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  1. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports As the NHL buyout window open the Sabres have two players that would make sense as buyout candidates The NHL buyout window opens today through October 8th. The Buffalo Sabres haven’t bought a player out since Cody Hodgson in June of 2015. It’s unlikely that they’ll use a buyout this year, but they do have two players that could worth considering. Kyle Okposo and Carter Hutton are the two that would be worth exploring a buyout this offseason. In case the Sabres do decide to go down this road let’s go over the details and consequences of a buyout for both players. Kyle Okposo Contract Remaining: Three-years, $6 million AAV Age: 32 Buyout Cap Hit Breakdown (via Cap Friendly): 2020-21 - $4 million ($2 million savings) 2021-22 - $5 million ($1 million savings) 2022-23 - $3 million ($3 million savings) 2023-24 - $1 million 2024-25 - $1 million 2025-26 - $1 million Pro: Buying out Okposo gets one of the worst contracts in the organization off the books. It also saves them some cap space over the next few years when they could be looking at an internal salary cap. Beyond that, it doesn’t make sense for the Sabres to buyout Okposo this offseason. Due to the bonus structure of his contract, he has some buyout protection built-in that makes this difficult. It may make more sense for them to explore this route next year after the expansion draft. The cap savings in 2021-22 and 2022-23 would remain the same, but it would only result in two years of a cap hit at $1 million beyond 2022-23. Con: While Okposo’s salary doesn’t fit what his role is, he has been an effective player for the Sabres when healthy. If his cap hit was $3 million instead of $6 million he would be more appreciated among the fan base. He fits the role of a defensive bottom-six forward. Okposo was a big part of the Sabres shutdown “LOG” line last season. With the expected departure of Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson, the Sabres are going to need a defensive forward. Removing all of the players from that line would be a hit to their defensive ability next season. Carter Hutton Contract Remaining: One-year, $2.75 million Age: 34 Buyout Cap Hit Breakdown (via Cap Friendly): 2020-21 - $916,667 ($1.833 million) 2021-22 - $916,667 Pro: Buying out Hutton would of course mean there’s a change coming in goal. It’s an area that the Sabres need to improve if they want to be a playoff contender next season. It also saves them money on their cap that they can re-invest into the position. It’s unlikely they’d be able to move Hutton without retaining salary and they may end up saving more in a buyout. They’d carry a cap hit into next year, but the $916k shouldn’t hold them back from accomplishing anything next offseason. Con: In most cases it doesn’t make sense to buy out a player with only one year remaining on their contract. Especially for a team like the Sabres that are not going to find themselves in salary cap problems. If they want to move on from Hutton they could always assign him to the AHL as a worst-case scenario. It would only save them $1.025 million on the cap, but it doesn’t add another year of a cap penalty. Jeff Skinner would be the only other player that would be worth having a conversation on as a buy out option. However, the Sabres are not doing that only one year into that deal even with the down season. If he puts together another poor year like this most recent one, then it may be a different conversation next offseason. View the full article
  2. Photo by Sara Schmidle/NHLI via Getty Images Forward gets two-year deal Another piece of the roster has come together for the Buffalo Sabres, as the team announced it has re-signed forward Curtis Lazar to a two-year, $1.6 million deal with an AAV of $800,000. Lazar, 25, split his first season as a part of the Sabres organization between the AHL and the NHL clubs. He appeared in 18 games with the Rochester Americans, where his impact was clearly evident; the center recorded 14 points, including six goals, in just 18 games and was a plus-10. At the NHL level, Lazar had 10 points (5-5) in 38 games with the Sabres this past season. Before coming to Buffalo, Lazar had previously played with the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames for three seasons each. In 284 career NHL games, he’s recorded 61 points. Lazar was drafted by the Senators with the 17th overall selection in 2013. View the full article
  3. Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images Which goaltenders on the market are worth exploring? After acquiring Eric Staal last week to fill their biggest need next season at second line center, the Buffalo Sabres will likely turn their focus to improving perhaps their next biggest need - goaltending. It’s no secret the Sabres’ goalies as a whole were not up to par last season, and they will explore all options available to improve in that area. Linus Ullmark is a restricted free agent this offseason, and will need not only a new contract, but new a running mate as well. Carter Hutton is still under contract with the club for next season, but, repaired vision or not, his lackluster play leaves his status in the organization in doubt. So who and where can general manager Kevyn Adams turn to in order to fill this void? Let’s decipher some of the top options, with the best ideas earning a “thumbs up” verdict and the less appealing ones receiving a “thumbs down”. Frederik Andersen Contract Status: 1 year, $5 million AAV 2019-2020 Team: Toronto Maple Leafs 2019-2020 Sv%: 90.85% 2019-2020 GSAx: -10.27 Change is needed in Toronto, as the team has under-performed with early postseason exits over the last three seasons. This has spurred rumors that Andersen could be on the way out, who is currently listed at number 19 on TSN’s Trade Bait list. He was acquired by Toronto from Anaheim with hopes of becoming a stalwart number-one netminder, and for the most part he has been. Over the last three seasons, Andersen has posted a solid 91.46% save percentage and saved 8.52 goals above expected. This is all despite him coming off a major down year, where his numbers were below average. As far as being an option for the Sabres, an acquisition of Andersen would cost both assets via trade and significant cap space to house his five million dollar contract for the upcoming season. Is it feasible? Sure, if Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas