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Jason Botterill Still Has My Trust: A Positive Spin on the Post-Deadline Sabres

Botterill is still cleaning up after Tim Murray, but do we have anything to look forward to after a disappointing Kane trade?

2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - New York Rangers v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As much as I was underwhelmed by the Sabres at the trade deadline, I am also in the extreme minority that is ok with the Evander Kane trade under the circumstances. Sabres GM Jason Botterill waited until a couple hours prior to the deadline to move Kane and didn’t get the return we hoped for. The Sabres managed to fetch Danny O’Regan, and a conditional 2019 first round pick in return.

It doesn’t make me think anything negative of Jason Botterill because truthfully, if the market for Kane was diluted because of his “reputation”, then I’m glad we were able to get something, as opposed to nothing.

Evander Kane is the much better rental option over Rick Nash, but Nash did not have the negative reputation that Kane has. He also has a wealth of playoff experience, provides leadership, and is still a strong two-way player. Teams tend to covet that type of package at the deadline.

There were likely not any buyers willing to pay a first rounder for a rental Kane, and this may have been the case all along. To be honest, I’m glad this is finally over with because this situation has been a major headache going back to Kane’s legal issues a couple summers ago when we probably wouldn’t have been able to give him away.

That sort reputation tends to follow you and it clearly put a dent in his value. At the end of the day, I think more of the blame for what happened on deadline day goes to the previous GM, Tim Murray, over the current GM, Jason Botterill. The main reason being, we likely never should have acquired him, to begin with, or at least paid what we paid.

The result of the original Winnipeg trade

Basically, Murray turned the 25th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft (Jack Roslovic), Tyler Myers, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, and Drew Stafford, into Evander Kane, and Zach Bogosian.

At the time, I was for acquiring Kane, but not at the price that we paid. Looking back, it was even more of a haul than I originally thought with two prospects, a rental forward, a top-four defenseman, and a first in a strong draft class. Not to mention, we had to take on Zach Bogosian and swap him out for Tyler Myers.

Jason Botterill tried to reclaim some lost value and now, the end result of trading that 2015 first, Tyler Myers, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, and Drew Stafford is just Danny O’Regan and a conditional 2019 first round pick. Oh yeah, by the way, Bogosian is still here. This looks even worse today than last weekend.

But Botterill didn’t burn through the treasure chest of assets Darcy Regier left behind. It’s possible that if Botterill, not Murray were hired back in 2014, that he doesn’t do the same things. Botterill was still as highly regarded back then as a top GM candidate, just as he was last summer. I can’t imagine he would have burned through so many assets for a quick fix. If anything, I suspect he might have packaged a couple of those picks to trade up and get a better prospect in a strong draft class.

Just imagine if the Sabres never do the original Kane deal, the Kulikov deal, and the Lehner deal. What would the Sabres roster look like today?

Burning through assets was a repetitive theme with Tim Murray’s tenure.
Combining three of Murray’s worst trades, we acquired Kane, Dmitry Kulikov, Bogosian, Rasmus Asplund (33rd overall in 2016), and Lehner, for Myers, Armia, Brendan Lemieux, Stafford, Mark Pysyk, Picks 21 and 25 in 2015, and picks 38 and 89, in 2016. Those picks ended up turning into Colin White, Jack Roslovic, Adam Mascherin, Linus Nassen.

Which side of that fence would you like to be on?

We did swap second-round picks to acquire Kulikov and many will point out how that allowed us to get Asplund. But Asplund could have been easily had if the Sabres wanted him anyways. Maybe a third round pick could have gotten you those five spots to move up, you know like the one that was dealt just to negotiate with Jimmy Vesey.

Tyler Myers might have eventually ended up traded, but Myers all by himself had stand-alone value at the time to be moved for more young assets.

The Ryan O’Reilly trade is likely the only trade I would still do today. That trade was a great trade for the Sabres, but let's say you never do that one either. We would likely still have J.T Compher, Nikita Zadorov, and the 31st overall pick. O’Reilly is the best player in the trade, but it’s a quality vs quantity argument here. You would also have a solid defenseman in Zadorov, a good, speedy forward in Compher. You also have a lot more cap space as a bonus. Also, what if you hit on that 31st overall draft pick?

Christian Fischer, Jeremy Roy, Sebastian Aho, and Brandon Carlo, all went in the 31-37 range. Maybe you also use that pick to move up into the middle of the first round for a guy like Matthew Barzal, or Kyle Connor. You may not hit on every draft pick, but the more picks you have, the more likely you are to hit on a pick.

Why Botterill Still Has My Trust?

You’d have to think it would have been so easy for Botterill to succeed Darcy Regier as GM, as opposed to Tim Murray. While the Kane deal was disappointing, Botterill has still made some solid moves early on.

