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GM for a Day: Doldrums Edition (Part 1)

Since we're in the most boring of the offseason, I figure I'd have a little fun with this. While most of my other GMFAD posts attempt to be consistent with the style of the Sabres' front office, this is a purely what I would do GMFAD. This post covers the 2022-23 season, with part 2 (likely coming next week) going into next offseason.

My goals as Sabres GM are: (1) Create the best possible environment to develop young talent; (2) Identify which players will and won't be part of the medium and long-term core; and (3) Keep the pipeline stocked as much as possible.

With all that out of the way, let's get started.

Pre-Season Moves

Signings

G Ukko Pekka Lukkonen, 1 year, $975k

UPL gets a slight bit more than the mandated raise. The goal is for him to be healthy and spend at least the first 2/3 of the season getting consistent time in Rochester. We'll see if he gets some time in Buffalo come the trade deadline.

C Maxim Letunov, 2 years/$825k

Letunov is an experienced AHL center to shore up Rochester down the middle, as they are a bit thin there.

Trades

To BUF: RW Jesse Puljujarvi, 2023 2nd

To EDM: Anders Bjork (50% retained), 2023 2nd (middle of the 3), C Matteo Constantini

Edmonton is in a rough spot right now, at $6 million over the cap with only 11 forwards signed. Now the roughly $6.5 million they'll get from Oskar Klefbom and Mike Smith's LTIR offsets that, but even then they're less than the league minimum clear of the cap with at least one (ideally two) forwards to sign, with one of said forwards being current RFA Ryan McLeod. They've been actively shopping Puljujarvi for awhile, and he should definitely be available for less than his true value. The pick swap, assuming the picks are ~43 and 61 is worth roughly a mid-late second. Constantini is added as a sweetener, as the Oilers don't have much of a pipeline.

As for the Sabres, they get a young forward who, while not overly productive thus far in his career, is a real driver of play and good defensively. He uses his 6'4" frame well for both protecting the puck and muscling opposing players off it, he just doesn't light people up. This deal is particularly nice for the Sabres because not only does it rid them of Bjork, but it allows them to keep 3 picks in the second round of what should be a very deep draft Plus, while I think it would be best to split them up to start, I could see Asplund-Cozens-Puljujarvi as one of the premier shutdown lines in the entire NHL someday soon.

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To BUF: RW Patric Hornqvist, RHD Santtu Kinnunen, 2025 3rd

To FL: Cap relief

Florida's reasoning is straightforward. They're over the cap and don't have room for Hornqvist in their lineup, plus he's overpaid for what he brings at this point in his career.

The Sabres have the room, plus a relatively light RHD pipeline. Kinnunen was solid the last couple years in Finland, so the hope is he's ready to take over for Lyubushkin in 2 seasons, possibly a bit earlier since he is already 23. While the draft pick isn't great, the Panthers don't have a ton to offer. One good thing about getting a 2025 pick is that the Sabres *should* be done picking up excess picks by then, so it can help keep the pipeline full while the team is competing. Hornqvist himself is still a solid power forward who scores dirty goals and riles up opponents, just don't expect him to get anywhere fast at his age.

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To BUF: LHD Radim Simek, 2024 3rd, 2025 4th

To SJS: Cap relief

The Sabres do some business with their old friend Mike Grier, whose team is slightly over the cap. I based this trade of the Patrik Nemeth trade the Rangers made, where they got a 2nd and either a 2024 3rd or 2026 2nd from the Rangers for taking on a two year, $2.5 million AAV contract. Simek has a slightly lower cap hit and is a much better player than Nemeth, plus the Sharks aren't as desperate to rid themselves of him as the Rangers were (though they do have a glut of LHD with Ferraro, Nutivaara, Knyzhov, and Vlasic's corpse as well as Simek).

As for the Sabres, not only do they get a couple mid-rounders, but they get a dependable 3rd-pairing D-man in Simek, who while not remotely productive is physical and has solid possession numbers. He and either Lyubushkin or Bryson will take a ton of pressure off of the first two pairings, as well as eating PK minutes so Dahlin and Power don't have to as much.

Opening Night Lineups

Rochester

Forwards

Murray-Malone-Peterka

Biro-Letunov-Rosen

Weissbach-Kulich-Rousek

Kisakov-Pekar-Cederqvist

Defense

Clague-Fitzgerald

Pilut-Laaksonen

Davies-Kinnunen

Extras: Priskie

Goaltending

UPL

Subban

Rochester should be a very solid team again this year, especially with the insane depth on the wing. I do think Kulich's game is ready for North America, and while I believe he'll end up as a wing, I want to try him at C first. The defense should also be upgraded over last year, though some of the Amerks' problems there were due to Sammy and Fitzgerald being full time NHL'ers at the end of the season. I do expect Fitz to be a full-time NHL'er by the end of the season, but putting him on the Sabres at the start of the year would put them over the 23-man roster limit. The goaltending situation should also be solid, as I expect UPL to show he's beyond the AHL this season.

