GM for a Day - How to Attack the 2023 Offseason

Is RHD Andrew Peeke an option for Buffalo?

With the Sabres season coming to close in the coming weeks, the offseason will be on the horizon, and the Sabres will have some needs that they will have to address. Ultimately, they are not out of the playoff picture quite yet, but I still would bet money that they fall slightly short. I think their remaining schedule is too tough, and they just don't have the experience yet to get into the playoffs as the youngest team in the league.

They don't have the experience yet to know and understand that games against the Columbus teams of the world, are not meaningless games, but big important games, because every point matters! Hell, even though they lost to the Rangers, getting the point was huge, but it would have been bigger if they would have won that Columbus game, as well as lets say, another win over the Flyers and Coyotes?

The depth and roster is also not quite there yet. Alex Tuch missed some time, and that hurt, and Mattias Sammuelson could be out weeks, again, and we all know how much the team misses him when he's out. That also needs to be fixed in the offseason.

Right now I am projecting 37-31-7 through April 1st vs Philadelphia, which would be their next ten games. If they do end up 37-31-7 as I project, that gives them 81 points, with seven games to play. Two of those games are head to head matchups against the Ottawa Senators, and Florida Panthers. I think they will finish 3-3-1 in their final seven, and ultimately end up 40-34-8, 88 points, which is may not be good enough for the playoffs. They will need a win streak, and some upsets to get into the playoffs.

Needless to say, it was an improvement so far this year, but if they do miss, we still need to look at why the team missed the playoffs, and that's a fairly easy answer, which brings us to the team needs in the offseason.

Team Needs in the Offseason

#1) Defense, defensively aware forwards, and penalty killers
#2.) Veteran Goaltending
#3.) Experience and Leadership
#4.) Young defenseman for the prospect pool

Key departure

Zemgus Girgensons

Girgensons has been the longest tenured Sabre, but it’s time for him to move on. He deserves to be a contributing veteran on a strong playoff team and has battled through some of the worst in Buffalo.

While Kyle Okposo seems like it could be an option to let walk into free agency, his sentimental value to the locker room, and his leadership, mean far more than any of us could imagine to the organization. I see Okposo returning on a short 1-2 year deal at a much lower cap hit.

You can argue that Girgensons means a lot as well, still, he's the last of the Sabres dark-age era, and the last player on the team who was drafted by Darcy Regier. This team needs more guys who are experienced with winning.


Acquired a 2023 third round pick from the Nashville Predators for Victor Olofsson

In a way, this is a feel good story for Olofsson, he reunites in Nashville with his best friend, Rasmus Asplund. I don't believe Nashville is doing a a full on tear down, but I do think they are doing a soft reset, with the intent on being competitive. Having said that, they do need to add a goal scorer to help their 27th ranked scoring, and he's strong on the power play. Olofsson is a player in dire need of a change of scenery, and Nashville could be good for him.

Acquire RHD Andrew Peeke from Columbus for a 2023 third round pick, 2024 second round pick, and F Alexander Kisakov

For me, this is one of my bigger acquisitions in the offseason. One major problem for me this year has been the struggles when Mattias Sammuelson is out of the lineup. This makes it pretty apparent to me that the team needs another Mattias Sammuelson-type defenseman, and that is Andrew Peeke.

The Sabres may have missed out on Jacob Chychun, but they do land his close childhood friend, Andrew Peeke in this scenario. Peeke also grew up with new Sabres defenseman, Riley Stillman.

Peeke is acquired not necessarily just to be a upgrade over Jokiharju, but to also make the Sabres a little harder to play against. He would be a great partner for Owen Power.

Peeke has an affordable cap hit at 2.75 million dollars, which begins next season, and has been averaging 21 minutes a night over the past two seasons, and is also one of the league's leading shot blockers (9th in NHL). He's also logged the most minutes on the penalty kill over the past two years in the league, which is an area the Sabres need to improve on.

The only reason Columbus does this, is because of the crowded defenseman room they have on their right side.

I used the Ryan Graves trade from a couple years ago as a rough template for the price, albeit having a looming expansion draft that the Avalanche had is a pretty unique condition for the market that can’t be duplicated. I do believe the consensus on Peeke is that he’s a great addition for a great team’s third pair, or as a great compliment on a second pair with a great partner. I think he is a rock-solid second pair defenseman, and penalty kill anchor, but the team he is on, does make him tougher to evaluate.

