Ed. Note: With nothing to do over the next few weeks aside from watch
figure skating Olympic hockey and speculate on how the Sabres should continue their rebuild, we're very happy to highlight interesting, thorough FanPosts on what the team should do going forward. This post has been edited slightly for front-page posting.
OK, so a lot has transpired since our last exercise. Tim Murray, hipster glasses and very Tonawanda-goatee, has become the new GM. This has enabled Patty Ooolala to focus more on directing hockey operations – whatever that is – as TM gets to know his scouting department, his players, the culture of the organization and what he has to work with. I’m only mildly surprised I did not get a call to interview for the position, or at least Asst GM. But whatever.
So, let’s dive right in since time’s a tickin’.
STEP ONE: Trade Deadline:
OK. BFLO has a lot of assets that contenders/pretenders desire. Gritty forwards, scoring wings, a very good goaltender playing at a high level, aging but savvy D-Men, even a third line forward who can masquerade as a 2nd liner on some teams and a very good D-Man signed to a long-term, cap-friendly deal. But what does BFLO want?
From what I’ve seen of Murray, he knows he’s got picks. His preference is prospects, guys closer to NHL-ready. And he should want elite offensive players, because he’s got plenty of other elements in the pipeline already. He’s indicated that the ’14 and ’15 drafts will be critical for the rebuilding process. My feeling is that THIS draft will be the most important. We’re going to tear down the team this year, and the real ‘rebuild’, where some actual building starts next year.
So, with that in mind, here we go:
Ryan Miller: Yes. The market is not good for the face of the franchise. I thought ANA would be in, but Hiller has been just as good and Andersen has been great as well. So they’re out. And STL seems happy with what they’ve got, and thus would not be willing to offer the value I’m hoping for (Rattie OR a 1st, an aging UFA goalie). WAS and MINN appear to be, according to rumors, the most interested. And both have some element of desperation. Good. I’m dealing to the Caps. Their GM is trying to hang on to his job, and getting into the playoffs is the only way to do that. MINN can fire Yeo as scapegoat, and Fletcher can survive for a bit longer. McPhee…not so much. So I’m going to sweeten the pot for WAS – I’m offering Miller and Pick #46 (LA’s from the Regehr deal). WAS asks for a solid – they want BFLO to take Erat ($4.5m) and Neuvirth (#2.5) – both of whom have asked for trades – to help them clear some cap room to make other moves and remove disgruntled players from the room. BFLO agrees; never been a big fan, but Erat can fill a Top 6 role for a year or two, and BFLO could flip him at the deadline next year for an asset. Neuvirth has struggled while showing flashes, but he’s at least a potential platoon goalie for the remainder of ’14 and into next year, if not a starter, so Hackett or Liewen aren’t rushed. But I want a prospect. Obviously, they won’t give Kuz for a rental. I am not a fan of Tom Wilson, plus, BFLO needs skilled, big wingers with speed. I want Burakowsky, who is their #3 forward prospect. He’s got decent size, is skilled, fast. Has a bit of an attitude problem, and can be a perimeter guy at times, but he’s our key piece. I ask for a conditional if Miller re-signs; I get a ’15 3rd rounder.
So Miller, cap relief, #46 -> Erat, Neuvirth, Burakowsky, conditional ’15 3rd.
Matt Moulson: Like him a lot. Good to have in the room, good role model, works hard. But he’s a prime asset. Gotta move him. A lot of teams need scoring. He should be a commodity. One team that is floundering, who is constantly mentioned, is LA. If I’m sending him to LA, I want Toffoli. But Lombardi would be crazy to deal a rental scoring winger for a rookie scoring winger. If scoring is your problem, you need both. So they pass. My second offer is for Linden Vey, who is a 2-way centerman with some offensive creativity BFLO could use, plays in all situations, is excellent on special teams, and is very close to being in the League. But that’s not all. I also want Nik Prokhorkin. Yes, he’s stuck in the KHL until next year, but kid is a stud, getting better, outscoring Burmistrov on his own team! The usual Russian issues apply, but he could be a real beast. Big, skilled, fast, uses his size. Nice player. LA ponies up and gets to keep Toffoli and what is left of their picks.
Moulson -> Vey, Prokhorkin.
Steve Ott: Love Otter. Don’t want to move him. But I’m getting calls. Lots of calls. Can I say no? I’m running the worst team in the league! So, everyone’s calling. I like ANA’s chips. They’ve got a ton of young D and F already up, but need some grit (Danny Winnick isn’t going to cut it), a physical player who can also contribute offensively. Those are the guys that win you Cups. One thing I’m missing in my pipeline – a PP QB. ANA already has a logjam of young D, and they have 4 picks in the 1st 2 rounds. So I ask for Shea Theodore and ANA’s first (let’s say, #28). ANA balks. They are very well run, and conservative. So I ask for TOR’s 2nd that they got in the Holland deal. Done.
Ott -> Theodore, #50.