Buffalo

Forwards

Skinner-Thompson-Tuch

Krebs-Cozens-Quinn

Olofsson-Mittlestadt-Puljujarvi

Asplund-Girgensons-Okposo

Extras: Hinostroza, Hornqvist

Defense

Samuelsson-Dahlin

Power-Jokiharju

Simek-Lyubushkin

Extras: Bryson

Goaltending

Comrie

Anderson

Cap Hit: $70.5/$82.5 million (Note: Number includes Ben Bishop's $4.9 million in LTIR)

This is a good, not great roster, though that may change if several of the youngsters really emerge. Plenty of versatility up front, and a ton of promise, especially on the second line, with a couple possible breakout players on the third line as well. The defense should also be much upgraded, with Samuelsson and Power coming into the league full-time and a shutdown third pairing. Between those things and (hopefully) average goaltending, I expect them to be eliminated considerably later than most Sabres teams of the recent past, probably ending with around 85 points. Still, since they're not ready to contend quite yet, I'm fine with selling some pieces at the deadline:

Deadline Moves

To BUF: 2024 2nd, 2025 5th

To CAL: C/LW Zemgus Girgensons (50% retained)

Calgary is in win-now mode, especially after the Hubredeau extension, even after the Tkachuk trade, but they don't really have much of a 4C, as Trevor Lewis is a shadow of his former self. Girgensons brings a lot more for the table at a considerably lower cap hit. Zemgus deserves his shot at the Cup, hell just a playoff game for everything he's done for the Sabres over the years. I made the 2nd a 2024 pick because I figured Calgary wouldn't want to lose another mid-round pick in such a deep draft after already trading away their 3rd. The fifth is a bonus for retaining $1.1 million of Girgensons' cap hit.

To BUF: 2024 3rd

To TBL: G Craig Anderson

Anderson gets his chance to walk off into the sunset as a champion. I put the Lightning here, but it could really be any contending team w/goalie depth issues or a goalie injury.

To BUF: 2023 3rd (NSH)

To NSH: RW Patric Hornqvist (50% retained)

Patric Hornqvist returns to Nashville to help with their playoff push in a classic (if not necessarily smart) David Poile move. Unlike the Flames, the Preds have 2 3rd rounders in 2023, theirs and San Jose's, so they have less of a problem dealing the worse pick of the two to the Sabres.

To BUF: 2023 4th

To CAR: RW Vinnie Hinostroza

Carolina prefers these kind of small deadline moves, and as much as I like Vinnie, there's no room for him on the Sabres past this season.

End-of-Season Lineups

Rochester

Forwards

Biro-Malone-Rousek

Weissbach-Savoie-Rosen

Kisakov-Letunov-Cederqvist

Bloom-Kulich-Nadeau

Extras: Pekar

Defense

Clague-Laaksonen

Pilut-Kinnunen

Davies-Priskie

Goaltending

Levi

Subban

I think that Bloom, Nadeau, and Savoie are all talented enough to start the season in Rochester, but they cannot due to the NHL-CHL deal concerning teenaged players, so they each join up after their respective seasons end. Savoie gets a chance to play C against men. The defense should be solid for the playoffs even without Fitzgerald. This is Laaksonen's last chance to show he's worth a second contract, and I'm really hoping he can given how he got in this position. I have Devon Levi joining the team at the end of the season. Hopefully he'll be able to participate in the AHL playoffs, since he may or may not make the cutoff date.

Buffalo

Forwards

Skinner-Thompson-Tuch

Peterka-Cozens-Quinn

Olofsson-Mittelstadt-Puljujarvi

Asplund-Krebs-Okposo

Extras: Murray

Defense

Samuelsson-Dahlin

Power-Jokiharju

Simek-Lyubushkin

Extras: Bryson, Fitzgerald

Goaltending

Comrie

UPL

Cap Hit: $63.0/$82.5 million

While the team is obviously weaker after the deadline sales, it was far from a tear-it-all-down situation like past deadlines. The defense corps is actually totally intact. The forward depth is definitely hit, as well as the PK, but Krebs gets an audition at center, and Peterka gets a chance to show what he can do. UPL also gets a chance to show that his NHL stint in 2021 was no mirage. There's also plenty of cap space for all the extensions to come in Part 2.

This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.