I would not be surprised if he commanded a first round pick, or a prospect like let’s say Ostlund or Rosen. If you are paying a first round asset, you better be certain he’s a rock-solid top four defenseman who will upgrade your defenseman, and not just a good player on a bad team, who is playing more minutes than he actually should. This is where the evaluation component is important.

Peeke is a guy who could be available, but as I said earlier, it’s only because of the glut of righties they have in their system and on their roster.

I wouldn’t be stunned if it took a premium first round asset to get him, but I think a second, an additional second or third, and a prospect get it done. However I also wouldn’t be stunned if they wanted the higher, 2023 Flyers second round pick in return.

A plan for Jokiharju and the Defense

The plan for Jokiharju for next season would be to ideally bump him down to the third pair with Lybushkin, and the third pair is a role, on the off-hand, left side with occasional appearences in the second pair is a role I feel Jokiharju would be much better suited for. Bring in an upgrade over Jokiharju, and knock him down a pair, and then that way, you have an option to move up into the top four if there is an injury to a player like Dahlin, Sammuelson, or Power.

Riley Stillman would be knocked down to a seventh defenseman role, an ideal role for him, and Jacob Bryson and Kale Clague, likely battle for roster spots.

If the Sabres can get Ryan Johnson signed, it only further cements the organizational depth, but i'm still guarded on if it will happen, but i'll take the 63rd overall pick as compensation as well.

Johnson is a player I would like to get signed by the way. He's a mobile, two-way defenseman who could find his way into some serious minutes next season, and for 2024-25, but at the same time, i'm not going to hand him an NHL job.

If you get a strong showing from Johnson, you could make a case to move Jokiharju at the deadline next season. However, he could also flip back to his natural spot on the right side after a year, letting Lybushkin walk in 2024. This would create an immediate full time opening for Ryan Johnson if he were to sign, or it could be a spot for a defenseman that you take in the 2023 draft if you get a strong showing in his 2023-24 season.

Key Unrestricted UFA’s

C Thomas Nosek, Boston Bruins

Nosek is one of Boston's top penalty killers, and is one of their top faceoff men this season. He's been winning nearly 60% of his draws this season. Those are two areas the Sabres need to improve in drastically for next season. Nosek would be a welcome addition to the third or fourth line.

G Antti Raanta, Carolina Hurricanes

I've seen some people clamor for the team to go out and make a goaltender splash and sign Tristian Jarry, Frederick Andersen, or Semyon Varlamov in the offseason. Neither will happen in my opinion. Even if Jarry walks, he's going to be looking for a long term deal, and there is no way the Sabres are handing out the Jack Campbell contract to Jarry. Andersen is capable of handling a big workload, but he's going to command north of 5 million, and he will probably look for 2-3 years in term. He may stay put in Carolina. Varlamov loves playing on Long Island, I doubt he wants to come to the Sabres, and by the way, in regards to all three of these guys, the Sabres will still be a difficult sell to most free agents. In regards to the Sabres still remaining a tough sell, I should add that I think Andersen in particular, could be a solid signing, but that 5 million a year deal I think it would take to get him here, is a projection for Buffalo in particular. I think for other teams, it might be less. I do believe he’s a solid option if the Sabres are ok with the price and term.

Antti Raanta makes the most sense here because of his experience. You're bringing him in to essentially replace Craig Anderson as the veteran mentor and safety net in goal. The team is not going to back off from Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. He's shown enough this year that he is worthy of playing a good amount of games in the league, and he's earned an extended look for next season. The team is not going to block UPL from seeing action next season, and they're also not going to block Devon Levi's NHL pathway by signing a veteran to a long term contract. Raanta has played 249 games in his career, and has a 124-72-27 record with a .918 save percentage in his career, with a Stanley Cup ring, and a Jennings trophy. He'll be 34 next season, he's the perfect guy to bring into the mix.

