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GM For a Day: Restocking and Retooling

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What should the Sabres do from the trade deadline through free agency?

NHL: Calgary Flames at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

With the NHL trade deadline just a couple days away, the Buffalo Sabres will have some big decisions to make. Where will Evander Kane ultimately land? Will the Sabres decide to keep Robin Lehner? What will the return be for some of their secondary assets like Josh Gorges, and Benoit Pouliot?

Well, I didn’t call myself “Trader Matt” for nothing, nobody loves a good trade more than me. I’ve noticed lately many have posted their GM for a Day ideas, so I decided for my next project for fun that I was going to place my “GM for a Day” hat on one more time before the trade deadline and give everybody an idea of what exactly I would do at the trade deadline, and what I think the Sabres should do.

I will also not stop at the deadline. Be prepared to read a long one, because I’m going to provide some great detail into all of my trades, and moves. I am also going to go beyond the trade deadline, do my own mock of the 2018 NHL Draft (first two rounds), and free agency.

Having said that, I have four goals I want to accomplish:

1.) Acquire as many top three round draft picks and prospects as possible.

2.) Get the best possible offer for Evander Kane.

3.) Position myself for a good position salary cap wise for 2020 and beyond.

4.) Help the Rochester Americans if possible

2018 NHL Trade Deadline

Acquired Tyler Ennis, Ryan Murphy, and a 2018 third round pick (MIN), 2019 third round pick from the Minnesota Wild for Zemgus Girgensens, Justin Falk, 2018 fourth round pick (BUF)

Analysis: I know I know, many of you are like what the hell? Why? Tyler Ennis is not the piece I want back in the deal. Mainly, I would like to get back into the third round of this years draft, and this could be a way back in. I’d also like to accumulate more picks in the top three rounds to either trade or use. As I said in goal number one, I want as many draft picks as possible, and Ennis is a cap dump with one more year left on his deal. In Buffalo, he still could serve a purpose as a band-aid, default option to replace Kane for the remainder of the year so you don’t have to call up C.J Smith, or Justin Bailey if you want to keep them down and let them develop. Option two would be bury Ennis in the AHL, and loan him to another club while calling up a prospect.

Minnesota would also likely want to inject some youth, speed, and grit for the playoffs, and they will get some speed and grit with Girgensons, who is much more useful in a bottom six role on a good team than Tyler Ennis is. Is he worth two third rounders all by himself? Probably not, but he is if you’re taking on the cap dump. Minnesota also gets Justin Falk, a veteran depth defenseman. Hopefully, they wouldn’t have to dress him too often, but they do not have a lot of call-up options right now for defense.

Ryan Murphy is a former 12th overall pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, once projected to be a dynamic NHL defenseman. He is a reclamation project for the Sabres who turns 25 in March. But Murphy likely goes to the AHL to boost the Amerks blueline. He has 19 points in 36 games with the Iowa Wild.

Acquired a 2018 third round pick, from the Los Angeles Kings for Benoit Pouliot,

Analysis: The Los Angeles Kings need more speed, and Benoit Pouliot would likely make the most sense for them, aside from Evander Kane of course. I can imagine LA will be one of the many teams calling about Kane. I think at the end of the day, LA might be best served holding on to top prospects like Kale Clague, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan, as well as their 2018 first round pick.

A comparable trade might be Viktor Stalberg who was dealt from Ottawa to Carolina last year for a third-round pick. Pouliot may not have a ton of value, but he should appeal to some teams because of his low cap hit and speed.

Acquired a 2019 third round pick, LHD Cavan Fitzgerald from the San Jose Sharks for C Johan Larsson, 2019 fourth round pick

Analysis: In this deal, the Sharks need to improve their center depth, and more importantly, they actually need a fourth line defensive minded center for the playoffs. The Sharks could be looking for a a guy just like Johan Larsson. In return, Buffalo moves up in the 2019 NHL Draft swapping a fourth for a third-round pick in 2019, as well obtaining a defensive prospect in Cavan Fitzgerald (no relation to Casey) who is in his rookie year in the AHL. He’s 21 years old, and currently playing on the bottom pair for the San Jose Barracuda. He would likely help Rochester’s depth this year as Zach Redmond, Stuart Percy, and Brendan Guhle is the Amerk’s top defenseman.

