We’re 51 games into another poor season for the Buffalo Sabres. It feels like a movie that we’ve seen on repeat for the past six years. Sometimes we get sucked into the bad hockey and the joy of the game we all once had appears like it’ll never come back.
Are you a little tired of being stuck in the present and surrounded by bad hockey? I know I am.
I have a short-term solution for you. Come jump into this time machine with me and let’s go into the future. That’s where the good times for the Sabres reside correct?
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the 2019-2020 Buffalo Sabres:
77 Casey Mittelstadt – 15 Jack Eichel – 23 Sam Reinhart
18 Filip Zadina – 90 Ryan O’Reilly – 81 Ondrej Palat
49 CJ Smith – 25 Jordan Kyrou – 21 Kyle Okposo
84 Victor Olofsson – 65 Rasmus Asplund – 27 Joonas Donskoi
45 Brendan Guhle – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
6 Marco Scandella – 74 John Carlson
20 Will Borgen – 19 Jake McCabe
G1 – 35 Linus Ullmark
G2 – 31 Anders Nilsson
Take it all in for another few seconds and I’ll break down how we got here.
Alright, let’s start with the forward group. Casey Mittelstadt made the jump to the NHL in the 2018-19 season after one year at the University of Minnesota. He had a good rookie season finishing second to Vancouver Canucks defenseman Rasmus Dahlin in the Calder Trophy vote.
If you haven’t figured it out yet the Vancouver Canucks won the 2018 NHL Draft Lottery, sorry.
Speaking of the 2018 NHL Draft, Sabres third overall pick forward Filip Zadina formed one of the best rookie tandems in the league with Mittelstadt in the 2018-19 season. The Czech forward scored 18 goals in his first season and hopes are high for him to have a breakout sophomore campaign.
Jordan Kyrou who was the centerpiece of the Evander Kane trade with the St. Louis Blues at the 2018 trade deadline enters his second season with the Sabres as the third line center. The Sabres received Kyrou, a 2018 second round pick and 2019 conditional second round pick that could have become a first-round pick if the Blues made the conference finals in exchange for Kane and Johan Larsson. The Sabres retained 50 percent of Kane’s contract in the deal as well.
Unfortunately, the Blues lost in the Western Conference semi-finals in the 2018 playoffs, so they ended up with the second-round pick in 2019.
Remember this pick for later.
In the 2019 offseason, Jason Botterill signed unrestricted-free-agent from the San Jose Shark Joonas Donskoi to a three-year $9 million contract to play a bottom six role and bring some veteran leadership.
The last big addition to discuss is Ondrej Palat. The Tampa Bay Lightning had to move some salary with Nikita Kucherov signing a new huge deal to stay with the Bolts.
Jason Botterill jumped on the 28-year-old forward who is coming off a 25 goal 2018-19 season in a 2019 NHL Draft day trade. The Sabres sent the Blues 2019 second round pick they received as part of the Kane trade, 2020 fourth round pick and disappointing prospect Alex Nylander who was coming off another tough season in the AHL. The Sabres received Palat and some depth in former first-round pick defenseman Slater Koekkoek who also never lived up to expectations.
While everyone was busy chasing John Tavares in free agency in the summer of 2018 (he ended signing with the Montreal Canadiens by the way) the Sabres snuck in and signed the top free agent defenseman in former Washington Capital John Carlson. Botterill opened the bank handing out a six-year $40.5 million deal ($6.75 million per season) to Carlson.
Will Borgen left St. Cloud State after his junior season signing with the Sabres in 2018. After a strong season in the AHL with the Rochester Amerks. He’s set to begin his NHL rookie season on the bottom pair with Jake McCabe at the start of the 2019-20 season.
As expected Brendan Guhle is the top pair defenseman Sabres fans have been waiting for. He forms a strong duo with Rasmus Ristolainen. While Marco Scandella and Carlson are a strong second pair to help solidify the Buffalo defense.
Linus Ullmark will begin his second season as the starter and Anders Nilsson is signed as a free agent in the summer of 2019 to be the backup for his second stint in Buffalo.
A few other little clean up details. Zach Bogosian was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in the summer of 2019 as a salary dump. The Sabres were forced to retain half of his salary for the season.
Zemgus Girgensons was traded for a 2019 fifth-round pick in the summer of 2018. Nathan Beaulieu is on a one-year deal as he’ll battle Koekkoek for the spot of the seventh defenseman on the roster.
The 2018-19 season was a good rebound season for the Sabres. Jack Eichel continued to be a dominant player scoring over 80 points. Mittelstadt had a strong rookie season and Guhle ascended to a top pair defenseman. A few other players had a promising season, but the club didn’t end the playoff drought. They just missed recording 88 points on the season.
Entering the 2019-20 season the buzz around the Sabres is like what it was around the 2016-17 club. They’re expected to be a playoff team this year. They’re also regarded as one of the up and coming teams in the league.
Ok, back to reality. I hope you enjoyed the little jump into what the future holds (hypothetically of course).