Gustav Nyquist

Nyquist, who will be 34 to start the season, would be a solid, veteran two-way forward who has some playoff experience. He's a former linemate of Thomas Vanek in Detroit, and he's played in 65 playoff games, and quite honestly, the Sabres do not have enough guys with this experience. Nosek, Raanta, and Nyquist all have this experience. Andrew Peeke has never played in a playoff game, but he has some experience playing in some important games in Columbus as a rookie when the Blue Jackets were trying to make the playoffs.

Nyquist can easily slide into the third line, and give the Sabres an actual third line. Nyquist gives the Sabres an all-purpose forward who can play in any situation and provide a strong veteran presence in the locker room, and can move up and down the lineup. He's a player that John Tortorella trusted to play some serious minutes on the penalty kill, and on the second power play.

He would hopefully come on a 1-2 year deal.

NHL Draft

Round 1 (10-14 OA) Axel Sandin-Pellikka, RHD, Skelleleftea AIK

Pellika is a player I see frequently mocked to the Sabres in most drafts. I think the Sabres do have to find some depth to their defensive prospect pool, but I would still expect them to take the best player available to them regardless of position.

Pellika is a slightly undersized offensive-minded, two-way defenseman who can quarterback a power play. I've heard many compare him to Erik Karlsson, which I really believe is unfair to compare any defenseman to him. The player that Sandlin-Pellikka reminds me of the most is actually Ryan Ellis.

He plays aggressive, but smart, and might be one of the best passers in the draft. He's a perfect fit for the Sabres and their style of play.

The ‘23-24 Lineup

Jeff Skinner- Tage Thompson- Alex Tuch (A)
Casey Mittelstadt- Dylan Cozens- Jack Quinn
Jordan Greenway- Peyton Krebs- Gustav Nyquist
J.J Peterka- Thomas Nosek- Kyle Okposo (C)
13th F- Tyson Jost

Rasmus Dahlin (A)- Mattias Samuelsson
Owen Power- Andrew Peeke
Henri Jokiharju- Ilya Lybushkin
7th D-Riley Stillman
8th D-Kale Clague vs Jacob Bryson (waiver candidate)

Antti Raanta
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen
Devon Levi

Key Call-Ups- Ryan Johnson, LHD, Devon Levi, G, and Jiri Kulich, F, and G Eric Comrie


A Power-Peeke pairing is one of the improvements from this offseason, and Peeke brings a steady-physical presence to the second pair next to Power that Dahlin has on his pair with Sammuelson. Not to mention, Power-Peeke would make a great t-shirt.

Jokiharju bumps down a pair, but in the event of an injury, he is a key player for the depth and immediately moves into the top four in the event of an injury. He likely plays on his off-hand, but he is capable of doing it, and could see some more right-sided time after next season when Lybushkin hits free agency.

Antti Raanta is signed to a 1-2 year deal to be the new Craig Anderson, whom will likely retire. Eric Comrie is likely a waivers candidate. The ten goal game this year was not his fault, but in other games, he has very much underwhelmed. For a team that wants to make the playoffs next year, you can't go into next year with Eric Comrie as your 1B. He's Rochester bound next season, with Devon Levi. Levi also could make some appearences next season.

The forward lines are not set by any means, but I do like the idea of flipping Quinn and Tuch to see how that works, to get some more experience and scoring punch on that second line. I like Mittelstadt in the top six on the wing, and has improved enough for me that I would like to keep him for one more year.

For those who say we should trade a guy like Kulich or Savoie because they don't see where they will fit, both of those guys could be immediate replacements in another year or two for Mittelstadt, and Nyquist.

I see Matthew Savoie as the long term replacement for Jeff Skinner.

Peterka is starting out on the fourth line here, but he still will likely fetch power play minutes, and will move into the middle six on occasion. For a team that may want to make a playoff push, they may need a veteran presence like Nyquist, whom is capable of playing in any situation in order to get there. Playing with Nosek and Okposo is not ideal, but he will still likely see PP time, and will hopefully develop the defensive part of the game.

Peyton Krebs is centering my third line, and I think it's a role thats ideal for him, and a role we need to see him in. He's turned into one of the Sabres better defensive forwards, and I like him on a third line with Jordan Greenway and Gustav Nyquist. He's a player who will need to take a bigger step forward headed into next season.

Of course, at the end of the day, a good majority of next season’s success will depend on further growth and improvement from the young players; but some added experience to the group can hopefully help show these kids the way.

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.