Thanks to my consultant BogoforMVP for his evaluation and advice on which players to go after as free agents to improve - he knows way more players on more teams than I do - he follows hockey, I follow the Buffalo Sabres.
Let me start off by saying I think Jack Eichel was not a good choice for Captain, and should likely never again be allowed to speak to the media. I believe all this "Trade Eichel" talk is the result of his frustration with his health, the Sabres routinely sucking, and a media who has nothing else to do but stir the pot. I do not believe he wants to be traded if: he can be healthy, and be on an improving team that is clearly moving forward.
Therefore, as GM, I am standing pat, and not moving:
Eichel - he is damaged, and his value is only going to go up if he is well and plays well to start the season. There is almost no time we could trade him with less value than now. We hold. If we suck at the trade deadline, and he is at least able to play, we move him. If he gets mad and refuses to play, we sit him - his value is not going down much if at all, and he is getting healthier if he is sitting.
Risto - We know he is not a first line defender. As much as I love him, his metrics suck, his breakouts are not always good, but his value also gets higher the closer we get to the trade deadline, when a team close to competing needs to shore up their D, and add physical play. If we are rocking, we keep him. If not, his value is the same as now, if not higher.
Reino - In my opinion the most valuable Sabre in trades. Barring injury, his value will be the same if not higher as the season progresses - no reason for a sale now unless the offer is very high. He is the one I want to move the least, but is the only one I would consider moving now.
We keep them all, until we suck at the deadline (and even then if we do not trade them it only kills us by losing Risto at the end of the season. Someone will trade for him - Mike Webber got us a 4th, Risto gets us at least a 2nd even if everyone knows we have to trade him, and far more likely a prospect and a pick, or a 1st and some more pucks).
So what do I do, from my cushy GM chair? I get the young guns playing time, and spend $ to the salary cap. I give Donnie Granato development time, and some players, and see if he can work us into something good.
With ~$20 million in cap space to spend:
Linus Ullmark 3 years at $3 million - slight raise, which he deserves, and a little term which helps both him and us as others develop.
Petr Mrazek - 2 years, $4.5 million - short term, largeish raise, puts Petr as a free agent again at 31 - time enough to sign a another big contract or maybe 2 (I would be fine with 1 year, but I doubt he goes for it unless its big $. So what if we are stuck with 3 goalies in 2 years when UPL develops - something tells me we can trade for prospects and picks.)
Phillip Danault - 4 years, $5.5 million - a veteran who can play 1st line center, or more likely 2nd line center, or can switch out and let one of the young guns play here, while he moves to wing or down the lineup. I only need him for 2 years, because I may still have Reino or Eichel for 1 -2 center, and Cozens and Mittelstadt should develop, making him possible trade bait or not a bad keeper for sure.
Corey Perry - 1year, $1.5 million. A "light" power forward who can put up some points - a gritty hard working winger, who isn't afraid to get in the other teams face and will fight guys when necessary. He won’t put up big numbers but can add some physicality that we’ve been lacking for the past few seasons. Give him a one year deal, this ensures Cozens has some time to get stronger and hopefully come into a power forward-scoring role in the near future. I would prefer a Tatar, or Hyman, or Coleman (another forward/ center capable guy) if we could sign them and stay under the cap.
Jake McCabe - 1 year at $2.5 million - welcome back, 1 year to prove he is healthy, a slight discount that I think makes sense for him and us.
Skinner - Eichel - Cozens
Mittelstadt - Danault - Reinhart
Bjork - Asplund - Olofsson (or Perry)
Girgs - Eakin (or Rusto) - Okposo
Dahlin - Joker
McCabe - Risto (let’s relight the fire, even if it only burned briefly)
Bryson - Miller
Is it good enough? Good enough for what?
We are giving our young players time to develop alongside some great players, and waiting to trade the guys we might trade until their values are either the same or higher at the deadline. Maybe our upgrade at goalie, and adding another attempt at a 2nd line center and winger who can score moves us forward - or maybe not, and we flip them for more prospects or picks in next year’s loaded draft.
Potential downside(s)- we lose Risto at the end of the year because no one will trade for him. Highly unlikely.
Eichel stays, his no trade clause kicks in. Okay, he won’t let us trade him to someone who is offering us a lot - so we are stuck with him. Will he refuse to play for the rest of his contract - seems unlikely.
My GMFAD is not perfect, in fact its pretty sloppy, but I wanted to get the idea out before we start making some of the moves I do not want to make. I know I need a few more depth forwards and D, and a Matt Irwin or Tobias Reider here and there. My math may not be perfect or right, but here’s the gist - let’s not be hasty - no point in moving on from these guys yet. Their value is not falling and we can help it go up while developing talent. Then if there is we need to make moves we do, and from stronger positions for the most part.
And for our first pick in the draft - Eklund or Beniers - more offense. No reason to take Power who will take 3 years to develop, and not be of use on the power play where he will compete for time with Dahlin who better be dominant by then. When we pick D to develop let's pick ones that are sound on defense, and develop their offense because they have superior skating and puck moving.