views him as more of a cap dump than an asset. However, with Ullmark’s impending RFA status warranting a new contract, I’m not sure the Sabres front office wants to tie up significant dollars in cap space to the goaltending position next season in a flat-cap year. Verdict: Thumbs down Corey Crawford Contract Status: UFA 2019-2020 Team: Chicago Blackhawks 2019-2020 Sv%: 91.68% 2019-2020 GSAx: 7.44 Perhaps an overlooked piece of Chicago’s most recent Stanley Cup runs, Crawford has been a sure-fire quality goaltender when healthy. While his age will likely reduce his contract value, the 35 year-old netminder will enter unrestricted free agency coming off of a six million dollar per season contract. What’s his value now? Well, the cap situation throughout the league and an influx of goalies available on the market might make for an interesting situation. It’s possible the Blackhawks look to retain his services, otherwise he will likely have to wait out the market and take a starting-quality, short-term contract somewhere that missed out on a younger goaltender. As for the Sabres, they should inquire with Crawford’s camp. While he may want to go to more of an immediate contender, he may not get that option. As shown with the Eric Staal trade, GM Kevyn Adams is not afraid to add a veteran on a short-term value deal. Verdict: Thumbs up Aaron Dell Contract Status: UFA 2019-2020 Team: San Jose Sharks 2019-2020 Sv%: 90.84% 2019-2020 GSAx: 1.1 Sort of hiding in San Jose behind a struggling starter in Martin Jones, Dell actually pieced together a decent 2019-2020 season. When it comes to his career, he has posted generally average to below average numbers in a strict backup role. Is there potential for a quality tandem when paired with Ullmark? Sure, but there’s not enough overwhelming evidence to really favor the idea. Odds are, Dell will sign with a team somewhere to backup an incumbent starter and be a fringe NHL player at best. Verdict: Thumbs down Marc-Andre Fleury Contract Status: 2 years, $7 million AAV 2019-2020 Team: Vegas Golden Knights 2019-2020 Sv%: 90.38% 2019-2020 GSAx: -14.03 Here’s an interesting name to suddenly be on the market. It’s rumored that Vegas will look to re-sign pending UFA Robin Lehner and move on from the face of their franchise in Fleury. If anything, his agent’s twitter post has helped seal that fate. Sure, Fleury is a big name, but does the production match his status? If you’re looking at strictly last season, that answer is no. To be frank, it was his goaltending play that cost Gerard Gallant his job. It was the one spot on the team that took a clear downturn from years previous. It would be near impossible, however, for the Sabres to fit his seven million dollar per year cap hit on their books. The flat cap and number of players due significant raises in the next two seasons just make this too unrealistic to ponder, even if you think he can return to previous form. Verdict: Thumbs down Thomas Greiss Contract Status: UFA 2019-2020 Team: New York Islanders 2019-2020 Sv%: 91.24% 2019-2020 GSAx: -2.76 Here’s an interesting free agent in the sense that he is coming off of multiple seasons as the “1b” goaltender in a tandem. In fact, Greiss has done this with not only Semyon Varlamov, but also is two seasons removed from winning the William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed by a tandem in a season with Robin Lehner. As for his stats, the German netminder has consistently been around a 91% save percentage for a few years now. His goals saved above expected average out to slightly below -3.33 per season over the last three, dictating that some of his success has been a product of his team’s quality defense rather than non-extenuating play. Is it a quality fit for the Sabres? The term and average annual value of the contract should be affordable. If the team wants to improve upon last year’s results and not try to slide by with mediocre goaltending, however, signing Greiss as the “1b” and forcing Ullmark to be the “1a” would require a significant positive leap in Ullmark’s play. Verdict: Thumbs down Braden Holtby Contract Status: UFA 2019-2020 Team: Washington Capitals 2019-2020 Sv%: 89.71% 2019-2020 GSAx: -12.82 Perhaps the biggest name about to hit the free agent market, Holtby has had much success in terms of wins with the Capitals. With a Stanley Cup ring in his arsenal, he is likely to draw a lot of attention from playoff contenders looking to upgrade in net. The caveat here is that Holtby is likely not an upgrade over any current NHL team’s starter. In fact, Holtby’s 89.71% save percentage last season is worst among all goaltenders on this list. There’s a reason the Caps are ready to hand the reins over to youngster Ilya Samsonov and move on from their incumbent starter. Let’s not forget, even when they eventually went on to win the Cup, Philipp Grubauer - not Holtby - was named the starter heading into the 2017-2018 playoffs. Needless to say, when weighing out cost versus effectiveness, the Sabres should stay from away from this idea. Verdict: Thumbs down Anton Khudobin Contract Status: UFA 2019-2020 Team: Dallas Stars 2019-2020 Sv%: 93.06% 2019-2020 GSAx: 6.15 Still in the midst of carrying his team in a Stanley Cup chase, Khudobin’s play this season has elevated him from an “under the radar” target to a premium short-term option. Questions among the Stars’ brass have surely been raised on whether to stick with Ben Bishop or attempt to re-sign their playoff hero. Rightfully so, I should add, as his save percentage in 2019-2020 is tops on this list. It’s not a fluke either, as this percentage is only slightly better than his 92.47% average over the past three seasons with both the Stars and Boston Bruins. Khudobin would be a quality upgrade for the Sabres in net, as I outlined in my Building the Sabres piece last month. This unprecedented playoff run has likely vaulted his value, however, so the cost-effectiveness of a deal would be the major question. If he can be had for four million dollars or less per season on one or two year deal, it should prove worth it. Verdict: Thumbs up Darcy Kuemper Contract Status: 2 years, $4.5 million AAV 2019-2020 Team: Arizona Coyotes 2019-2020 Sv%: 92.77% 2019-2020 GSAx: 8.71 With a general manager change in Arizona, Kuemper’s name has somewhat surprisingly surfaced in trade rumors. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman has mentioned the idea multiple times now on his 31 Thoughts podcast. Arizona has two top-five goaltenders on their roster in Kuemper and Antti Raanta in terms of goals saved above expected over the past three seasons. Since Raanta has only one year left on his current deal and played only limited minutes last season due to injury, Kuemper likely has more value and therefore will draw Arizona more assets on the trade market. If Adams wishes to lock down a top-of-the-league quality goaltender on a decent contract, Kuemper is the way to go. The cost will likely debt the Sabres of some quality futures, but, depending on the direction of the rest of the offseason, this may be the ideal option to explore for getting the team on the right track quickly. Verdict: Thumbs up Jacob Markstrom Contract Status: UFA 2019-2020 Team: Vancouver Canucks 2019-2020 Sv%: 91.78% 2019-2020 GSAx: 3.77 It’s amazing how a couple games can change a player’s career. Vancouver was making an impressive playoff run with Markstrom and seemed certain to re-sign him when they hit some troubles when facing Vegas. Markstrom ended up getting injured, and young backup Thatcher Demko stole a couple games in his place to suddenly make him expendable. If Markstrom indeed hits free agency, he may be the best signing of the bunch - considering age, contract, and effectiveness. The 30 year-old just posted a career-high in save percentage to improve on what has been a slightly above-average career numbers-wise. Buffalo should really dig into a Markstrom deal, as he could allow for a slow-cook for top prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in his development into the NHL. An average annual value of 4.5 million dollars would likely be my limit in negotiations to make it worth it. Verdict: Thumbs up Matt Murray Contract Status: RFA 2019-2020 Team: Pittsburgh Penguins 2019-2020 Sv%: 89.96% 2019-2020 GSAx: -13.98 The Stanley Cup winner was significantly outplayed by his net-mate Tristan Jarry last season, prompting his name to be circulating in all kinds of trade rumors heading into the offseason. As is the case with other big names on this list, there is a giant “buyer beware” sign that comes with with Murray. Truth is, Murray would not be a significant upgrade in any sense for the Sabres. Even if last season was an outlier, his three season average puts him slightly ahead of Ullmark in terms of goals saved above expected per 60. A pending restricted free agent, trading for and paying Murray would be more of a luxury insurance option for a team than an actual effective rendering, and Buffalo cannot afford that luxury. Verdict: Thumbs down Cam Talbot Contract Status: UFA 2019-2020 Team: Calgary Flames 2019-2020 Sv%: 91.82% 2019-2020 GSAx: -0.29 Talbot had a solid bounce-back season in Calgary after coming over from Edmonton, where he posted sub-par numbers. Even so, his 91.28% save percentage and -0.29 goals saved above expected scream fringe starter at best, which would mean a tandem partner for Ullmark. I’d be suspicious of Talbot’s prior seasons in Edmonton, and, with higher quality options on the board, I’d probably look elsewhere to solve Buffalo’s goaltending woes. Improvement is what they’re in search of, and I’m not convinced he is the answer there. If all else fails, he’d be an okay fallback option. Verdict: Thumbs down **All statistics via evolving-hockey.com** **Contract information via CapFriendly.com** View the full article
  4. Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports The Buffalo Sabres feel as if they are at yet another fork in the road. This is SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NHL. Each week, SB Nation sends out questions to the most plugged-in Sabres fans, and fans across the country. Sign up here to join Reacts. Follow @SBNReacts on Twitter for more results There may only be two teams still playing hockey in the NHL right now, but every fanbase still has thoughts on their own team. In the latest round of SB Nation’s Reacts survey, NHL fans were asked if they were confident their favorite team was headed in the right direction. After a disappointing, sub-.500 season, it’s understandable that Buffalo fans are down on the team. Buffalo has struggled to maintain any sort of forward momentum and continues to hang around the bottom of the National Hockey League, season-after-season. What are YOUR thoughts on the current direction of the Buffalo Sabres? Let us know below in the comments. To vote in the Reacts surveys and have your voice heard each week, sign up here. View the full article
  5. Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images The league announced all the winners yesterday in lieu of having an awards ceremony The 2020 NHL Awards had been scheduled for June 18 in Las Vegas but were postponed earlier this year due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Instead, the NHL announced the winners for all the categories yesterday, as well as releasing the number of votes the nominees gained in different categories. King Clancy Memorial Trophy Awarded to the player who shows “leadership on and off the ice and who has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.” The trophy winner is selected by a committee of senior NHL executives that includes commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly. Finalists: Matt Dumba (Minnesota Wild), Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), P.K. Subban (New Jersey Devils) Winner: Matt Dumba A co-founder of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, Dumba has been vocal and involved in racial and social action initiatives. At the beginning of the postseason, he gave an impassioned speech at center ice prior to the Oilers and Blackhawks playing in a qualifying game. He’s also spearheaded the Rebuild Minnesota initiative to assist Minneapolis businesses impacted by riots and protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. He’s also donated to more than 60 families during the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s wildfire relief and has played roles in ACES (Athletes Committed to Educating Students) and Hockey Fights Cancer. “I don’t want any of this to be swept under the rug,” Dumba said on a call with reporters following the announcement. “This for me is not just a singular moment. It’s all part of this journey that I’m committed to and I think I’m going to commit to this my whole life, so this is just the start.” Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy Awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey as voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Finalists: Stephen Johns (Dallas Stars), Oskar Lindblom (Philadelphia Flyers), Bobby Ryan (Ottawa Senators) Winner: Bobby Ryan Ryan left the Senators in November 2019 and entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program to combat with alcohol abuse. He eventually returned to the game in February 2020. “Someone asked me (if I could sum up what this award means to me) at every step ... I still don’t know,” said Ryan on a Zoom call with reporters following the announcement. “It’s something that I cherish. It’s something that I really have to thank people for recognizing that I came out the other side and ahead of a battle that’s been plaguing me for a while and it’s going to continue. I gotta continue to battle it every day and continue to work on it every day myself.” Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award Named after the first black player to play in the NHL, this award goes to an individual who has made a positive impact on their community, culture or society to make people better through hockey. Now in its third year, a committee that includes O’Ree selects the finalists with the public choosing the winner. Finalists: Dampy Brar (Apna Hockey), Alexandria Briggs-Blake (Tucker Road Ducks Hockey), John Haferman (Columbus Ice Hockey Club) Winner: Dampy Brar Brar, a former pro hockey player, co-founded Apna Hockey with Lali Toor. Apna Hockey is an initiative that provides a network and support for South Asian hockey players. He was also involved with the first-ever women’s hockey team in Leh Ladakh, India, providing mentorship and support. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images Jack Adams Award Awarded to the NHL’s best head coach by the NHL’s Broadcasters’ Association. Finalists: Bruce Cassidy (Boston Bruins), John Tortorella (Columbus Blue Jackets), Alain Vigneault (Philadelphia Flyers) Winner: Bruce Cassidy Cassidy led the Bruins to 44-14-12 and the 2019-20 Presidents’ Trophy, leading the NHL with 100 points and (a .714 points percentage) at the time of the COVID-19 pause. Voting (1st-2nd-3rd) 1. Bruce Cassidy, BOS 288 (37-29-16) 2. Alain Vigneault, PHI 252 (32-23-23) 3. John Tortorella, CBJ 198 (28-12-22) 4. Craig Berube, STL 126 (12-18-12) 5. Jared Bednar, COL 96 (6-18-12) 6. Mike Sullivan, PIT 77 (4-15-12) 7. Dave Tippett, EDM 62 (4-8-18) 8. Paul Maurice, WPG 30 (3-3-6) 9. Jon Cooper, TBL 20 (3-1-2) 10. Travis Green, VAN 18 (2-2-2) 11. Rod Brind’Amour, CAR 5 (1-0-0) t-12. Rick Bowness, DAL 5 (0-1-2) t-12. David Quinn, NYR 5 (0-1-2) 14. Barry Trotz, NYI 3 (0-1-0) t-15. Peter DeBoer, VGK 1 (0-0-1) t-15. Joel Quenneville, FLA 1 (0-0-1) t-15. Geoff Ward, CGY 1 (0-0-1) Frank J. Selke Trophy Voted on by the PHWA, this trophy is awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward. Finalists: Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins), Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers), Ryan O’Reilly (St. Louis Blues) Winner: Sean Couturier Couturier ended the 2019-20 regular season with 22 goals and 37 assists in 69 games, as well as an NHL-best 59.6% efficiency on faceoffs. The Flyers forward has previously finished in 2nd place for this award in 2017-18. “It’s a great honor,” Couturier said. ”It wouldn’t be possible without my teammates, coaching staff, management and the whole organization believing in me. I’d like to congratulate Patrice Bergeron and Ryan O’Reilly as well, two great players who I respect a lot and also had great years.” Lady Byng Memorial Trophy Awarded to the player who combines sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct with a high level of play, as voted on by the PHWA. Finalists: Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche), Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs), Ryan O’Reilly (St. Louis Blues) Winner: Nathan MacKinnon Mackinnon led the Avalanche in scoring with 93 points (35 goals & 58 assists) in 69 games, picking up only 12 penalty minutes. “I think it’s just a line you need to hover on,” he said when asked about how he plays an intense, aggressive game yet doesn’t get called for a lot of penalties. “I respect my opponents, I don’t want to be dirty. I also want to be trusted by the coaching staff that I won’t take penalties. I guess, with my skating I try to use my legs to stick check and things like that and not take unnecessary minors. But, never thought I’d win this award; usually, I get a few more minors than this. But, obviously, very honored. Some of the best players ever have won this award.” Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award Awarded to the NHL’s best GM since the 2009-10 season by a panel of general managers, NHL executives and members of the media. Finalists: Julien BriseBois (Tampa Bay Lightning), Lou Lamoriello (New York Islanders), Jim Nill (Dallas Stars) Winner: Lou Lamoriello Lamoriello’s Islanders advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 27 years. Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award Awarded to the player “who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season.” A Hall of Famer and six-time Stanley Cup champion, Messier makes the final decision on who wins this award. Winner: Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames) Giordano has been a pillar of the Calgary community contributing his time and money towards various causes both before and during the current COVID crisis. “This is special,” Giordano said on a Zoom call with reporters after the announcement. “I’m a little bit older, so I grew up watching Mark Messier as a player and remembering him especially from his days as a Ranger winning the Stanley Cup with New York but also in Edmonton as well. To have my name on that award means a lot.” “My wife, Lauren, and I have always been a couple who wants to give back and we feel like this community, this city has given so much to us and we wouldn’t be where we are today in our lives if it wasn’t for the city of Calgary and the people of Calgary. So we really wanted to get involved in the community and give back,” he added. Calder Memorial Trophy Awarded to the NHL’s best rookie. The PHWA votes on this award. Finalists: Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks), Dominik Kubalik (Chicago Blackhawks), Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche) Winner: Cale Makar Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Hart Memorial Trophy Awarded to the player deemed most valuable to their team, as voted on by the