On June 21st the NHL will announce the players that will be leaving their respective teams to join the Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights will be selecting one unprotected player off of every current NHL team. As for protected players, the Sabres have the advantage of not having to protect their young talent and are able to expose players with bad contracts and players who have not performed while wearing the blue and gold. Here are five players who may be heading west:
Linus Ullmark, G
Linus Ullmark was selected by the Sabres in the 6th round of the 2012 draft out of Sweden. The 23 year old was the starter in Rochester last year where in 55 games he compiled a 26-27-2 record with a 2.87 GAA and .909 save percentage. Ullmark’s record is more indicative of the teams subpar play then his own, which shows in his sturdy goals against average. The possibility of losing a talented goaltender like Ullmark is due to the rules of the expansion draft where a team can only protect one goalie, which in this case will be Robin Lehner. If Ullmark is selected by the Golden Knights, expect him to be a solid back up to Marc Andre Fleury.
Matt Moulson, F
Matt Moulson was part of the return when the Sabres sent long time fan favourite Thomas Vanek to Long Island in the fall of 2013. Moulson, who is a three time 30 goal scorer, has never seemed to find his stride in Buffalo. In the last 2 seasons Moulson has collected 53 points in 162 games and a -9 plus/minus. Moulson is still owed $10 Million over the next 2 years and the Sabres would be ecstatic if the Golden Knights would take on the rest of his contract. Although declining, Moulson is a force on the power play and the Golden Knights may like his veteran leadership.
Zach Bogosian, D
Many forget that Zach Bogosian was once a 3rd overall pick to the Atlanta Thrashers and was well regarded as a complete defensemen who could contribute on both offense and defense. Bogosian has never lived up to the hype that revolved around him him during the draft period. Bogosian is a strong, physical defender that is positionally sound. The issue with Bogosian is he lacks explosiveness and gets left in the dust often by quicker opponents. The Sabres might end up protecting Bogosian, but the fact that he is owed just over $15 million over the next 3 years is enticing enough to see if the Golden Knights will bite.
Tyler Ennis, F
Tyler Ennis was a former Sabres first round pick and was once one of the top prospects in their system. The diminutive winger is a fan favourite and has put up three 20 goal seasons in Buffalo but has recently seen his play decline as he has picked up multiple injuries. In 51 games played this past season Ennis recorded just 13 points and has not looked like his old self. The Sabres inked Ennis to a 5 year $23 million dollar contract in the summer of 2014, which has 2 years and just south of $10 million left on it. Ennis is still an attractive piece and the Golden Knights might overlook his past injuries to pick up a once-productive winger who is just 27 years of age for their new franchise.
Josh Gorges, D
Josh Gorges was acquired by the Sabres in 2014 with hopes that his veteran leadership would help with all the young defensemen on the team. Gorges is not and never will be a flashy player. He is not the best skater, he is not physically imposing and he does not necessarily move the puck well. Gorges’ strength is seen with how few mistakes he makes. He is a smart defensive defensemen that can stay at home and act as a safety net which allows the other players to push up the ice. With how the Sabres are acquiring and developing defensemen, it seems that Gorges would have little to no ice time if he remains with the team in 2017-18. The Golden Knights may see Gorges the same way the Sabres did in 2014 and add him to what should be a relatively young D-core.
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