Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Sabres new No. 13 says Jack is ready to lead. Plus Summer Showcase news

Published by, 7-29-2019

The Buffalo Sabres will have a new No. 13 when they hit the ice for the 2019-20 season. Recently acquired winger Jimmy Vesey tweeted out that he will be wearing that number for the Blue and Gold. Vesey, a former college free agent who shunned the Nashville Predators and the Sabres when he signed with the NY Rangers in 2016, wore No. 26 for the Blueshirts but unfortunately for him that number is taken by 18 yr. old defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.

Of note, only six other players in Sabres fancies history have worn the No. 13: defenseman Jim Schoenfeld, on his second go-round with the Sabres; winger Yuri Khmylev; Vyacheslov Koslov, the disenchanted winger who came to Buffalo in the Dominik Hasek-forced trade with the Detroit Red Wings; first round pick Jiri Novotny; Buffalo native Tim Kennedy; and the most recent, Nicholas Baptiste in 2017-18.

Three more Sabres on arbitration list plus, Ullmark's numbers

Published by, 7-31-2019

Tomorrow will be August 1 which means summer's truly on it's way out, training camps are getting closer and...arbitration hearings will continue.

The Buffalo Sabres have three hearings left with players who filed for arbitration:

--F, Remi Elie (Aug. 1)
--G, Linus Ullmark (Aug. 2)
--D, Jake McCabe (Aug. 4)

All three players have issues heading into the hearings (if they go that far) which could mean the independent arbiter's decision will favor Buffalo in some way.

Elie is up tomorrow and although we're not sure as of yet what he's asking, anything north of $800K (which represents a raise of over $100) might be too much. Although it's hard not to love the determination with which the 24 yr. old plays the game, he just doesn't have the numbers to justify his present status of an AHL/NHL tweener who's best suited to a top-nine/six role with the Rochester Americans.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Arbiter nails E-rod case, three more to go for Sabres

Just how much is an NHL utility forward worth in this day an age? 

Perhaps Buffalo Sabres forward Evan Rodrigues is a prime case.

Rodrigues was an undrafted free agent out of Boston University signed by the Sabres in 2015. The former Terrier had just complete his fourth and final season at BU posting 21 goals and 41 assists in 40 games while riding shotgun alongside 2015 second overall pick, Jack Eichel. Everybody and their brother knew that the Eichel-effect was in play when projecting Rodrigues' upside with many feeling as if he'd be one of those AHL/NHL tweeners. 

Rodrigues can skate and maneuver in and out of trouble, he has hockey smarts, is a very capable set-up man and has a very good shot of his own, all of which he proved as he made his way up the ranks sans Eichel. However, it was his versatility that got him to this point thus far in his NHL career. Rodrigues can play all positions up-front and play on most lines save for maybe the top line and he was used on the penalty kill and powerplay last season. With the Sabres devoid of centers after Eichel, Rodrigues saw plenty of action there taking the third-most faceoffs on the team (655) albeit  with a sub-par 46.4 win percentage.

Last season the soon to be 26 yr. old Rodrigues established himself as an NHL who looks as if he'll fit in as a bottom-six forward who can be used in the top-six when needed. In 74 games he scored nine goals and added 20 assists for 29 points which was tied for sixth on the team (Kyle Okposo.) 

Friday, July 26, 2019

The numbers are out for Evan Rodrigues arbitration case set for Tues.

Published by, 7-21-2019

According to Elliotte Friedman, Buffalo forward Evan Rodrigues is headed towards a arbitration date on Tuesday with a number he's shooting for--$2.65 million per. The Sabres will be headed towards the arbitration table in Toronto with a different figure--$1.5 million per. Rodrigues and the Sabres are coming off of a two-year contract agreed upon under the watch of present Buffalo manager Jason Botterill that paid the 25 yr. old forward an average of $650K/year which means that he should at least double his salary this year.

If the case makes it to the arbitrator, which doesn't happen very often, he or she will need to decide just how much a utility forward like Rodrigues is worth.

The numbers last season weren't overwhelming for the player known as "E-rod" as he managed nine goals and 20 assists in 74 NHL games. His 29 points ranked him tied for eighth on the Sabres in 2018-19 while his minus-7 rating placed him fifth on the team for players playing at least half the season. His top-nine minutes included 12:48/game at even-strength, 1:22 on the powerplay and 1:40 on the penalty which ranked him fourth amongst Sabres forwards. Rodrigues can play any forward position on almost any line outside of top-line center but he's best suited in a bottom-six role and seems to work well as a pivot there.