PHWA. Finalists: Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche), Artemi Panarin (New York Rangers) Winner: Leon Draisaitl James Norris Memorial Trophy Voted on by the PHWA, this trophy goes to the NHL’s top defenseman. Finalists: John Carlson (Washington Capitals), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning), Roman Josi (Nashville Predators) Winner: Roman Josi Ted Lindsay Award This award (formerly the Lester B. Pearson Award) is given to the player deemed most valuable to their team, as voted on by members of the NHL Players’ Association. Finalists: Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche), Artemi Panarin (New York Rangers) Winner: Leon Draisaitl “That means a lot,” Draisaitl said when asked what it means to win an award voted on by fellow players. “Obviously, that’s always very important to you personally how the players you play against and players that you battle against every night, how they see you. Getting the appreciation or recognition from their side means a lot to me.” Vezina Trophy Finalists: Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg Jets), Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins), Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning) Winner: Connor Hellebuyck 2019-20 NHL First All-Star Team G: Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets D: John Carlson, Washington Capitals D: Roman Josi, Nashville Predators C: Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers RW: David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins LW: Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers 2019-20 NHL Second All-Star Team G: Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins D: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning D: Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues C: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche RW: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning LW: Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins 2019-20 NHL All-Rookie Team G: Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets D: Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks D: Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche F: Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks F: Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres F: Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens View the full article
  6. Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports Buffalo’s rookie forward earned honor after a 20-goal campaign. On Monday night, the National Hockey League announced their 2019-20 All-Rookie team. Presenting the 2019-20 NHL All-Rookie Team, led by Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar – the only unanimous selection among the 170 ballots cast by the Professional Hockey Writers Association after the conclusion of the regular season. #NHLAwards#NHLStats: https://t.co/jkfLoSBsGS pic.twitter.com/SNWZABXROs — NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) September 21, 2020 Buffalo Sabres forward Victor Olofsson was among the players honored by the league. Olofsson, 25 years old, amassed 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) in 54 games. This rookie season saw Olofsson become the first player in NHL history to score his first eight career goals on the power play, all while leading all rookies in power play goals (11). Olofsson was 11th-best in the entire league with those aforementioned 11 power play goals. Among rookie skaters in the National Hockey League, Olofsson tied for first with four game-winning goals, second with 20 goals, third with 17 power play points and fourth with 42 points. Olofsson tallied 163 points in All-Rookie team voting, trailing only Chicago forward Dominik Kubalik, who received 169 votes. The All-Rookie team was selected by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, following the conclusion of the regular season, also honored Elvis Merzlikins, Quinn Hughes, Cale Makar, Dominik Kubalik and Nick Suzuki. Also announced on Monday night, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar was named the Calder Trophy winner, as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. Victor Olofsson finished seventh in voting, with 96 total votes. View the full article
  7. Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images Laaksonen finally has a place to play until the next NHL season begins While other European players in the Buffalo Sabres organizations were finding landing spots to play until the next NHL season gets going, Oskari Laaksonen was sitting around without a team. Well, that changed this morning. The Lahden Pelicans in the Finnish pro league, Liiga, announced that Laaksonen has been loaned to the club. Otto Somppi ja Oskari Laaksonen lainalle Pelicans-paitaan. Tervetuloa Lahteen TIEDOTE: https://t.co/SuL6vAWPZb#PelicansFi #Liiga pic.twitter.com/Szq9yubd2M — Lahden Pelicans (@PelicansFi) September 21, 2020 It makes sense now why this took longer to come together for the Finnish defender. The Sabres were likely looking for a team that was a good situation for him when it was decided he would not be returning to his former Liiga club, Ilves. Like all of the other players loaned overseas (except Lawrence Pilut) he’ll return when the NHL/AHL 2020-21 season is set to begin. Laaksonen signed his entry-level contract a few months ago. It was actually the day before Jason Botterill was relieved of his duties. After an injury riddled 2019-20 campaign, it’ll be interesting to see how he continues his development this year. View the full article
  8. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images This is it - Lightning vs Stars for all the marbles And then there were two, playing in Edmonton for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Tampa Bay Lightning (2) vs. Dallas Stars (3) Dallas leads series, 1-0 Game 1: Stars 4, Lightning 1 Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m.: Stars vs. Lightning | NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m.: Lightning vs. Stars | NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m.: Lightning vs. Stars | NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports *Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m.: Stars vs. Lightning | NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports *Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m.: Lightning vs. Stars | NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports *Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m.: Stars vs. Lightning | NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports * if necessary View the full article