Fitzgerald has the upside of a powerplay QB, although as a rookie, he only has 12 points in 40 AHL games this year, which is right around the production of Casey Nelson. But Fitzgerald is four years younger at just 21 years old. He gives the Sabres another good prospect for the system, although I don’t think Fitzgerald has a top four ceiling, more bottom pair or power play specialist.

Acquired 2018 third round pick (WAS), 2018 seventh round pick from the Washington Capitals for a 2018 fourth round pick (MIN), and LHD Josh Gorges (50% retained)

Analysis: I do think there will be a good market for a guy like Josh Gorges if Buffalo keeps some salary. Is Washington the place for Gorges? I’m not 100% sure, but they could use a depth defenseman, as well as the New York Islanders. Gorges will be cheap, and experienced, and teams tend to pay more than they should. I mean seriously, if you don’t think Gorges has any value, two years ago, Eric Gelinas and Mike Weber both went for third round picks. Last year, Frank Corrado went for a fourth rounder and Eric Fehr’s two million dollar contract.

I don’t expect Washington to do much, but I think Gorges is a good depth defenseman for a playoff run. This trade swaps one of Buffalo’s two fourth-round picks acquired from Minnesota, and it allows them to move up into the top 100 of the draft, climbing into the back end of round three.

Acquired a 2018 second round pick, 2019 third round pick (conditional), Alex Nedeljkovic and Marcus Kruger from the Carolina Hurricanes for Robin Lehner

Analysis: Right now, you can make a strong case that the Carolina Hurricanes need a goaltender. They are currently sitting in the final playoff spot with Columbus right on their tail. Scott Darling has struggled badly since being acquired from the Blackhawks and is still owed four million for next three years after the season is over. Darling is 10-14-6, with a 2.99 goals against, as well as a .894 save percentage. Garth Snow has already come out and said a couple days ago, the Islanders will not be trading John Tavares, or high draft picks for rental players, and although Lehner would not be a rental as he is an RFA. The Islanders would keep his rights but they also have two top-tier goaltending prospects in Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom. The Islanders don’t seem like they’ll be pulling the trigger on a goalie unless it’s at a cheaper price like a third-round pick. If you’re the Islanders, it seems like Antti Raanta and Arizona would be the better partner.

The Carolina Hurricanes do need to upgrade in goal, but also need a long-term answer in net. Robin Lehner would provide the Hurricanes with a more long-term answer if Cam Ward leaves for free agency. With a new owner and a playoff drought, the Hurricanes might do a deal for Lehner if it helps them get into the playoffs. Hurricanes likely press you to take on Scott Darling’s contract. That would require a second-round pick in 2019. Darling would also need to agree to be traded to Buffalo as he can submit a 15 team trade list. His contract should not hurt the Sabres that much even though it’s for three more years. With all the other goaltenders that could be on the market like Mrazek, Howard, Raanta, and maybe Dell, the Sabres should take advantage of their ability to take on a bad cap which is something many other teams cannot offer. Marcus Kruger is the player who is included in the deal as a player who was just sent down to the minors. The Hurricanes owe him three million next year. He would also have to waive his NTC.

Alex Nedeljkovic is a 22-year-old former second-round pick for the Hurricanes currently starting for the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. He currently a project goaltender who may require a couple more years of seasoning and development in the AHL. With Lehner gone, Nedeljkovic goes to Rochester to replace Ullmark, who gets promoted to the NHL on an audition as the Sabres starter.

Ironically, it is the Hurricanes and Islanders who need goaltending, and both teams are fighting it out for the last wildcard playoff spot, along with the Columbus Blue Jackets. If Carolina lands Lehner, they will make the playoffs for sure. The Hurricanes have passed the Islanders with their win over Colorado on Saturday. The Blue Jackets are a point behind with a game in hand on Carolina. They play the Islanders on the 13th.

Acquired Fillip Gustavsson, Carl Hagelin, 2018 first round pick, and a 2019 second round pick from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Evander Kane and Nathan Beaulieu, 2019 third round pick

Analysis: I have believed for quite some time now that the best trading partner for Evander Kane is the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins started slow, but have clawed their way into second in their division. For starters, it’s been rumored that the Penguins brass believes that the issue with Kane has been being apart of losing organizations, but also believe this would change if he were in Pittsburgh.. He’s never played in a playoff game in his entire career.