In looking at his numbers since signing with the Sabres organization in 2015, Rodrigues has shown quietly acclimated himself to the pro game. His first season in Rochester he scored nine goals and 30 points in 71 games and the following season he had those exact same numbers in only 48 games. In his first partial season with Buffalo in 2016-17 Rodrigues had six points (2+4) in 30 games and his next partial season he was good for 25 points (7+18) in 48 games for the Sabres. 2018-19 was his first full NHL season and he played for a coach that ended up getting fired.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

A mid-July look at the Buffalo Sabres NHL depth-chart on defense

Published by, 7-19-2019

Please note the hyphenated word, "mid-July" as things could change with training camp still two months away. It also should be noted that the Buffalo Sabres traded for Jeff Skinner (CAR) on August 2 which goes to show that trades can happen at any time.

Buffalo's roster for 2019-20 will (must) change. As we saunter through the dog days of summer the Sabres have a full roster if you include the probable signings of three restricted free agents and two defensemen, Zach Bogosian and Lawrence Pilut, eventually coming back from off-season surgery. Bogosian is expected to be back for the start of the season while Pilut will take a little longer and will probably be spending time in Rochester before trekking into his sophomore campaign.

A crowded Sabres d-corps has eight NHL players already signed, another in Jake McCabe who's unsigned and filed for arbitration, and two more in Pilut and recently acquired Henri Jokiharju (CHI,) who played a significant time in the NHL last season. It's a good situation to be in as it's never a bad idea to have an overabundance of NHL-caliber defensemen but it will also force Buffalo to make some decisions.

For the sake of the following exercise we're going to move ahead under the premise that McCabe will re-sign with Buffalo.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Dylan Cozens could have had a legit NHL shot w/o thumb injury

Published by, 7-17-2019

The Buffalo Sabres walked up to the podium in Vancouver, BC in June and selected Lethbridge Hurricanes center Dylan Cozens with the seventh-overall pick in the NHL Draft. The 6'3" 183 lb. Yukon native has the NHL frame, skating, skill-level and two-way game to make the jump from draft prospect to NHLer quickly and it was possible that he could've at least got a nine-game run with the Sabres before they had to decide whether or not he should go back to junior.

However, a development camp injury may have scuttled that possibility.

Buffalo still has two holes in the top six up-front. They could really use a No. 2 center to give 20 yr. old Casey Mittelstadt some protection as he grows into that role and they also need a top-six right wing behind Sam Reinhart. As of now there are no legit options on the team at that center spot save for Mittelstadt, who struggled in that role as a rookie last season, and putting Cozens in that role as an 18 yr. old is not an option either.

However, Cozens has the ability to play right win and despite Buffalo's stated plan to let prospects properly develop before bringing them to the big club, there can be exceptions and Cozens may have fit that mold.

In a case of talent meeting need, Cozens has an NHL frame already as well as the skating, which is the big prerequisite in today's NHL. He's very quick on his skates which allows him to get to open ice, he's got enough speed to get into the play on the backcheck and his balance allows him to pivot in and out of situations at a moment's notice. Cozens can use his NHL-level shot to score and has the panache to set up as evidenced by his 34 goals and 50 assists in 68 WHL games. The fact that he was very aggressive in a tough Western Hockey League also bodes well for his powerforward projections and it not unusual for a center prospect to move to the wing at the NHL-level while he gets acclimated to the NHL game.

With the market for top-six right wingers very thin, the trade route could be a possibility but finding a top-six forward takes capital and the Sabres only viable trade chip for that job will more than likely  be spent on a center.

Right-handed defenseman Rasmus Ristolianen's name has been in the rumor mill for months and his name is still being bantered around at the national level as a top trade candidate. As a top-four d-man with size, skating and offensive ability (four consecutive 40-point seasons) who has snarl and can eat up big minutes, Ristolainen certainly has a package of attributes that could be very enticing to a team in need of a top-four defender. Hell, even Buffalo could use that although if the right offer comes along, he's not untouchable. And that "right offer" more than likely revolves around a top-six center.

