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Mailbag Part 2: Sabres Roster

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In part two of the mailbag we focus on the Sabres roster and some other NHL topics

NHL: Washington Capitals at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

After part one of this Buffalo Sabres mailbag discussed the management group and front office, we’ll shift our focus to the roster. There are a lot of questions surrounding the team heading into the offseason. A lot of contracts will expire, they have key restricted free agents, and a lot of cap space.

Let’s dive into the fun.

Yes or no, Taylor Hall is a good idea this summer? If no, how are we getting goals out of this team? Who’s the target for that missing top 6 winger? – (@ChuckEGoods)

I’ll pass on Taylor Hall. He’s a good player, but I don’t think the Sabres need to go out and invest in the top free-agent winger on the market. He’s only 28-years-old but he’s on year two of a declining trend.

I feel as though the Sabres could get a player on the open market for less that can help the team in terms of production and on-ice impact at 5 on 5. One such player is Tyler Toffoli. He’ll be 28-years-old in April and has shown he still can produce after being traded from the Los Angeles Kings to the Vancouver Canucks.

How would you feel about moving both Risto and Montour this year? – (@Simply_Pat)

I’m firmly in the camp of one of these two players must be traded in the offseason. They’re arguably your two most-valuable assets outside of their first-round pick. I wouldn’t be upset if they do decide to move on from both.

We all know my feelings on Rasmus Ristolainen as a player. Brandon Montour, on the other hand, has been a disappointment for me this season. I don’t think any player on the team has changed my view of them this season the way Montour has. He’s a good transition player that doesn’t excel anywhere else on the ice.

The slim hope that remains for Montour is that he’ll be better next season with an improved forward group. In my opinion, the Sabres would be wise to give him a one-year deal in the offseason or let him go to arbitration if he’s not traded.

Who is more likely to play *center* for the Sabres next year, Casey Mittelstadt or Dylan Cozens? – (@TheIronSherk)

The answer here is Dylan Cozens. They need him to work out as a center in the NHL with how poor their depth is at the position.

I feel like Mittelstadt may be a prime candidate to move to the wing. It would take some pressure off of him defensively and allow him to focus on creating offense. I wonder what happens with Mittelstadt if the Sabres make a move at general manager at the end of the season.

Which of these features from European football would you implement in the NHL A. Promotion/relegation B. Champions League where top NHL teams play top teams around the world (KHL, SHL, Liiga, etc.) C. Domestic cup competitions D. 3-1-0 points system E. Other – (@jscardina23)

This is a fun question. I don’t think relegation would ever be a realistic option for the NHL so I’ll skip that option.

The obvious choice to me appears to be a version of the 3-1-0 points system. Except in the NHL, it would be a 3-2-1 points system. It feels like an obvious change the NHL has needed to make for years.

A Champions League-style tournament would be fun to see as well. Europe has this already in place. However, the KHL and NHL do not participate. Teams from the SHL, Liiga, DEL, NLA, Italian pro league, Czech top league, and others all participate in the Champions Hockey League. A total of 32 teams compete in this tournament every year.

Are there any draft prospects worth getting excited about? – (@ryanmura)

Welcome to draft prospects season for the Sabres. Normal practice for fans of this team around February or March of every season.

The Sabres will likely find themselves picking in the top 10 this season and perhaps even in the top five. The good news is there are a handful of good forward prospects at the top of the draft. The top three forwards in the class for me at this point are Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, and Tim Stutzle. After that, another round of forwards like Marco Rossi, Alex Holtz, Cole Perfetti, Lucas Raymond, and Anton Lundell would be available.

Top defense prospect, Jamie Drysdale from the Erie Otters will go somewhere in the top 10 as well but no more defensemen, please. Can’t go wrong grabbing any of those forwards I listed.

Should the Sabres trade for a Goalie? Depending on your answer who would you tandem with Ullmark next year? (@RC5514)

They should be in the market for a goaltender next season to pair with Ullmark. They need to figure out what to do with Carter Hutton with one more season remaining on his contract.

I think Ullmark is an average goaltender in the NHL, but I don’t think he can be relied upon to be the guy to play 60 games a season. I see him as more of a platoon goaltender.

A few names the Sabres could explore on the goalie market in the offseason are Joonas Korpisalo, Aaron Dell, and Alexandar Georgiev.

I also like the idea of seeing the Arizona Coyotes would have an interest in trading goaltender Antti Raanta. It appears as though Darcy Kuemper is the future in goal with the Coyotes and they could look to shed some salary, as well as pick up some assets in a Raanta trade.

Who is one forward and one defenseman in Rochester that you’d like to see get a few games in Buffalo before the season ends? (@BillTCB)

This is an easy answer for me. I would leave Mittelstadt in Rochester the remainder of the season, but Andrew Oglevie is an interesting player to get a look at in the NHL before the season ends.

On defense, the easy answer is Jacob Bryson. The fourth-round pick back in 2017 has had a strong rookie season in the AHL. Giving him a few games would be a nice reward for a strong year. I think he could be a factor into the Sabres plans for next season on the blue line.

What is your take on the massive disparity between the Sabres home (20-11-4) and away (10-20-4) records this season? (@lassathrax)

It’s not uncommon to see teams perform better at home than on the road. That’s why the stats folks include venue in their models and projections to account for it as a factor in player evaluation statistics.

For the Sabres I think you see the disparity because they’re a team that doesn’t handle adversity well. We’ve seen them crumble in difficult situations like clockwork over the last few years. The difference this year is that they’re playing well at home. We haven’t seen that happen recently in the past.

Since ROR has been traded, the biggest hole on the Sabres has been the Mythical 2C. It’s practically a unicorn at this point. But outside of an in-house option like Cozens in 1-2 years, what realistic options exist for the Sabres to target via trade or free agency? (@Kallinan)

The only real target in free agency is Erik Haula if the Florida Panthers do not re-sign him. The trade market could offer them a few more options.

Nick Bonino is a player that is climbing up my list. He’s 31-years-old but he only has one more year left on his deal after this season. He’s a great impact player at 5 on 5 and could be used to shelter Cozens next season.

Nick Bjugstad is another name that could be available. At this point, we have to wait to see what other players could shake free in the summer.

Can you give me some positives for the future of this dumpster fire franchise? – (@NicoxChicox)

Ending on a positive note is always fun. The Sabres have a decent amount of cap space coming up for them this summer and will have the ability to recraft their roster. While they have a lot of needs, they’ll be in the rare spot to fill those needs with the flexibility that will be available to them in the summer.

Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin will be on the team next year, so that’s a step in the right direction.

Data via Evolving Hockey and Hockeyviz.com