FanPost

Exercise on Roster Composition 2014-2015



After seeing a recent post on potential team composition in 2014-2015 in a game thread, typing a bunch, and losing it all by accidentally hitting the back key, I decided to try this thought exercise here.

I: CONTRACTS

Players under NHL-only contract 2014-2015:

Forwards: Cody Hodgson, Drew Stafford, Ville Leino, Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell, Zemgus Girgensons, Brian Flynn

Defense: Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Mike Weber

RFAs:

Tyler Ennis, Cory Connacher, Marcus Foligno, Jamie McBain, Chad Ruhwedel, (Nicolas DesLauriers), (Matt Hackett)

UFAs:

Henrik Tallinder, John Scott, Matt D'Agostini, Alex Sulzer, Zenon Konopka, Kevin Porter

Two-way contracts of NHL-ready players and buried players:
Patrick Kaleta, Matt Ellis, Johan Larsson, Mark Pysyk, Rasmus Ristolainen

II: EXERCISE ASSUMPTIONS

1) The Sabres must hit the salary floor.

2) Ville Leino is amnestied (I still like this term better).

3) Chris Stewart is retained.

4) Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Chad Ruhwedel, and Nicolas DesLauriers are tendered (the latter to a two-way contract and starting in Rochester).

5) Henrik Tallinder, Alex Sulzer, and Zenon Konopka are not resigned.

6) The Sabres retain their top two draft pick.

7) None of the above-listed NHL personnel are traded.

8) At least one UFA must be signed for the Sabres to hit the salary floor.

9) Decisions on Connacher, McBain, Scott, D'Agostini, Porter tabled through completion of thought exercise.

10) Foligno commences the season on IR.

III: POTENTIAL LINES, pre-exercise

--- / Ennis / Stafford

--- / Hodgson / Stewart

--- / Girgensons / Mitchell

--- / --- / Flynn

(Foligno)

--- / Ehrhoff

-- / Myers

-- / Weber

Enroth / Neuwirth

WELL THEN, we have some holes to fill.

IV: NHL AND BURIED, round one

Based on the performance of Mark Pysyk, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Chad Ruhwedel so far this year, I would not be surprised to see all three crack the NHL roster next year with McCabe moving down to the AHL for a season. The potential for improvement by any of the three appears marginal.

I do view Matt Ellis as an ideal fourth line player for the Sabres with some leadership ability and excellent PK attributes and expect him to remain on the Sabres roster but only in a fourth line capacity.

I despise Patrick Kaleta and would like to see him removed from the organization altogether but expect him to crack the Sabres roster.

Johann Larsson tabled for now.

IV: POTENTIAL LINES, round two

--- / Ennis / Stafford

--- / Hodgson / Stewart

--- / Girgensons / Mitchell

Matt Ellis / Patrick Kaleta / Flynn

(Foligno)

Rasmus Ristolainen / Ehrhoff

Mark Pysyk / Myers

Chad Ruhwedel / Weber

Enroth / Neuwirth

Still some holes to fill offensively, but the defensive pairings actually look rather solid (Weber excepted). In particular, a Pysyk-Myers pairing should allow Myers quite a high degree of safety.

V: DRAFT PICKS DISCUSSION

Let's assume the Sabres draft in the top two and utilize that pick to draft either Sam Reinhart or Sam Bennett. Both are considered to be NHL ready, but I personally wonder if the Sabres might not be benefited by following the Jonathan Drouin example and stashing their selection for another year in the juniors. But that won't happen for a number of reasons. Let's assume we play our offensive player on the second line. Two slots left before draft.

In the event that we acquire the conditional pick from St. Louis, we will be drafting in the late round. The player selected will either remain in the juniors or head to the NCAA. No roster implications here.

The Islanders pick remains the wild card, and I have no read on either. But in the event of acquisition of DalColle, Ehlers, or Draisaitl, I would predict that individual to spend at least one more year seasoning. Draisaitl especially could be NHL ready, but with one first round draft pick already playing, I can't see the Sabres feeling the need to rush the second. Let's assume that if drafted this player remains stashed.

VI: UFA DISCUSSION

Two key slots (first and third line) remain on the roster, and this exercise assumes that at least one pricey UFA is signed or acquired to hit the salary floor. Top targets have said to be Ryan Callahan, Matt Moulson, and Paul Stastny. I believe that another target for the Sabres could be Milan Michalek. Others are in play as well, but I will assume one of these four is signed. (For my purposes, I will assume Michalek.)