…last but not least, the Big One. BFLO has the #1 pick. The consensus sure seems to be Ekblad as the top pick. Oddly enough, EDM and CAL both could use a player like Ek. Well, so could BFLO, but that need is not as deep. So I call Burke. CAL’s already got their franchise center. They’ve stocked up on Wings the last couple years. But they do not have the franchise D-Man. BFLO would be willing to move out of #1. Then I call EDM and tell them CAL just called me. Let the bidding war begin. EDM doesn’t have the pieces I really want (unless they get a first for Hemsky/Gagner)…they traded away their 2nd, most of their best Forwards are already up, and they have a glut of D-Men prospects that aren’t any better than what BFLO already has. So I want CAL to make a move. They offer #3, #17 (they deal Cammaleri to CBJ), #62 and a ’15 2nd. I want prospects; they don’t want to give them up, as they are in a rebuild as well – maybe one step farther along than BFLO. Regardless, it’s a good deal. I take it.
#1 pick -> #3, #17, #62 and ’15 2nd.
STEP TWO: The Draft:
BFLO comes into the draft with 4 new prospects already added to the pipeline. And on Draft Day, they have #3, #17, #30, #46 (MINN in the Pommer deal), #50 (ANA for Otter), #60 and #62. 7 of the top 62 picks. Nice haul. And I’m waiting on NYI. But given they are picking #5, they elect to defer until ’15. So BFLO has 6 more picks in the Top 60 next year.
So CAL obviously goes Ekblad at #1, EDM surprises and goes Draisaitl at #2 (they want some size up the middle, and he’s obviously got a very high upside). For once, BFLO rejoices, taking Reinhart at #3.
But they aren’t done. BFLO wants high-end, explosive forwards. To my eye, once you get past the Top 12 or so, the Draft kind of flattens out talent-wise from about 13-35. So BFLO wants back in to that Top 12. VAN, I’m guessing, has a total free-fall as they disassemble their team. They sit at #8. Their prospect system is not very good, or very deep. So BFLO packages #17, #62, and McNabb to move up to #8. At #8, they select Nik Ehlers. Speed to burn, sniper, I’ve seen a couple scouting reports suggest he processes the game at the same speed as Drouin. 70+ points in 48 games. Not big, but very good hockey IQ.
To start the Second Round, at #30, they select Thatcher Demko. I know its passé to take goalies in the first – even Fucale fell to the 2nd! – but I want Demko because I want an elite athlete to bolster my goaltending prospect pool. He’s the best of the bunch.
They then package #50 (from ANA) and #62 (from CAL) to move up to #35 (NJ) and select Vlad Kamenev (size and skill), select Nick Magyar (size and skill) at #48 (from MINN) and in the Third Round, take Clark Bishop (speed, grit) at #60.
So BFLO nets post-draft the following: Erat/Neuvirth are immediate NHL players; Vey is AHL/NHL caliber; Theodore, Reinhart, Ehlers, Burakowsky Magyar, Bishop in Juniors; Kamenev, Prokhorkhin in the KHL. Nice haul.
STEP THREE: The Coach:
While Ted Nolan has done wonders for reviving the interest, intensity, and compete level of the team after its moribund start, has a good relationship with the Director of Hockey Ops, and has revitalized to some degree the careers of Myers, Stafford, et al – even he can’t save Leino – this off-season looks to be taking the organization in a different direction than the one Nolan appears comfortable going in. The roster will be young in 14-15, and he’ll be forced to play some of those youngsters. BFLO offers him a 1-year deal with an option for a 2nd, at an inexpensive but competitive number. I’m assuming he balks. If he does, BFLO goes this route: hire Tony Granato away from the Pens, and have him bring Billy Guerin for some player cred. Also, add Mike Grier to the coaching roster.
I move Teppo up to Asst Director of Hockey Ops, give him a sense of how the organization works at a management level – he strikes me as a really smart guy, and I want to keep him on board.
STEP FOUR: Free Agency:
First thing’s first, I re-sign my own UFAs. Tallinder I bring back at his current cap hit - $3.375 for 1 year. He’s not real good, but he’s serviceable, he’s a link to the glory years, and a savvy veteran in the room. Besides, BFLO won’t be that good anyways. Konopka (2/$1.1m) and D’Agostini (2/$850) round out my signings. Then I re-up my RFAs; Ennis (3/$4m), Foligno (2/$1.5m), and Ruhwedel (3/$1.25). Down on the farm, I re-sign Adam (2/$900) and Hackett (3/$1.33m). I also have to sign Vey (2/$950).
Now I venture into the deep waters of the market. First, I offer Otter 4/$4.75m to re-sign and restore the C to his sweater. I’m hoping he does. He doesn’t strike me as a California guy. Next, while I really like Callahan, I just cannot stomach 7/$6.5m or whatever. That handicaps me going forward. So I find some more reasonable options. In the spirit of bringing local boys home, as LaFontaine has suggested, I offer Brooks Orpik 4/$4.5m, Lee Stempniak 3/$4m, and Mason Raymond 3/$3m. I absolutely overpaid, but had to be done to get them to come to a post-apocalyptic BFLO team.
STEP FIVE: 2014-2015 Season:
BFLO Opening Day Line-Up (yep, looking good for McDavid/Eichel/Barzal sweepstakes):
Erat – CoHo – Stafford
Ennis – Z – Stempniak
Raymond – Larsson – Ott
Adam – Foligno - Leino
Pysyk – Ehrhoff
Myers - Orpik
Tallinder – Ruhwedel
ROCH Opening Day Line-Up:
Armia – Vey – Varone
Locke – Grigo – Ellis
Kaleta – Catenacci – D’Ago
Flynn – Kea – Roy
Risto – JGL
McCabe – Bagnall
McKenzie – Tuzzolino
Hackett - Lieuwen
STEP SIX: Profit!