With the Buffalo Sabres acquiring several players from the St. Louis Blues, I asked Joey Palazzola, writer and founder of Respect The Note, for his insight on the recent transactions.
Q: Let’s start with Carter Hutton. At 32, he was given a three-year deal in Buffalo. He had a good year last year, but his stats are a little all over the place for a limited body of work. What can you tell us about his on-ice play, opportunity in Buffalo, and his leadership qualities in the locker room? Is he ready to be a starter?
A: Carter Hutton will be a good addition to Buffalo. If the Sabres can provide some defense for him, he has shown the ability to get hot. He’s a great locker room guy and has a fantastic personality on the ice and in the community as well. I believe he has earned his shot at being a number one goalie.
Q: How did the Ryan O’Reilly trade originate? Sabres fans wanted Robert Thomas, Jordan Kryou or Colton Parayko included in the deal - was this ever discussed or a possibility? Did Buffalo get a fair deal?
A: I believe the Blues number one target this season was O’Reilly from the jump. Buffalo obviously wanted to acquire one of Thomas, Kyrou, or Parayko, but Armstrong wouldn’t budge. He did however budge by trading away one of the “big four” (Thomas, Kyrou, Kostin, Thompson), though. The picks were a solid acquisition as well. All in all, as it stands right now, it’s a win-win for both sides.
Q: How does O’Reilly fit with the Blues? What will his role be there and what does he bring to the table? Any concerns with his end of year comments?
A: O’Reilly will bring back the much needed edge to the Blues. This has been a hole since David Backes and Troy Brouwer left following the Western Conference Finals run in 2016. O’Reilly will be versatile, he’ll likely start the season centering Vladimir Tarasenko. I have no concern with any of his comments, other than when he mentioned the trade gave him a “spark”. As we saw last year with Bryaden Schenn coming to St. Louis, I believe O’Reilly will excel with the change of scenery.
Q: Let’s talk about Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund. Describe their game and what they bring to the Sabres. Are they more than just depth guys and can you talk about their speed and what they add to the center/wing positions?
A: Berglund and Sobotka are both solid two-way forwards that can play up the middle or on the wing. Berglund is strongest on the boards and working down low. Sobotka has a bit of an edge but completely failed last season when given the chance to play in the top 9. They have both had instances in the past where both have been criticized for their effort. Neither has burning speed. Berglund could be efficient as a second or third line center in Buffalo, Sobotka is a wild card; you never know what you’re going to get.
Q: Tage Thompson was included as part of the deal. What are his strengths and what does he need to continue to work on? Any insight on his game? Sounds like the plan is for him to play in Buffalo - is he ready to be an NHL regular? What held him back in St. Louis?
A: Tage Thompson was the golden chip in the deal, other than O’Reilly. He’s a former first round pick. He’s a 6’5” center with pure scoring ability. In my opinion, I don’t think he’ll make it as a center in the NHL. He’s in a wingers body and plays best on the boards. He’s still a bit raw in the defensive zone but has shown flashes of offensive explosiveness as well. He has top six potential but I believe he’s best for a bottom six role to start the season in Buffalo.
Q: Any truth to Sobotka possibly leaving for the KHL?
A: Sobotka is a question mark, as I stated earlier. You just never know what you’re going to get from him on or off the ice. He’s jolted to the KHL before, but I think that was a reality check for him. I wouldn’t completely rule it out, but I don’t think Sobotka would leave the NHL anytime soon.
Q: Are there any concerns with the length of contract left for Berglund/Sobotka?
A: I wouldn’t be concerned with either contract from Buffalo’s situation. They have the cap flexibility. Berglund has shown flashes of being worth every bit of $3.85 million cap hit. Sobotka only has two years left, so he might be used as a trade deadline piece in the future.
Berglund has a limited no-trade clause so that could be trouble in the future, but if it’s to a potential cup contender, he’d likely wave it, in my opinion.