Nathan Beaulieu is included in the deal. I have a hunch that the Penguins were looking at Beaulieu when Botterill was assistant GM there, and they likely have scouted him heavily. If this is true, then Beaulieu would make sense to be apart of the deal. With an impending trade of Ian Cole, Pittsburgh would likely not want to strand themselves with the possibility of being stuck with Matt Hunwick and Chad Ruhwedel as a top four D in the event of an injury. Beaulieu is a better fit skill wise for the style Pittsburgh would want to play.

In return, the Buffalo Sabres receive a first-round pick from the Penguins. They also get one of the top goaltending prospects in the league in Filip Gustavsson. With the price tags that young up and coming goaltenders have, Gustavsson gives the Sabres tremendous flexibility and the ability to accumulate even more assets down the road. If Ullmark really appeared to take hold of the Sabres goaltending role, and Gustavsson emerged as a top goaltender in the AHL, he could be flipped for more assets down the road which could range between lower first rounders or second rounders.

Carl Hagelin is the roster player component of the deal. Hagelin is one of the fastest players in the league, and although he’s had a down year, I think he would be a great band-aid to replace Evander Kane in the lineup. Although Buffalo retains salary in the trade, Hagelin is in the deal to free up money next year for Pittsburgh to either re-sign Evander Kane or pursue another top free agent. Hagelin also works for Buffalo as he’s an asset that can be flipped at the 2019 deadline if the Sabres remain a bottom dweller, or help them if they are a surprise playoff team like the Devils this year.

Buffalo also swaps their 2019 third round pick, with Pittsburgh’s 2019 second round pick.
Many will want to deal with St.Louis. If St. Louis is the team you are dealing with, then you have a ton of prospects to choose from including Vince Dunn, Tage Thompson, Ville Husso, Klim Kostin, and Jordan Kyrou. Personally, I’d be excited if we got Kane for Kyrou in a 1 for 1, let alone adding more, as he is one of the top prospects in the game. The Blues are without 2018 first because of the Brayden Schenn trade. But if you’re St.Louis and you’re dealing Jordan Kyrou, then you should be going after Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, or Mike Hoffman. I could be wrong, but I think if St. Louis moves Kyrou, then it is going to be for a player with term and not a rental.

If I am dealing Evander Kane to St. Louis, since they do not have a 2018 First, I would need to get a 2019 first, and something around defenseman Vince Dunn or Tage Thompson.

An alternative trade idea I have presented before involving Pittsburgh substituted Carl Hagelin with Ian Cole and involved Buffalo immediately flipping Cole for more draft picks.

Trade Deadline Conclusion:

I have acquired: 2018 First (Pitt), 2018 Second (CAR), 2018 Third (MIN), 2018 Third (WAS), 2018 Third (LA). In 2019, I have acquired a 2019 second (Pitt), 2019 third (CAR), 2019 third (SJ). Prospects acquired are Filip Gustavsson, Alex Nedeljkovic, Cavan Fitzgerald. I picked up contracts in Tyler Ennis, Carl Hagelin, and Marcus Kruger.

2018 NHL Draft Day Trades:

Acquired D T.J Brodie, F Dillon Dube, from the Calgary Flames for C Ryan O’Reilly, 2018 Third Round Pick (MIN via BUF)

Many will hate trading Ryan O’Reilly, but I think with all the holes on the Sabres blueline all throughout the system, sometimes you need to give to get, and unfortunately, O’Reilly is the only piece that might be able to get me this.

Is Ryan O’Reilly a future part of the Sabres core? They need to make this determination this summer. Personally, my take is that Casey Mittelstadt will be this team’s second line center for the next five to ten years. Plus with a contract with of Ryan O’Reilly’s size, that deal possesses a slight risk for the team that holds the deal.

O’Reilly has five more years at 7.5 million per year and is 27 years old. He is one of the top two way forwards in the game, and one of the top five faceoff men in the league. Calgary needs to improve their scoring, and if Michael Backlund leaves for free agency, Ryan O’Reilly would make a lot of sense here. As much as every team could use O’Reilly, the Flames are currently ahead of the Sabres in their organizational goals. The Sabres are still trying to find a way to get back into being in playoff contender while Calgary wants to get over the hump.

For Buffalo, they desperate for a top-four defenseman who can provide offense. T.J Brodie is a lefty shot and plays both left and right sides, but he has played his best hockey from the right side. He would be an ideal fit for the system that Phil Housley would like to implement as a very fast, agile defenseman. The only hurdle is Brodie has a no-trade clause. He is from Chatham-Kent, Ontario, so it may appeal being closer to home. Brodie has two years remaining on his deal at 4.65 million.