Ristolainen is signed for three more seasons with at a very manageable $5.4 million cap-hit and he will have a fresh start in Buffalo under new head coach Ralph Krueger. Whether that's appealing to him is another story as there have been rumors of him wanting to be traded.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were said to be very interested in Ristolainen at the trade deadline and into this early part of the summer as they have a lot of talented forwards but could use a righty on defense. Ristolainen's name has been mentioned with a couple other teams but one that makes a lot of sense is the Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers and the Sabres have been on parallel paths for years now and they both have what the other might need. Edmonton has Connor McDavid as their No. 1 center and have been playing center Leon Draisaitl on the wing. What they're lacking is defensemen and Ristolainen could pair with either Oskar Klefbom or Darnell Nurse in the top-four. Coming back in the deal for Buffalo would be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a 26 yr. old center with two-years left on his contract at a $6 million AAV. After eight seasons in Edmonton where he fluctuated between solid and potential breakout, "RNH" had himself a real nice season scoring 69 points (28+41) in 82 games for the Oilers in 2018-19.

In a scenario like that, RNH would be behind Jack Eichel on the depth chart and the Sabres would have three of their wings covered with 40-goal scorer Jeff Skinner and free agent signee Marcus Johansson on the left and Reinhart on the right. Using 31 yr. old Johansson and 26 yr. old young vet Nugent-Hopkins on the second line would provide plenty of skill, saavy and experience to offer up a sheltered landing spot for a player like Cozens who has top-six, or even top-line, potential.

Cozens' major hurdle right now is recovering from a development camp thumb injury. In the final day of camp during the 3-on-3 tournament, an attempted hip check by defenseman Brandon Hickey went array and dislocated Cozens' thumb to the point where he needed surgery. Recovery time is expected to be about three months which would take him right to the start of the season. All that potential for the upcoming season pretty much went out the window as lot of his off-season workouts will be tempered and training camp might be out of reach as well.

No doubt things needed to fall into place for Cozens to have a serious shot to make the team as an 18 yr. old and Sabres general manager Jason Botterill heavily favors proper development, but were it not for that thumb injury one never knows. Cozens just inked his three-year entry-level deal two days ago and should he go back to junior (which is likely) Buffalo will have a slide-year before his deal kicks in.

That said, they may not have minded losing that extra year if things fell into place and he fit into the lineup beginning in 2019-20.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Of this year and next, Botterill putting a big stamp on Sabres

Published by, 7-14-2019

When Jason Botterill was hired on May 11, 2017 as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, the first-time GM had a lot thrown at him. The Sabres had been without a GM since April 10, they needed to find a head coach, the Vegas expansion draft was just days before NHL draft, which was coming soon, and there was the start of free agency on July 1st, less than two months away. Botterill had inherited a team that woefully underperformed the prior season and rumors of locker room tumult underscored a 33-37-12 record and a last place finish in the Atlantic Division (26th in the league.)

It wasn't supposed to be this way. In 2015, the Sabres greeted the post-tank years with the hiring of a Stanley Cup-winning head coach and their GM was able to land a true franchise center and a No. 2 center all in the same day as Buffalo announced the selection of Jack Eichel second-overall in the 2015 NHL Draft just after announcing they'd traded for Ryan O'Reilly. Then GM Tim Murray added other pieces and put together some fine individual players to surround Eichel and 2014 second-overall pick Sam Reinhart with but it never came together.

Botterill was left with a mess on his hands. The big club was floundering in a state of disarray despite a good amount of talent on the Sabres with Buffalo's minor league teams left decimated by the tank years of 2013-15. When he took over the job Botterill stressed a number of things which included the Sabres getting better, a rebuild of the farm system and a reliance on drafting and developing players. Much to the dismay of the fanbase and some in the media, this process would take time and when he told a local radio station the evening of his hire that "I think I have more of a patient, systematic approach to making decisions," he wasn't just whistling Dixie.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Larsson re-signs. Botterill keeping the 4th-line gang together?

Published by, 7-12-2019

As written on many occasions last season, the Sabres fourth line did their job and more than once were the best line out of the forward group. Sure, they didn't do a lot of scoring but Phil Housley didn't seem to want that from them. What he wanted from the likes of Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and whomever was on the other wing was to forecheck their asses off and flip the ice, which they did quite often. Although it didn't result in too much offense outside the top line of Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart, it wasn't their fault that the middle six was as inept as anything we've seen dating back to the 2014-15 tank season.

