Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill is still relatively new to the job, but one tendency he’s shown is his will to take on low-risk, high-reward players. Botterill doesn’t believe in building through free agency and isn’t likely to chase the big fish. Instead, he’ll look to buy low in trades and on the open market.
Last offseason Botterill took a chance on Nathan Beaulieu for only a third-round pick. The 25-year-old defenseman didn’t have a great season, but still has one more year remaining on his contract.
Benoit Pouliot was another flyer that Botterill took a shot on that was probably a wash. He wasn’t great at times but did score 13 goals on the season.
The other buy-low move that did work out was the trade for forward Scott Wilson. He came over with no points and ended the season with 14.
This summer there are few higher profile players that Botterill can target as buy-low options to improve his hockey club.
The first is Detroit Red Wings winger Andreas Athanasiou. His combination of speed and skill makes him a really interesting idea. Especially for a team like the Sabres who are craving speed on the wing.
In a mailbag piece last week Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press had some interesting comments about the 23-year-old.
“Andreas Athanasiou intrigues with his ability to accelerate and find ways to score, but he has limited trade value at this time.”
The Red Wings have to hand out contracts this summer to two of their key offensive players in Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. Athanasiou seems like he might be the odd man out in Detroit, especially when you consider the messy contract negotiations from last summer as he’s a restricted free again.
He scored 16 goals and 33 points in 71 games last season for the Red Wings. The 2012 fourth-round pick struggles with consistency, but taking a chance on speed that could come on the cheap is worth exploring.
Calvin de Haan
The defenseman had high expectations heading into the season but only played in 33 games for Islanders. He missed most of the season after needing shoulder surgery.
de Haan can bring you some offense from the blue line, but his career high in points came during the 2016-17 season with 25. He was on pace to beat that high last season before getting hurt, playing at a 27 point pace. He’s a solid top-four defender that can kill penalties, lay the body and is a good skater.
The Canadian blueliner is arguably the second or third best defenseman available behind John Carlson and Mike Green. However, the shoulder surgery may make some teams wary of dishing out big money.
de Haan had a $3.3 million cap hit last season, so getting him for under $5 million a year is not out of the question.
The Arizona Coyotes were listening to offers at the trade deadline for young winger Max Domi. The former first-round pick has not been able to repeat his stellar rookie season when he scored 18 goals and 52 points.
In each of the last two seasons, Domi has only scored nine goals and came in under 50 points.
He’s another player who brings speed and skill, as well as has an edge to his game. Initial trade discussion may have begun at the deadline and could come together at the draft next month.
Here’s what Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said in his ‘31 Thoughts’ piece back in February:
“Max Domi scored his fourth of the year to open Arizona’s stunning 6–1 victory over Chicago on Monday night. It has been a hard year for the talented forward. The Coyotes are prepared to give him a fresh start, pending a fair offer. If it doesn’t come before the deadline, expect it at the draft.”
Reports have indicated the Coyotes are working on a massive deal for star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The contract is rumored to be in the range of eight-years $64 million.
We all know the Coyotes is a team that is tight with their money. They could look to use Domi, who is a restricted free agent, as a piece to acquire some low-cost assets.
The last player I’ll mention is New York Islanders winger Josh Ho-Sang. The 22-year-old has had some off-ice issues that may have resulted in him falling out of favor with the Islanders. Now, that Lou Lamoriello is going to be in charge of hockey operations for the Isles, it may now be more likely Ho-Sang is dealt.
The final straw for Ho-Sang with the Islanders could be his comments about the team after the season. He said to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple:
“I love those guys, I want to make that clear,” Ho-Sang said of his former Islanders teammates. “I know they’re working hard. But I got sent down for defense and what are they in goals against in the NHL? I only played (22) games up there this year. I don’t think it’s my fault. They really painted it like it was my fault at the beginning of the year and I didn’t like that.”
Honestly, he’s not wrong, but that’s neither here nor there.
He’s another young player with speed and skill (I think you see the trend here). He has six goals and 22 points in 43 career NHL games.
Ho-Sang may not be the best idea with his off-ice antics for a team that has enough issues in their locker room, but I wouldn’t shy away from a trade if the right deal is there.
These are not the only buy low options the Sabres can explore this offseason, but these are a few higher end players that fit the needs of the team.