The Sabres also need more prospects for the defenseman pipeline, and Calgary has several good ones such as Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson, Adam Fox, and Juuso Valimaki.

For me, dealing with Calgary, I would have to get Dillion Dube to be a potential long-term replacement for the hole Ryan O’Reilly will leave. Dube works in the Sabres depth down the middle along with Rasmus Asplund, and Cliff Pu. The Sabres also need speed and Dube has speed. Dillion Dube is the guy I am counting on to add more depth, skill, and speed down the middle. He was captain of the Canadian National team at the World Juniors and had a solid showing with three goals, five points, in seven games. He has the upside of a second line centerman or top six left wingers. Dube brings plenty of grit to the table as well, as well as versatility and has a strong work ethic. He is the classic skill beats size type player.

The Calgary Flames really need draft assets. An additional third rounder will at least be better than being stuck with just one third in the first three rounds. They also do not have a 2018 first or second, or a 2019 second or third.

A similar deal around Ryan O’Reilly would also involve trading with Carolina for Justin Faulk. I would do a deal of O’Reilly, for Faulk and a prospect like Janne Kuokkonen. If the Calgary deal falls through, then it’s Carolina that I would want to trade with again.

Acquired Max Domi, 2019 3rd round pick (Calgary) and from the Arizona Coyotes for Alex Nedeljkovic, 2018 second round pick (33rd overall), 2019 second round pick, and a 2018 third round pick (LA)

Analysis: Arizona likely wants something around a late first in return, and you know Toronto Maple Leaf, and even Winnipeg Jet fans want to see them pay the price for Domi. With Buffalo, I’m offering a pick close to the bottom of round one in a 2018 second (33-34), the LA Kings 2018 third round pick, Buffalo’s 2019 second round pick, and I am flipping goaltender prospect Alex Nedeljkovic as they do need more goalie prospects in their system. I would even do Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen as I now have Gustavsson in the system.

They can likely use those assets to climb back into round one this year. There risk for both teams in this deal, but for me, I love Domi’s grit, skill, and versatility to play center and you can never have enough of those, especially after I just traded Ryan O’Reilly. I also swap my second round pick in 2019, with Calgary’s third in 2019 that Arizona currently owns.

After these moves, I still have two firsts, a second, and a third, as well as my 2019 first, Pittsburgh’s 2019 second, and three third-round picks.

I hope Jason Botterill is in on Max Domi.

NHL Draft ( Only the first two rounds )

Round One: Third Overall, Brady Tkachuk, LW/C Boston University

We got to see up close and personal the potential duo of Casey Mittelstadt and Brady Tkachuk on a line at the World Juniors. Even if the Sabres actually acquired Tyler Ennis and Carl Hagelin in trades, those are band-aids, and by no means long-term answers. Ennis is a cap dump who will compete for a roster spot next year, but he just helps us get to the cap floor.

When the Sabres trade Evander Kane, they will have a huge organizational hole on the left wing. The right wing is rock solid with Reinhart, Okposo, and Pominville on the main roster, and Justin Bailey, Alex Nylander, and Nick Baptiste on the farm. I haven’t even mentioned Cliff Pu yet. Bailey and Nylander are both versatile enough to play both wings, so they could be options on the left wing as well, however, Nylander is not where he should be in his development. In fact, Nylander’s development is in a critical phase right now. Nylander is at least a year or two away.

C.J Smith is likely the default top option as the roster currently stands, but will he transition the scoring to the NHL, or be another Seth Griffith as a guy who is a great AHL’er, but fringe NHL’er. Brandon Hagel might also be something down the road. Casey Mittelstadt could easily play the left wing, as well as center, but my preference is to have Mittelstadt at center and continue to develop him there.

That huge hole is why I think the Sabres will select Tkachuk over Svechnikov number two if they end up picking there, but in this scenario, I slotted them third overall to be more generous as I am not counting on Buffalo landing a top two pick. I think Tkachuk is a better fit, and more importantly, I believe he has closed a lot of the gap between him and Andrei Svechnikov. Filip Zadina is also in the top four mix.

There is a strong case for any team, not just Buffalo, to take Tkachuk number two overall. When you look at a lot of what Tkachuk brings to the table, it essentially replaces a lot of the same things that Evander Kane brought and more. What I really love about Tkachuk is his hands, he has a slick set of hands for a guy many would automatically classify as a rough it up power forward, as well as the ability to play multiple positions and in multiple situations. He will be a great player in this league for many years.