Both Girgensons and Larsson are young vets who were restricted free agents with arbitration rights. Buffalo general manager Jason Botterill qualified both of them (along with five others) in late June and Girgensons signed a one-year deal on July 5 for $1.6 million, which was the same average annual value he signed for on his previous two-year deal. Larsson, who did not file for arbitration, and the Sabres agreed to a one-year deal today for $1.55 million which was slightly above the $1.475 million AAV he signed on his previous two-year deal.

And with those two signings, two-thirds of the fourth-line gang are under contract and will be fighting for those minutes.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The many layers of the Alexander Nylander for Henri Jokiharju trade

Published by, 7-10-2019

Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill has been rather active this off season and he continued in that vein with the trade for Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Henri Jokiharju. The 20 yr. old Jokiharju was selected in the first round (29th-overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft held in Chicago that year after the Hawks traded down from No. 26. In turn the Sabres sent forward Alexander Nylander to Chicago in the player-for-player swap. Nylander was a the eighth-overall selection in 2016, a draft that was held in Buffalo, NY.

For Sabres fans, and obviously for Botterill and the team, this is the end of a saga that started the almost the moment that Nylander's name was announced in front of the KeyBank Center crowd. Fans, as well as most media members, were pretty sure that then GM Tim Murray would start to bolster his defense corps which had been bludgeoned by the 2013-15 tank years. Prize d-prospect, Olli Joulevi, went off the board at No. 4 and when the Arizona Coyotes went with forward Clayton Keller at No. 7, it left two strong d-prospects sitting there for Buffalo--Mikhail Sergachev, who was picked by Montreal at No. 9 and Jakob Chychrun, who was eventually taken by the Coyotes with the second of their two first round picks.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

New Sabre Marcus Johansson looking for a fit, regardless of position

Published by, 7-8-2019

Is he a center? Is he a winger? That's what fans in Buffalo want to know about new Sabres forward Marcus Johansson. With Buffalo's top-six bereft of talent outside of their top line, and with the trade of No. 2 center Ryan O'Reilly last season virtually eliminating the middle-six in a scoring role, Sabres general manager Jason Botterill had some huge holes to fill. Yes, they need help at right wing behind Sam Reinhart but the biggest hole on the team to fill is that of a second line center behind Jack Eichel.

If you have a strong feeling of deja vu with the signing of Johansson as a possible center, welcome to the club. Back in 2011 the Sabres were in the same predicament heading into the off season needing to fill a top-six center spot and but couldn't land the big fish--Brad Richards. This year Matt Duchene was the prize center catch and he opted for a very team-friendly deal in Nashville. With Buffalo out of the Richards running (with some even saying they never were to begin with,) the Sabres turned their attention to winger Ville Leino, who was coming off a strong 53-point season for the Philadelphia Flyers. Buffalo's brass witnessed a strong performance by Leino in the playoffs against the Sabres that year and convinced themselves they could turn him into a center. Then GM Darcy Regier laid a 6yr./$27 million contract on Leino that they're still paying for it after buying him out in 2014.

The parallels between Johansson and Leino really aren't that strong and end there, however, but the Leino signing and the position change will always stick in the craw of Sabreland.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Where might Johansson slot in plus a look at Buffalo's forward depth chart

Buffalo's new forward, Marcus Johansson, just finished a 3yr./$13 million contract signed in 2016 while he was with the Washington Capitals. The Caps selected Johansson 24th-overall in the 2009 NHL Draft and traded him to the New Jersey Devils in 2017 (for a 2018 second and 2018 third round pick) to alleviate cap-problems. This past spring Johansson was on the move again as he was sent to the Boston Bruins as a rental for a 2019 second rounder and a 2020 fourth. After performing very well for the Bruins in their run to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final he became a free agent it was assumed that he'd be getting a nice bump from the $4.583 million AAV he was running with on his last contract.

It didn't happen like that as Johansson signed a two-year deal with the Sabres for an AAV of $4.5 million.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Girgensons signs, four Sabres RFA's are in a group of 40 to file for arbitration

Published by, 7-6-2019

Restricted free agent forward Zemgus Girgensons and the Buffalo Sabres reached an agreement yesterday on a one-year, $1.6 million deal, the same dollar amount he played for last season. The former first round pick (2012, 14th-overall) is the longest tenured Sabres player on the roster and will be entering his seventh season with the Blue and Gold. During his six years the organization has seen major changes which include the dismantling of owner Terry Pegula's inner circle, the dismissal of two team presidents, a six-month stint for a vice president of hockey operations, two general managers and five head coaches.

