Published by hockeybuzz.com, 6-2-2017
There's been an uproar in Sabreland over the Sabres cutting ties with two of their draft picks as RW, Gustav Possler (2013, 130th-overall) and C, Giorgio Estephan (2015, 152nd) were not offered rookie contracts by Buffalo. Possler becomes a free agent while Estephan can re-enter the draft this year.
Possler had some promise as the heady Swede displayed good skating ability and offensive upside. After attending Sabres Development Camp after the draft, the 5'11" 185 lb. Possler began the 2013-14 season with MODO of the top-tier Swedish Hockey League. In 18 games he scored eight goals and added seven assists before he was felled by an ACL injury. The Sabres drafted him as skilled shooter with a quick first step and a shoot-first mentality but that injury wreaked havoc on his career and he's been relegated to a bottom nine role pretty much ever since.
The Estephan story is interesting in that the first half of his draft season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes was full of turmoil. After a mid-season coaching change the Hurricanes improved and Estephan was able to put up a stat line of 23 goals and 28 assists in 64 games. Estephan had a tremendous follow-up season with 74 points (30+44) and a plus-26 rating in 59 games and he even improved upon those stats this past season--89 points (35+54) in 69 games. But in what often can be the case, the Sabres projected that those junior numbers wouldn't transfer to the pros. Those who routinely watched his play pointed to his skating and quickness which never improved.
A case could have been made that the Sabres have 29 out of 50 Standard Player Contract filled right now and with 21 open spots, they could've signed Estephan, but they elected to pass. As for Possler, there was word out of Sweden last year that he was contented staying and playing in the homeland.
As mentioned, according to CapFriendly the Sabres have 29 players signed to pro contracts with the NHL allowing a total of 50. Buffalo just inked restricted free agent goalie Jonas Johansson to his entry-level deal and have nine more to make decisions on:
F, Marcus Foligno
F, Johan Larsson
F, Zemgus Girgensons
F, Evan Rodrigues
LW, Jean Dupuy
C, Justin Kea
D, Brady Austin
G, Robin Lehner
G, Linus Ullmark
They have 10 unrestricted free agents to decide upon as well with only a handful as possible re-signs--D, Taylor Fedun, W, Cole Schneider and C, Derek Grant.
Signing all of the above would put them at 41 pro contract and when you take away the one player they'll lose to the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, new GM Jason Botterill will be looking at about 10 SPC's left available, seven or eight if he wants to leave himself some wiggle room during the season.
In looking at it that way, every spot should be judiciously used.
One way to get rid of a couple contracts is to send a package deal to the Washington Capitals for soon to be 32 yr. old superstar winger, Alex Ovechkin. Word on the street is that the Caps may be interested in moving on from their captain as well as the remainder of his contract which is four years at a $9.5 million annual cap-hit.
Any trade involving "The Great 8" is a big one and of course, somehow Buffalo is in the mix despite the fact that his no-trade clause has a 10-team list that probably has the Sabres on it.
Despite the negatives that come to the fore concerning aspects of his game and the fact that he looks like he's slowing down a bit, an opportunity to grab a player of his ilk is always worth considering. It should also be noted that whoever trades for Ovechkin would be doing the Capitals a favor cap-wise.
Any talks involving the Sabres would need to involve a bad contract headed the other way or Washington retaining some of Ovie's salary. We all know the contracts the Sabres will be looking at in that regard so any trade proposal should include one of Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson, Zach Bogosian or Josh Gorges.
Having said that, methinks Botterill might be more inclined to put together a package deal for a top-four defenseman.