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Player Report Card: Brandon Montour

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The defenseman’s future with the Sabres may be in question

Toronto Maple Leafs v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Total Season Stats: 54 GP | 5 G | 13 A | 18 PTS

Age: 25

Contract Status: RFA (Arbitration Eligible)

When Brandon Montour was acquired just prior to the 2019 trade deadline from Anaheim, he brought with him some lofty expectations. While this was in part to his price tag in the deal, we were also drawn to his flashy style of play. Flash forward a year later, and his future as a staple on the the Buffalo Sabres’ blueline is somewhat in question.

The 2019-2020 season for Montour began on the IR with a hand injury, but, despite a crowded blueline, he stepped right into lineup when finally healthy. With the likes of Rasmus Ristolainen, Henri Jokiharju, Colin Miller, and Zach Bogosian all taking up the right side of the defense, Montour had to display his versatility by sometimes lining up on the left side, or even at forward. No matter where he ended up, he was never quite able to piece together the consistency fans were hoping for.

Production-wise, the offensive numbers weren’t there. Montour had five goals and 13 assists in 54 games, which averages to a point every three games. Over a full 82-game season, that only puts Montour at 27 points total. This is even while earning minutes on the team’s second powerplay unit - where he managed only two points all season.

The advanced metrics did not hint at anything better. Montour was well under 50% in expected goals for percentage, corsi percentage, all high-danger categories, and scoring chances for percentage. This is all while averaging over 56% of his zone starts in the offensive zone.

Montour did manage a postive figure in on-ice goals for, which is likely a direct result of a couple things. First, his team’s on-ice save percentage was very high, at 94.09%. Also, the team scored at a high percentage, at 9.18%, allowing for a nice payoff per shot. These percentages can at times be reflective of a player’s individual impact in getting the puck in the right areas and keeping it out of the wrong ones, but when combined with his aforementioned metrics, we can tell that just wasn’t the case. Luck is the more likely suspect.

The one strength attributed to Montour’s game is his play in transition. He is able to use his strong skating ability to wheel the puck in and out of the zone. His zone exit percentage for the season was above average, and, as the following chart from Corey Sznajder demonstrates, he was not only well ahead of his counterparts in zone entries per 60 minutes, but also near the top of the league.

Heading into the offseason as a restricted free agent has left some question marks for Montour’s status with the team in 2020-2021 and beyond. NHL general managers will likely be jockeying to not only get their rosters set under the salary cap this offseason, but also to make sure their core players are able to be protected after the upcoming season, as the Seattle expansion draft looms. He is arbitration eligible, so it’s likely he will file for arbitration if not signed prior to the deadline.

With Ristolainen, Miller, Jokiharju, and Rasmus Dahlin all either under contract or having rights retained through 2021-2022, signing Montour to a long-term deal could force the Sabres to part with a defenseman via trade. The standard protection format allows for three defenseman to be protected from selection in the expansion draft, which will make the decision on both Montour and Lawrence Pilut’s contracts interesting to keep an eye on.

Season Grade: C