Both he and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (2013, eighth-overall) have endured a lot of changes since being selected by the Sabres in the NHL Draft yet the full force of fan disenchantment has been directed at these two players. The gist of the consternation,which has also been started by and/or fostered by local media, is that both have a part of a losing culture and that if the team wants to start turning their fortunes around, moving on from either or both would really get the team moving in the right direction.

Such is the life of a whipping boy.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

With no more additions up-front, this is what the Sabres could look like

Published by, 7-5-2019

The Fourth of July has come and gone with fireworks all over the place, except for the offices at KeyBank Center, home to the Buffalo Sabres. General Manger Jason Botterill had plenty of key holes to fill on the roster was relegated to adding some depth for the Sabres and the Rochester Americans so far this off season..

Buffalo has tough road to hoe again as this year's free agent market didn't offer a wealth of higher end players and the ones that were at the top, like Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene, chose their homes in NY (Rangers) and Nashville (Predators,) respectively. Bot Panarin and Duchene signed seven-year deals as did goalie Sergei Bobrovski (FLA) and Anders Lee, who re-signed with the NY Islanders.

Impact players for the Sabres didn't come from the free agency route, although there's a good possibility they're after one or more forwards still available, but they managed to land some viable NHLers via trade. Botterill sent a second (2021) and a fifth round pick (2022) to the Vegas Golden Knights for RHD, Collin Miller and he also sent a 2021 third-rounder to the Rangers for top-nine forward Jimmy Vesey. Miller adds to a pool of NHL defensemen that's overflowing while the forward ranks still needs a lot of work.

As of today (and if, God forbid, Botterill does nothing else this summer) a potential Buffalo roster construct would look something like this up-front:

Jeff Skinner-Jack Eichel-Sam Reinhart
Jimmy Vesey-Casey Mittelstadt-Tage Thompson*
Victor Olofsson*-Evan Rodrigues-Alexander Nylander*
Connor Sheary-Johan Larsson-Zemgus Girgensons

C.J. Smith
Scott Wilson
Vladimir Sobotka
Curtis Lazar

(*On entry-level deal and waivers-exempt)

Ideally Botterill can find a top-six forward (or two) to move others down the depth chart. As mentioned here on numerous occasions, signing forward Marcus Johansson and plugging him into top-six, right wing role would do wonders for the right side. Free agent forward Ryan Dzingel is another player still available offering plenty of flexibility in a top-nine role. Both might end up playing on a line higher than their ideal spot in Buffalo but with those two in the lineup and a little rearrangement, this is what it could look like up-front:



Although it isn't a Cup-contending forward group, it should be enough for them to take a big step in the right direction.

Friday, July 5, 2019

A light, semi-productive opening to free agency for the Sabres

Published by, 7-2-2019

The Buffalo Sabres went into the start of free agency with some holes to fill up front and left with those holes mostly still there. There's a need at No. 2 center that needs to be filled and another top-six spot or two on the wing as well. Buffalo did nothing to address those with a free agent signing but were able to pull off a trade for top-nine forward Jimmy Vesey.

If that name sounds familiar, it should as the rights to Vesey were acquired by then Sabres GM Tim Murray for a third round pick. Vesey was drafted 66th overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2012 NHL Draft and finished his four-years stint at Harvard by winning the Hobey Baker Award as NCAA's top player. Upon finishing up he let the Predators know of his intention to become a free agent in August. Nashville then sent his rights to the Sabres for a well-traveled third round pick that was originally Minnesota's but changed hands five other times before Nashville used it on center Rem Pitlick (76th-overall.)

Murray conceded it was "a gamble" at the time but also asked, "Why not us? Why not give it a shot?" The team just spent the prior four years drafting 34 players including 10 first rounders and were also seen as a team on the rise with a young core bolstered by a trio of young vets. However, Vesey's camp had repeated time and again that they would be testing the market come August 15. Vesey's father Jim, who had played for the Boston Bruins ever so briefly, said he was "surprised the deal went down.

"It's still my understanding that he's going to free agency," the elder Vesey said of his son. "The gameplan was to have a list of possible teams ready, get to Aug. 15 and then decide. I know nothing has changed. I bet Jimmy's surprised by [Buffalo trading for him] too."