  9. Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images Seth Appert rounds out his AHL coaching staff New Rochester Amerks head coach Seth Appert finalized his coaching staff today. The club announced that two former Sabres players in Adam Mair and Mike Weber will be his assistant coaches. Mair has been a Sabres player development coach for the past five years. He also spent part of last season on the Amerks coaching staff. He stepped in for Chris Taylor when he was moved up the Sabres staff with Don Granato’s illness. Prior to that he spent two years coaching at the Academy of Hockey under Kevyn Adams. Weber, on the other hand, is technically an outside hire for the organization. He spent the last two years as an assistant coach for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. It’ll be interesting to see how the new staff develops players in the AHL with the shift in focus. Under Adams, the Sabres want their AHL affiliate to return to making player development their priority. View the full article
  10. Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images The Sabres finally addressed their long vacant position at second-line center in Kevyn Adams’ first trade as GM Well, that was certainly unexpected. For the past two seasons, fans of the Buffalo Sabres have all but begged the organization to address the team’s gaping hole at second-line center. Yesterday evening, Elliotte Friedman announced that first-year general manager, Kevyn Adams had executed his first trade, acquiring veteran pivot, Eric Staal from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for forward Marcus Johansson. As many of you likely recall, he and Adams were teammates on the Carolina Hurricanes 2006 Stanley Cup squad. It is a straight-up trade: Johansson for Staal. — Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) September 16, 2020 Let’s face it - seeing Staal dress for the Sabres will be a bit bizarre. The sound of his name alone has been causing negative dopamine reactions in the minds of Western New Yorkers since 2006. It’s also very interesting that Buffalo was not one of the clubs on his 10-team no-trade list. Despite his age, (and past role as playoff super-villain in Buffalo) he continues to produce very well, both in terms of base scoring, and underlying metrics. In 2019-20, the 35-year-old managed to put up an impressive 47 points in 66 games. While his overall five-on-five xG rate was a bit lower than the three seasons prior, it was still very solid at 52.19-percent. Compared with other forwards around the league, his xGAR of 6.6 on the year ranked him in the 83rd percentile. Not too shabby for an old guy. On top of his offensive metrics, Staal has also been an increasingly solid defensive contributor as he’s aged. While he certainly didn’t earn his reputation based on two-way ability, he has been analytically sound in that area over the last few seasons. One important caveat to that statement however, is the fact that he’s almost exclusively served in offensively-tilted zone-deployments rates throughout the entirety of his career. For that reason, the Sabres will likely need to find another defensively competent centerman to handle the lion’s share of defensive zone draws, similar to the way Johan Larsson did from 2018-20. From a special teams standpoint, don’t expect Staal to make a very big impact. He doesn’t really play on the penalty kill, and his power-play contributions are historically unspectacular for a player of his ability. In 357 minutes on the man-advantage this season, he did cause a minor xGF increase for the Wild, but his unit still produced at a 10-percent lower xGF clip than the league average. On top of what should be a very welcome even-strength presence on the ice, it’s tough to imagine a better mentor for Dylan Cozens as he approaches his first season of NHL action. Staal is a seasoned veteran with a Stanley Cup ring who is exactly the type of player Sabres fans hope Cozens can eventually become. One last, interesting point about this acquisition is Staal’s history with Jeff Skinner. From 2010-2015, the two of them skated together for just over 916 minutes at even-strength with the Hurricanes. While their results were mostly mixed as a duo, their time together was often fractured and sporadic, so it’s tough to tell if they were ever truly ably to build any sort of chemistry. In terms of a roster fit for next season, Staal might fit in nicely between Skinner on the left, and someone like Sam Reinhart, or even Dominik Kahun on the right. Skinner would obviously benefit from Staal’s playmaking ability, while one of Reinhart or Kahun could serve as a transitional piece on the other side. They would likely need to have an offensively-tilted deployment ratio, but as previously mentioned, that’s what Staal is used to. Now, let’s talk about the player Buffalo gave up. In his first and only year as a member of the blue-and-gold, Johansson was, to an extent, a victim of circumstance. After not skating as a centerman for nearly seven years, he was asked to serve in that role on the Sabres’ de facto second line. While he certainly didn’t impress, he was far from a disaster overall. When Ralph Krueger finally made the decision to flip him to the wing toward the end of the year, he looked a lot better. Analytically, he produced similarly to his career average as a slightly-positive impact player. His base scoring totals were also pretty close to his recent year-over-year averages. Financially, the Sabres actually picked up a little bit of cap space ($1.5 million to be exact) with this move. Positionally, they essentially dealt a middle-six winger for a bonafide second-line center. Regardless of Staal’s age, that’s a good transaction for a team like Buffalo, given their desperate need for a capable stopgap in that role. Looking ahead, it will be a lot easier to find a UFA replacement for a player like Johanson than it would have been to acquire someone of Staal’s caliber (without paying a ridiculous amount of money, that is). If Krueger can squeeze just one more productive year out of Staal’s career, this trade is a significant win. Both players involved in the deal had just one year remaining on their current deals, and barring an amazing 2020-21 campaign, Buffalo wasn’t likely to extend Johansson. It’s a big part of the reason that, in a trade of this nature, the age gap is pretty insignificant, assuming Staal can produce similarly to what he did this past season. We’ll see if that outcome manifests, but at face value, Adams’ first player-for-player transaction looks like a good one for the blue-and-gold. RAPM Chart and xGAR Chart courtesy of Evolving Hockey TOI and xG Metrics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick Power-Play xGF Metrics courtesy of Hockeyviz View the full article
