Things got interesting for the Buffalo Sabres last night. A nearly impossible scenario unfolded to eliminate the Minnesota Golden Gophers from the NCCA tournament.
The only way they would have been knocked out is if six different teams lost yesterday. Well, all six teams lost. Minnesota-Duluth earned the final spot in the tournament.
Now, the focus turns to the Sabres top forward prospect Casey Mittelstadt. Since his season is over he’s free to sign an entry-level contract with the club and begin his professional career.
Mittelstadt had a good freshman year for Minnesota scoring 11 goals and 30 points in 34 games. He also had a great World Junior Championship in Buffalo and was named tournament MVP.
The Sabres have a few options they can explore with the 2017 eighth overall pick. They can sign him and bring him right to the NHL. The Sabres have 11 games left and he would get an extended taste of the pro game.
Another option is signing him and sending him to Rochester to play for the Amerks. That would be a huge boost for the Sabres minor league affiliate as they prepare for the Calder Cup playoffs.
Buffalo could also wait until the summer to sign him to a contract. This approach would prevent them from burning a year of his entry-level deal.
The last option is to allow Mittelstadt to go back to Minnesota for his sophomore season and then cross this bridge again next spring. If this is the route that both sides end up taking I would urge fans not have that knee-jerk reaction.
Just because he doesn’t sign this season, doesn’t mean he’ll never sign with the Sabres.
Now, we wait. Let’s see how Jason Botterill approaches this decision and if Mittelstadt is ready to begin his pro hockey career.