I would love to have Dahlin, but the fact is, the Sabres have less than a 20% chance of landing him.

Round One: 20th overall (From Pittsburgh) Ryan Merkley, RHD, Guelph Storm (OHL)

If you look up and define what the Sabres want in a defense, it probably would look a lot like Merkley. One of the most polarizing figures in the draft, Merkley has been a scoring machine from the blueline in the OHL. What appeals about Merkley is that he is a right-handed defenseman. I actually feel good about the state of the left side of the blueline in Buffalo with Scandella, McCabe on the main roster, and Brendan Guhle on his way up. I feel even more confident if I just landed T.J Brodie in this scenario who can play both sides. I have Brodie on the right side on my depth chart.

The more immediate need in terms of prospects and depth is on the right side for me, and more importantly getting another right-handed shot. It’s also been needed since Mark Pysyk was traded. Zach Bogosian is often injured and has just two years remaining on his contract. The Sabres will need someone to step in once he is gone in two years. They also should continue to seek another defenseman capable of producing offense from the blueline.

They have both Casey Fitzgerald, and Will Borgen developing in college, but there are no promises they both will sign here. Although if Brady Tkachuk is coming here, he is a cousin of Casey Fitzgerald and maybe becomes more likely, there’s plenty of family to land with being related to both Jimmy and Kevin Hayes, and having your father as the Assistant GM in New Jersey. I think it will be more about best opportunity to make the NHL for Fitzgerald like most players in that situation. I’m iffy on the Sabres being able to sign both of them.

Ryan Merkley fits the Sabres blueline desires perfectly. If Pittsburgh or whatever first rounder the Sabres acquire is even lower than 20, I’d move up a few spots to take him if I had to.

Round Two: 40-50 Overall From Carolina: Calen Addison, RHD, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL).

A secondary player to look at would be Calen Addison RHD from the Lethbridge Hurricanes. If Addison falls into round two, it’s only because there are so many righty defenders available, but he brings a lot of the same things that Ryan Merkley brings.

Spokane defenseman Ty Smith who should be projected to go in the top 15 is likely the top WHL defenseman in next year’s draft and mainly because he is such a well-rounded player. Calen Addison is likely the second best WHL defenseman in the draft, although some think Jett Woo is the next best WHL defenseman. He is going to go lower in the draft because he is not as well rounded as Smith, but Addison likely has a higher ceiling.

Addison is another right-handed defenseman, but I always would take the best player available and at this point, Addison might be the best player here.

Unrestricted Free Agency

James Neal, 4 years, 28 million, no-trade clause (7 million cap hit)

He knows Phil Housley, and he knows Jason Botterill. I think he will appeal to the Sabres if he hits the open market. Even though this seems totally inappropriate to do, the Sabres still need some good veterans to bridge the gap and set the example to show these guys how to win. This team needs an infusion of these types of players. which is also why a former two time Stanley Cup Champion in Carl Hagelin is appealing to add despite the down year and salary.

He has been connected to three successful franchises, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, and Vegas Golden Knights. They also need to replace some scoring, and they get a legit sniper in James Neal. I think Neal would be outstanding for the locker room in Buffalo and would bring a winning attitude into the organization. Nick Kypreos believes he will get because of his age as he’ll be 31 in September, he will get a four or five-year deal.

I would do this for four, maybe five years easily as the Sabres will have few cap concerns over the next couple years.

Thomas Vanek, 2 years, 7 million, no-trade clause.

There is no question that Thomas Vanek gives you a tremendous bang for your buck. Given that the Sabres will be rock solid cap wise once they get past next year, Thomas Vanek would be a low risk, high reward move. He would help the Sabres ailing power play and would provide some secondary scoring. The appeal for Vanek would be gaining the second year, as well as the no-trade clause. I’m sure Thomas Vanek is tired of being traded.

Aaron Dell, three years, 10 million. (3.33 million cap hit)

Aaron Dell continues to perform at a high level in San Jose. Some team will give him an opportunity to be a starter in the NHL. He is pretty much getting the same deal Thomas Griess got with the Islanders. Dell is 13-4-3 as San Jose’s backup, with a .919 save percentage. He has a career record of 24-10-4, with a .924 save percentage. He would be a solid candidate to compete with Linus Ullmark for the starting position next year.