  11. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Staal, 35, has spent last four seasons with Minnesota. In what feels like a move out of left field, Kevyn Adams has reportedly made his first trade as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres. For Eric Staal. Details being worked on. https://t.co/pJ0FqLIddH — Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) September 16, 2020 Eric Staal, 35 years old, has played 1,240 NHL games amassing 1,021 points (436 goals, 585 assists). Last season with the Minnesota Wild, Staal tallied 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) in 66 games. Staal found out about the trade 10 minutes ago. Said to be stunned. — Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) September 16, 2020 The deal ends up being a one-for-one, which sees both teams taking on an expiring contract but the Buffalo Sabres will end up saving money after the trade is officially consummated. View the full article
  12. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Latest happenings around the NHL NHL Islanders defeat the Lightning in double overtime to extend the series to a Game 6. [LHH] Peter Laviolette named the new head coach of the Washington Capitals. [JR] Qualifying offers will be due to restricted free agents by October 7 at 5 PM. FYI for those wondering: Clubs have until 5 p.m. ET on Oct. 7 to submit Qualifying Offers to their respective RFAs. Which those RFAs can begin signing as of noon ET Oct. 9. Those Qualifying Offers expire at 5 p.m. ET on Oct. 18. — Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) September 14, 2020 Assistant general manager of the St. Louis Blues, Bill Armstrong, is the front runner to be the new general manager of the Arizona Coyotes. [AZ Coyotes Insider] View the full article
  13. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Frank Seravalli of TSN reports the Sabres are among teams that could be putting in an internal salary cap under $81.5 million next season It shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise, but Frank Seravalli of TSN reported that the Buffalo Sabres are among a handful of teams that could put in an internal salary cap for next season. The cap ceiling is set at $81.5 million for at least the next two years under the new CBA. Here is the quote on the Sabres from Seravalli’s piece: “Sources say the Sabres are considering an internal salary cap in the low $70 million range...” Again, with how the last few months have gone at Pegula Sports and Entertainment this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if this is their plan. Personally, I’d be surprised if they come in with a cap hit under $75 million for next year. It’s also important to remember that they can still carry a higher cap hit overall, but have a lower cap on actual cash spent. They can go out and target players that carry a lower actual salary regardless of their cap hit. One such example would Derek Stepan of the Arizona Coyotes. He carries of a cap hit of $6.5 million, but is only owed $2 million in actual salary next season, according to Cap Friendly. Sean Monahan is another player that falls into this. He’s only owed $2.5 million in salary next season and he also receives no more bonuses for the remainder of his contract. The other part where the Sabres were mentioned in the TSN story is when Seravalli discussed the 20% pay cut the coaching staff took during the COVID-19 pause. Where it got interesting is when he mentioned that the coaching staff rejected a 25% pay cut moving forward. Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News confirmed this report with a story of his own. It’s going to be an interesting offseason not only for the Sabres, but all of the NHL. View the full article
  14. Who is the best player from each country to have played for the Sabres? Sabres players throughout history have come from countries all over the world. Of course many have come from places like Canada and the United States, but there’s also been players from Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and more who have suited up in the blue and gold (or black and red, in some cases). This is part two of a two-part series. Did you miss part one? Check it out here. Latvia: Zemgus Girgensons Zemgus Girgensons is one of two Latvian players to have seen ice time in Sabres history, but he’s almost certainly the people are thinking of. Can you name the other Latvian who has suited up for Buffalo? I’ll give you a minute. While you’re thinking, let’s talk about Girgensons. The 26-year-old was drafted by the Sabres with the 14th overall selection in 2012. He spent his first post-draft season in the AHL with the Rochester Americans, where he scored 17 points in 61 games. Since then, he’s appeared in 489 NHL games with the Sabres, averaging 0.28 points per game. He’s scored 61 goals and added 77 assists in his seven years of NHL experience. Girgensons made it to the 2015 NHL All-Star Game in large part due to votes from his home country. He may not be the flashiest or most offensively-minded player out there, but Girgensons is likely the Latvian player Sabres fans are thinking of - rather than goaltender Peter Skudra, who appeared in one game with Buffalo in the 2000-2001 season after being picked up by the Sabres off waivers. According to Hockey-Reference.com, Skudra played just 27 seconds of 2-2 tie against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim on October 20, 2000. The asterisk answer to my previous question: Arturs Irbe, who didn’t see any playing time but served as an emergency back-up goaltender in one game in 2014. He was 47 years old and serving as the team’s goalie coach when Michal Neuvirth got injured. Jhonas Enroth went in, with Irbe coming in to back him up. Lithuania: Dainius Zubrus Zubrus, now 42, only played briefly with the Sabres in the 2006-07 season. He appeared in 19 games with Buffalo, scoring eight points (4-4) and putting 31 shots on goal. Overall, however, he had a 19-year NHL career, spanning from 1996 until 2016. Zubrus played with the Flyers, Canadiens, Capitals, Devils