I still can’t forget that this guy traded Tyler Ennis, and Marcus Foligno, for Jason Pominville, and Marco Scandella. Scandella has been arguably the best defenseman for the Sabres this year. That is a deal I would do over and over again. I can’t forget that he drafted Casey Mittelstadt eighth overall in last years draft. Mittelstadt, O’Reilly, and Eichel should make the Sabres very strong down the middle for years to come. Mittelstadt has also been one of the strongest prospects in all of hockey. I can’t forget that he brought a quality bottom six player in Scott Wilson for pennies on the dollar.

He also seems to have the Rochester Americans on the right track and more importantly, he seems to be more committed to the AHL than we’ve seen in years from previous GM’s. I think he nailed his selection for an AHL head coach in Chris Taylor.

Maybe the jury is out on Phil Housley for many fans. I am ok with the hire, but I personally wanted Jim Montgomery from Denver or Todd Reirden from Washington. Would anyone else really be able to do anything with this roster and the current environment? Housley doesn’t have Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, or P.K. Subban.

Go sign John Carlson next summer and then win the lottery and draft Rasmus Dahlin. Then, proceed to watch how much of a genius Housley looks like next year. When your top four is Carlson, Dahlin, Ristolainen and Scandella, you’re a much better team. That’s a pretty big upgrade over Ristolainen, Scandella, McCabe, and then a major drop off after those three. I haven’t even mentioned Guhle or a healthy Bogosian yet. If Bogosian is healthy and on your bottom pair, you’re a lot better off.

Even if you just added Dahlin and Guhle, you’re a much better team next year. You’re probably better off with just Guhle all by himself. If you bring Richard Smehlik out of retirement at age 48, you’re likely a better team next year defensively. If you draft Taro Tsujimoto Jr. next year as a late round steal, you’re likely better next year.

Unfortunately, Carlson will get a huge contract and I wouldn’t be stunned if he got north of $8 million next summer. We would have to probably overpay to make that happen anyways and as many will point out, we likely should not be doing this or, he won’t want to come here. We would also have to win the lottery to get Dahlin and the Sabres haven’t had the luck there either. But hey, Taro Jr. would be a late round steal right?

But seriously, If the Sabres don’t draft first overall, they are still going to have to nail their pick in June. There is a good chance they will get some NHL ready help if they pick top three or four. Svechnikov, Zadina, Tkachuk anyone?

We are all San Jose fans now

We all have something to root for now and that’s for the San Jose Sharks and Kane to have success. If a conditional pick was truly all that was being offered for Kane, then Botterill likely choose the best place for him to go. In a way, it could turn out to be a sneaky good move to maximize value in this deal.

Doug Wilson himself said he was not looking just for pure rentals, but for guys who factor into the long-term plan. Kane can easily factor into their long-term plan.

The Sharks do have an older group of veteran top guys. Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Brent Burns are all over 30 and Logan Couture is turning 29 in March. Kane isn’t an under 25 player but is still relatively young and in his prime.

He’s turning 27 in August, but he should help provide a little more youth, speed and grit to their lineup. Some have said the window has been closing on the Sharks for a while now, but Kane might help keep it open a little while longer. I’m not sure if they will really be in on John Tavares, but such a signing would be huge for whoever gets him.

San Jose also does not have a terribly deep farm system right now, so they might be inclined to keep Kane around if he interacts well in the locker room and performs well. Shark fans were likely iffy on acquiring him, but I think they will see how valuable he is on the ice, and I’m going to guess a lot of them will want to see him re-signed by the end of the season.

San Jose might not win the Stanley Cup. But, even if they can stay alive and make a seven-game series in round two, or a conference finals showing, that still could be a favorable scenario for Sabres fans. You want San Jose to try and go for it next year, and a strong playoff showing might be what it takes for them to hold on to Kane.

Good luck in the playoffs San Jose, from all of us at Die By The Fin, oh sorry, I mean, Die By The Blade.

All GM’s, even some great ones are vulnerable to bad moves

  • Steve Yzerman once traded a first round pick, third round pick and Radko Gudas for Braydon Coburn.
  • George McPhee traded Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat
  • David Poile once traded a first round pick for Paul Gaustad
  • Pierre Dorian might be regretting the Matt Duchene deal right now
  • Scott Howson traded a first rounder (Sean Couturier), a third rounder ( Nick Cousins), and Jakub Voracek, for Jeff Carter. He was then flipped to the LA Kings for a conditional first rounder (Marko Dano), and Jack Johnson. The condition in the trade was that LA needed to make the playoffs for the pick to be a first rounder.
  • Peter Chiarelli once traded......well ok the list would be too long for that one.

The good news is, the Kane trade could have some light at the end of the tunnel.

The Evander Kane trade tree can still grow

This trade is not quite over yet.

