalo Sabres

Published by hockeybuzz.com 6-4-2017

Las Vegas GM George McPhee was in Buffalo for the annual NHL Scouting Combine getting a good look at over 100 prospects who were in town for interviews and testing. It was a lot to take in for the expansion Golden Knights GM but as he walked about downtown discussions with other GM's invariably were directed towards potential deals. "It seemed the other day we go down to lunch, and I ran into a few GMs and the conversations started," McPhee said, via TSN. "It's been a busy week, but certainly productive."

Productive in the sense that he's already "far enough along with a few teams that my plan is to sit on the phone all day Monday, Tuesday to see what we can accomplish," according to the TSN piece.

With Buffalo as the host city, of course McPhee would hook up with new Sabres GM Jason Botterill to exchange wants. McPhee was quoted as saying that their first and only discussion went very well and that they would be talking soon.

The Sabres are in good shape when it comes to potential exposure to the draft. Names like Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Justin Bailey and Nick Baptiste did not meet the requirements to be exposed and of the ones that do, only a couple would represent a loss to a degree. The key for Botterill will be to entice McPhee into taking on a bloated contract. There are four on the books ranging from $3.9-$5.1 million ranging from one to three years. McPhee intimated that teams looking to either keep their roster intact or ditch a hefty contract will pay a price.

One should expect a deal to be made between Buffalo and Vegas. The Golden Knights have a prospect pool to fill and are looking for as many draft picks as they can get their hands on. Buffalo will be heading into the NHL Draft on June 23, a mere two days after the announcement of  Vegas' roster, with one extra second and one extra third rounder. Would one of those be enough of an enticement to take on one of those four contracts?

We'll see. But in lieu of that using CapFriendly's mock expansion draft tool to come up with the top-three players left exposed by Buffalo that McPhee might be interested in.

1. LW, William Carrier

Carrier's speed and quickness are tailor-made for the way the NHL is played these days. He also has size (6'2" 212 lbs.) and a some good scoring instincts. Although he didn't dazzle when he played in Buffalo last season with eight points (3+5) in 41 games, the 22 yr. old second round pick has upside and might just be of interest to McPhee.

It looks as if Botterill and Co. might have a decision on their hands between exposing Carrier and F, Zemgus Girgensons, who's a year older and is more versatile up-front in that he could play every position.

2. G, Linus Ullmark

If former Sabres GM Tim Murray was still at the helm, it would be a slam dunk that Ullmark would be exposed. Murray's the one that traded the 21st overall pick to Ottawa for Murray and there's no way he'd expose Buffalo's starter last season. But even though he's gone, Botterill still may opt to expose Ullmark over Murray.

The Knights will have some pretty good goalies to pick from at the expansion draft which will probably names like veterans Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) and Jimmy Howard (DET) for the starters role. But they'll have three other slots to fill in the organization. Washington's Philipp Grubauer tops the list of good young goalies who will be on the Knights' radar and Ullmark, who's waivers-exempt, could easily fill in one of the two remaining spots for Vegas.

3. D, Taylor Fedun

Normally an unrestricted free agent like Fedun would still be under contract with the Sabres until July 1. For expansion draft purposes, the Knights will have an exclusive window during the weekend of the expansion draft to negotiate with UFA's. However, if they do sign a team's UFA, that will count as that team's player selected in the expansion draft.

The 29 yr. old Fedun has been wallowing away in the minors for the better part of five year professional career. Last season injuries in Buffalo gave him the opportunity to showcase his talents for an extended period. He played a career-high 27 games for the Sabres registering seven assists and a plus-3 rating. As a puck-mover with offensive acumen and the ability to man the point on the powerplay, Fedun fits right into how the game is geared towards more mobile defensemen.

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