LHD Brandon Hickey, Boston University (NCAA Free Agent)

Hickey was dealt to Arizona in the Mike Smith deal and is currently the captain of the Boston University Terriers program. A former third-round pick, Hickey has the tools to be a solid puck-moving defenseman at the next level. There could be some appeal to play with former teammates Jack Eichel, Evan Rodrigues, and Brady Tkachuk, as well as the potential to make the Sabres next year.

Hickey would have a clear path to the NHL as Scandella, Brodie, and Bogosian are all UFA’s after the 2020-21 season. Brodie might be the one with the long-term extension.

T.J Brennan, one year, two-way deal worth 850k.

This move is for the Amerks who will likely lose Brendan Guhle to promotion. Brennan is a former two time Eddie Shore Award winner as the AHL’s best defenseman and should help the Amerks remain a solid club.

Re-Sign Minor UFA’s Jordan Nolan and Jacob Josefson

Nolan gets 1 year, 975k, and Josefson gets 1 year, 800k

Key RFA’s

Max Domi, and Sam Reinhart, identical 2 year, 2.8 million contracts

These deals are in line with what Elias Lindholm and Nail Yakupov received. Lindholm signed his deal coming off an 11 goal, 39 point season. Lindholm is now having a solid year and will likely eclipse 20 goals for the first time in his career. He’s a fine two-way player centerman. I am going to predict that Viktor Antipin returns to the KHL next year.

Offers are extended out to RFA’s: Nick Baptise, Scott Wilson, Hudson Fasching, Sean Malone, Seth Griffith, Justin Bailey, Jason Kasdorf, Adam Wilcox

Projected 2018-19 Lineup:

James Neal- Jack Eichel (C)- Sam Reinhart
Brady Tkachuk- Casey Mittelstadt- Kyle Okposo (A)
Carl Hagelin- Max Domi- Thomas Vanek
Tyler Ennis- Evan Rodrigues- Jason Pominville

Depth: Scott Wilson, Jacob Josefson, Jordan Nolan

Next men up: Dillon Dube, Justin Bailey, Alex Nylander, Cliff Pu, Rasmus Asplund

Marco Scandella- Rasmus Ristolainen
Brendan Guhle- T.J Brodie
Jake McCabe- Zach Bogosian (A)

Depth: Casey Nelson, Taylor Fedun, Brandon Hickey

Next men up: Ryan Merkley, Casey Fitzgerald, Will Borgen

Aaron Dell
Linus Ullmark

Next men up: Fillip Gustavsson, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Adam Wilcox


James Neal provides a player that both Housley and Botterill are familiar with, and can score goals. He would be a welcome veteran addition to the locker room. Thomas Vanek also brings great value on special teams, and for a short-term deal, he provides great value for the money here. Vanek likely retires a Sabre if he signs such a deal. Even if Vanek is just a third or fourth liner at even strength and is just used on the power play, I’d be just fine with that.

Some familiar faces return to help usher in the next wave of players such as Mittelstadt and Tkachuk. This is likely a curtain call for Ennis, Pominville in Buffalo whose contracts are off the books after this year. Max Domi is my third line center, and I have him as well as Casey Mittelstadt replacing Ryan O’Reilly in the lineup down the middle. I think Brady Tkachuk will play in the NHL next year and should factor in as a top-six left wing, or at worst, top nine.

Tkachuk is likely competing with Justin Bailey, Tyler Ennis and Jason Pominville for the lineup spots. There is a good chance with this roster Ennis or Pominville gets buried here if they lose out to a guy like Bailey or even C.J Smith. Brodie and Guhle should provide a major boost to the defense next year. If Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe are on your third pair, you’re likely a much better team defensively. I am predicting Viktor Antipin will return to Russia next year, so I am not factoring him in the lineup.

Cap wise for next year, the Sabres would be right up against the wall with the money, but it’s only for next season. After the 2018-19 season, the contracts of Ennis, Moulson, Kruger, Hagelin, and Pominville are all off the books. This frees up around 20 million for the 2019-20 season. After 2020-21, the Sabres would have three defensemen who will be unrestricted free agents in Marco Scandella, T.J Brodie, and Zach Bogosian. In such a scenario, there would be a more pressing need to draft a first round defenseman in 2019, and likely should take a defenseman in the second and third rounds in 2018.


Is Ryan O’Reilly at 27 years old, and signed for another five years apart of the long term core in Buffalo?

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