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.