Now, let's look at the final slot, that slot on the third line. D'Agostini is an in-house UFA, as is Connacher, that could fill this slot, but I doubt either makes the cut. D'Agostini doesn't bring enough of anything the Sabres are looking for. Connacher represents an offensive enigma and a defensive liability I don't feel the Sabres are willing to continue further with. Johan Larsson is the logical filler here, but I predict Murray will look to the UFA market to fill it. I'm not as much of a Steve Ott fan as most Sabres fans are, but I believe Murray will look to him. I wouldn't be suprised to see Dustin Penner or Vernon Fiddler also pursued.

Predictions: One key UFA signed, another definitely pursued, possibly signed, Scott resigned, D'Agostini gone, Connacher gone.

VII: POTENTIAL LINES, round three

UFA-Michalek / Ennis / Stafford

Pick-Reinhart / Hodgson / Stewart

UFA-Ott OR Larsson / Girgensons / Mitchell

Matt Ellis / Patrick Kaleta / Flynn

(Foligno) (Scott)

Rasmus Ristolainen / Ehrhoff

Mark Pysyk / Myers

Chad Ruhwedel / Weber

Enroth / Neuwirth

VIII: McBAIN

More defensive depth is required, but I see management wanting to give McCabe, Zadorov, etc. more time to stew. McBain being offered a minimum tender would not be surprising.

IX: FOLIGNO

I still do believe Marcus Foligno does get tendered, but I am increasingly beginning to see him as an odd man out in the Sabres system. He has not displayed the consistency, work ethic, or skills (either offensively or defensively) that any had hoped for him, and both our third and fourth lines look flush with talent. I can see him aggressively shopped.

X: HACKETT

A decision must be made on Matt Hackett. Prior to this season, it looked as though he might be a cornerstone of our future, but he has woefully underperformed as other goaltenders in our system have progressed masterfully. I do speak of Lieuwen, but I also speak of Makarov now playing lights out in Rochester and Ullmark working stealing time from adults on MODO in Sweden. Plus, we still have Connor Knapp hanging around, performing adequately. Based on his ECHL dominance and his excellent turn thus far, Makarov clearly looks ready for AHL action. I wouldn't be surprised whatsoever to see Hackett non-tendered, leaving a Lieuwen-Makarov duo to duke it out in Rochester next season.

XI: POTENTIAL LINES, FINAL

UFA-Michalek / Ennis / Stafford

Pick-Reinhart / Hodgson / Stewart

UFA-Ott OR Larsson / Girgensons / Mitchell

Matt Ellis / Patrick Kaleta / Flynn

(Foligno) (Scott)

Rasmus Ristolainen / Ehrhoff

Mark Pysyk / Myers

Chad Ruhwedel / Weber

(McBain)

Enroth / Neuwirth

XII: 2014-2015 COMMENTS

Assuming continued progression by youngsters, returns to previous trends by Hodgson and Stewart, continued results delivered by Nolan-happy Myers, Ennis, and Stafford, and even adequate performance by the rest, this does NOT resemble to me a team in competition for McDavid or Eichel. Playoffs? No. But close? Maybe, actually. Barring lottery success, I see us picking no worse than 5th or 6th and possibly looking just outside the playoffs.

Ennis, Stafford, Hodgson, and Stewart are all second-line forwards, and potential exists within the Sabres organization (Compher, Grigorenko, Bailey, Hurley, draft pick, draft pick) to displace them as early as 2015-2016. I wouldn't be surprised to see both Stafford and Stewart dealt at the 2015 deadline.

A third line of Larsson, Girgensons, and Mitchell does sound a mite offensively impotent (unless Larsson or Girgensons can take further strides), but it certainly sounds like a defensive threat even top teams should be taking quite seriously.

Moreover, I am not convinced that pre-injuries this team was nearly as bad as it has been described. The Rolston system clearly didn't work for ANY of the players, and I do believe that a full summer of preparation and a training camp under Nolan's lead could mean a world of difference between the tone set for next year as opposed to that set for this one.

Naturally, all of this could change, will change. Maybe I'll try another of these if reasonably well received come June.

This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.

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