Let me start off with Bogosian because he’s still here. Many have expressed a desire to simply buy him out. I strongly oppose a Bogosian buyout. Unless we plan on being big spenders in free agency and are in need of cap space, I’d rather keep Bogosian’s contract for the final two years to help the Sabres get to the cap floor. And why continue to pay Bogosian for four more years on a buyout?

According to Cap Friendly’s buyout calculator, if we buy him out next summer, we will owe him 1.1 million for two years, and then two million for two more years after his contract expires. Just get through the final two years, and hope Bogosian can be healthy.
But interestingly enough, I think he could also have some value at the 2020 trade deadline in his contract year. If Bogosian is healthy and having a good year, maybe the Sabres can get something for him if they retain salary. What could that be, not sure? It could be anything between a conditional second, third, or even a fourth. Could even be a bag of pucks if he is having a bad year. But maybe he has a great year, is healthy and then Botterill fleeces someone for a bigger return.

If the Sabres hold onto Bogosian, he could have some modest value to a contending team looking for a 4-5 defenseman with mobility (something Josh Gorges doesn’t have) and toughness. Realistically speaking, with his history, it’s more likely he ends up injured again at that point which would render him valueless. He is very capable of playing second pair minutes, unlike someone like Gorges who cannot provide that for you at this stage of his career.

It’s pointless for a team that is not pressed for cap space to buyout anyone right now, so the best move is to keep Bogosian and hopefully, he’s healthy next year and beyond.

I briefly mentioned Danny O’Regan as a possible return in a previous article I made on Kane the night before the deadline because of the Boston University connection to Eichel, O’Regan’s speed, versatility and lack of a clear path to the NHL.

I can see O’Regan as the Sabres version of Vince Hinostroza from the Blackhawks. Like O’Regan, Hinostroza has had a hard time getting the opportunity at the NHL level, but this season he has worked his way into a middle six role for the Blackhawks. Hinostroza, like O’Regan, spent several years progressing through his club’s system, and he is only a couple months younger than O’Regan. In Hinostroza’s first 62 NHL games spread out over two years, he only recorded 15 points.

Over the past month, Hinostroza has made a case for more minutes with the bigger opportunity in Chicago. He has posted 19 points in his last 29 games and has seen an increase in ice time. He’s become a fan favorite of the Hawks.

O’Regan was rated as the Shark’s second-best prospect last summer by Adam Kimmelman of but in a weaker farm system of course.

“After four seasons at Boston University, O’Regan, 23, had a strong first professional season, leading American Hockey League rookies in points. He made his NHL debut against the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 21 and scored his first goal against the Calgary Flames on April 8. O’Regan (5-10, 180) is a natural center but could be moved to the wing to get him into the lineup.

- Adam Kimmelman, in August 2017

He has still only played 22 NHL games so far, and the sample size at this level has been small. The speed and skill are certainly there, and he’s been on my radar for a while now. I think (and hope), it’s all about an opportunity for him and in Buffalo, he should eventually get the opportunity. With Jack Eichel here, maybe that’s what O’Regan needs to get his career, and confidence jump-started in Buffalo.

People are calling him a bottom six forward and that might be accurate, but I do see some middle six upside with him. If he can produce like Hinostroza, I’ll be happy with him as a player. He very well may be another Evan Rodrigues, and I’d be ok with that. Of course, he could also be another Pontus Aberg as well. Then again, Aberg is going to be getting a bigger opportunity in Edmonton after he was dealt from Nashville.

Let’s not overlook the conditional pick quite yet. There is some risk if San Jose re-signs Kane. If San Jose misses the playoffs or is eliminated in round one with Kane on the roster next year, that pick could be a potential top 20 pick in 2019. In a lot of ways, I thought it was very clever to deal with San Jose.

For the 2019 NHL Draft, it looks like Jack Hughes could be one of the leaders to be number one overall if the Sabres bottom out yet again. If the Sabres land that second first rounder, maybe it’s the pick that allows the Sabres to take a guy like Kaiden Guhle, Tag Bertuzzi, or Clarence Native Case McCarthy, for example.

I’m not sure which one of those guys will go where in the draft, but those are some names to mention. By the way, Case McCarthy is a right shot defenseman from Clarence who is committed to none other than Boston University. He’s a player to watch for 2019 and could be an example of a player who might on the radar with San Jose’s first or second round pick next year.

So, as a loyal Sharks fan since 2018, I am hopeful that my team will win the Stanley Cup. I’m all of us on Die by the Fin or Fear the Blade, (whatever you want to call it), feel the same way. I’m extremely confident Kane will win the Conn Smythe and will re-sign with San Jose. Ok maybe that won’t happen, but it’s a nice thought. Either way, the deadline might have been disappointing, but there could be some light at the end of the tunnel.

The next big test for Jason Botterill is going to be the 2018 NHL Draft. If the Sabres lose the lottery, it is imperative that the Sabres nail the next draft pick.