and Sharks in addition to the Sabres. Originaly a 1st round draft pick in 1996, Zubrus retired in 2016 - but he didn’t stay away from the rink for long. Zubrus was elected as President of Latvia’s national ice hockey federation in 2018. Nigeria: Rumun Ndur Ndur only had a brief NHL career, lasting four years. He appeared in 69 games over the course of that career, 11 of which were with the Sabres between 1996 and 1999. After being drafted by Buffalo with the 69th overall selection in 1994, he spent a few seasons with the Sabres organization, then played for the Rangers and Thrashers. Aside from his NHL experience, Ndur also played a significant role with the AHL’s Rochester Americans, where he played between 1995 and 1998. He’d play with a whole bunch of other teams - from Hartford (AHL) and Norfolk (AHL) to Orlando (IHL), Columbus (ECHL), Kalamazoo (UHL) and Muskegon (IHL), along with overseas teams (Graz EC, Coventry Blaze, Nottingham Panthers). Russia: Alexander Mogilny Mogilny enjoyed a 16-year NHL career, but it all began in Buffalo. Drafted by the Sabres in the fifth round in 1988, Mogilny would turn out to be a steal once he came to the blue & gold. In his first season, he put up a respectable 43 points in 65 games. The next season, he averaged just over a point-per-game, and it got better from there. He recorded 76 goals and 51 assists for a whopping 127 points in just 77 games during the 1992-93 season. Eventually, he’d take his talents elsewhere - Vancouver, New Jersey and Toronto - but his time in Buffalo will never be forgotten by anyone who got to see him play. Slovakia: Miroslav Satan Satan, now 45, played for the Sabres between 1996 and 2004. Originally a fifth-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers, he played parts of two seasons with Edmonton before coming to Buffalo. Satan was a fun, offensively-talented player to watch. Over the course of his eight seasons in Buffalo, he put up 456 points, including 232 assists. He’d continue to enjoy his playing career for ten more seasons post-Buffalo, including several seasons with Bratislava Slovan and the New York Islanders. Sweden: Henrik Tallinder Hear me out on this one: it just didn’t feel right giving it to Rasmus Dahlin yet. The kid’s only played less than two full NHL seasons, and though he’ll undoubtedly take the reigns of this one sooner rather than later, for now, I’ve got to give that title to mainstay defender Henrik Tallinder. Tallinder, originally a second-round draft pick of the Sabres in 1997, was a huge piece of Buffalo’s backend for much of his time here. He played for the Sabres organization (including the Amerks) from 2001 until 2010. After leaving for a few seasons to play in New Jersey, he came back to Buffalo for the 2013-14 season. Overall, in nine seasons in Buffalo, Tallinder averaged 19:50 of ice time per game and recorded 116 points and 312 PIMs. Now 41, he rounded out his playing career with a few seasons overseas before hanging up the skates in 2018. United Kingdom: Brian Perry You’ll be forgiven if you don’t recognize this name. Recorded as the only player from the United Kingdom to skate for the Sabres in franchise history, he only ever played one game for Buffalo: November 15, 1970 against Montreal. He recorded one shot on goal. Perry was claimed by the Sabres from Oakland in the 1970 expansion draft, then claimed by Providence (AHL) in the 1971 reverse draft. Over the course of his career, he played in a handful of different lcoales - Oakland and Buffalo in the NHL, and with the New York Raiders, New York Golden Blades/Jersey Knights and San Diego Mariners of the WHA. United States: Ryan Miller This one was perhaps the most difficult decision to make. How do you pick from a crop of talent like defensive highlight Phil Housley, growing superstar Jack Eichel, pinnacle captain Pat LaFontaine? Eichel may easily overtake this spot soon, but for now, I’ve got to hand it to Miller for how much of a key piece he was during his time in Buffalo. The net minder was drafted by the Sabres with the 138th overall pick in 1999 and turned out to be a real gem. He made his NHL debut in 2002 and played with the Sabres until 2014, appearing in over 540 games with Buffalo. To this day, he still holds some of the Sabres’ franchise goaltending records, and it’s hard not to include his name when talking about Buffalo’s goaltending greats. Since leaving Buffalo, Miller has played for the Blues, Canucks and Ducks. He spent this last season with Anaheim. And not to be forgotten... These two slipped under the radar, as NHL.com actually shows these players as from different countries (Regehr - Canada, Antipin - Russia). But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention them. Brazil: Robyn Regehr The one and the only. Born in Brazil, Regehr (now 40) was drafted 19th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 1998. He never actually played for Colorado, however, making his NHL debut with Calgary in 1999. Following a lengthy career with the Flames, Regehr joined the Sabres for one and a half seasons between 2011 and 2013. He finished out his career with the Los Angeles Kings, amassing 1,089 NHL games played. Kazakhstan: Victor Antipin Last, but not least, who can forget the legend of Victor Antipin? You’ve got to feel for the guy and how he was handled in Buffalo. The 27-year-old Ust-Kamenogorsk native played just 47 games with the Sabres in 2017-18, his first (and only, to date) North American experience. The defenseman has spent the rest of his pro career, bookending his time in Buffalo, with Magnitogorsk Metallurg. This past season, he put up a career-high 19 points in 60 games with the KHL club. Ah, what could’ve been. View the full article
  15. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Get caught up on the latest in the NHL NHL The NHL has moved the NHL Draft up from October 9-10 to October 6-7. NHL Draft is being moved ahead a couple of days. First round Oct 6, rest on Oct. 7. — Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) September 8, 2020 The Golden Knights beat the Stars 3-0 to even the Western Conference Final series at 1-1. [KOI] Jim Benning talked about how the Vancouver Canucks will have to make some tough decisions based on their cap situation. [Sportsnet] A day late, but Bobby Ryan won the Masterton Trophy. [Sportsnet] Lindy Ruff added Mark Recchi to his coaching staff in New Jersey. [AATJ] View the full article
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