Sure enough, Vesey tested the market and signed with the NY Rangers. Three years later the Sabres sent another third-round pick, this time to New York to acquire Vesey.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Noon is the official start of NHL free agency, but the action is already hot

There was a time in the NHL when the morning hours of July 1st was filled with anticipation as the noon start to free agency was set to begin. Chat rooms would be filled all morning with rumors and tidbits and waited for the stroke of noon like handicappers wait for the bell to open the gates of a horse race. We knew certain teams were interested in certain players and seemingly with every surprise move fans screamed "tampering!" as the player they thought had a surefire destination headed elsewhere.

That changed with the latest collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players Association with the two sides agreeing on a "courting period" where teams could contact free agents to find out what they're looking for. Although they may not enter into any agreements--written or oral--with a player, teams are free to find out what the parameters of a potential deal might look like from a player's perspective. At high noon, any potential deals can be finalized and sent to the league.

Beginning in earnest yesterday, various insiders started leaking probable deals set for the start of free agency today, which takes the surprise out of what once was "Christmas Day" for many fans. If there were some in Sabreland who were fired up about the possibility (however small) of landing free agent center Matt Duchene, reports from insiders have him staying in Nashville, in what looks like a very team-friendly deal for seven years at around $8 million per season. 

Here's a partial list of projected signings based upon what was floating around social media the past 24 hours:

--F, Mats Zuccarello 5 yrs./$30 million (MIN)
--F, Joe Pavelski, 3 yrs./ $21M (DAL)
--G, Segei Bobrovsky $9.5M AAV (FLA)
--D, Tyler Myers 5 yrs./$30M (VAN)
--F, Corey Perry 1 yr./$1.5M incentive-laden deal (DAL)
--F, Richard Panik, 4 yr./$10M (WSH)
--G, Cam Talbot, 1 yr./$2.75M (CGY)

Of course nothing with the big UFA fish, Artemi Panarin, has been settled although it's said to be a race between the NY Islanders, Florida Panthers and NY Rangers with a late, high-end bids from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche.

In the case of the Buffalo Sabres, they never seemed to seriously be in the running for any of the aforementioned even if they wanted to be. However, word on social media is that Buffalo's name has been attached to forward Marcus Johansson, who ended up in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Boston Bruins. 

That would be more along what the Sabres normally do in what's considered "silly season." The Sabres are rarely involved in big name signings preferring the trade-route as a way of improving the roster. The hot rumors out the past day or two involve a deal with the Panthers. Looks as if they're in the market for a defenseman with both Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe having their names attached to the rumor. Buffalo general manager Jason Botterill is said to be in the market for a top-six forward and Florida has an excess of those. Names like Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Huberdeau have surfaced as potential Cats headed back to Buffalo and either would be a good get for the Sabres. Also mentioned, rather briefly, was 21 yr. old center Henrik Borgstrom who's upside would make for a prime get for the Sabres. 

With Botterill stating he's comfortable with the depth on defense we'll be looking for him to make a splash in the forward ranks. How it happens is up in the air but he seems pretty determined to upgrade the forward ranks.

Monday, July 1, 2019

We probably shoudn't count on any big fish when the Sabres go FA shopping

Published by, 6-30-2019

Anyone who's against having pending UFA center Matt Duchene on the Buffalo Sabres is pretty much crazy. Having him anchor the second line for years to come behind Jack Eichel would be a formidable one-two punch. What's not crazy is having to pay the price he'll be commanding come July 1, the start of free agency.

The Sabres have been mentioned to be in the running for top free agents ever since Terry Pegula bought the team. The summer after he bought the team Buffalo was said to be one of the team's vying for the services of 2011's premier free agent, center Brad Richards. They fell short as Richards signed with the NY Rangers a 9yr./$60 million deal. Buffalo went with their backup plan that year and decided winger Ville Leino could move to center and with their playoff loss to Leino's Philadelphia Flyers still fresh in their memory, signed him to a 6yr./$24 million deal. Both teams are still paying for those mistakes. The Rangers bought out Richards in 2014 at a total cost of over $20 million until 2025-26 and Buffalo bought out Leino that same year paying him $7.333 million until the end of next season not to play for them.

Regardless of a dubious track record, NHL general managers still go all in on July 1 dishing out huge contracts for UFA's and most time end up regretting it.

Duchene's contract is probably going to land somewhere in the $11-12 million/season range and adds another dimension to the premise we opened up with. Whereas one would be crazy not to want him on the team, Buffalo would be crazy to dish out that kind of money and term (seven years) for a second-line center.

Such is the start of free agency which begins tomorrow.