Be a GM: Blogger Edition – Realistic Reconstruction of the Sabres – Part 1

Photo from https://www.icethetics.co/

The Stanley Cup has come and gone, and we can officially shift into off-season mode. For many blogs and sporting news publications, this is the time we get a list of potential targets that fit for the Buffalo Sabres roster. Instead of giving you a cookie cutter article with potential trades we decided to take a different approach. The Charging Buffalo will play the role of Jason Botterill and offer trades to other teams’ beat reporters to work towards a deal if there is one to be had. The reasoning behind why the deal is offered and subsequently accepted countered, or declined will be given. This will be a series of articles and we begin with our first two offers. We were lucky enough to be joined by Adam Jazdzewski and Colin Cudmore to help make part 1 possible.

Before we jump into the article, I think it is important to give a little context on what GM TCB sees for the current status of players in the organization.


Untouchables:
• Jack Eichel
• Jeff Skinner
• Rasmus Dahlin
This list is pretty much a no-brainer. Unless the return is beyond insane, you’d be hard pressed to believe the Sabres are willing to part with anyone on this list.
High-End Assets:
• Samson Reinhart
• Brandon Montour
• Lawrence Pilut
• Casey Mittelstadt
• Tage Thompson
• 2019 7th overall
• Alexander Nylander
• Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen
• Victor Olofsson
These are the players who should see significant ice time for the Sabres this upcoming Fall. Of course, it’s yet to be seen who the Sabres select with the 7th overall pick later this month, as he may have prior commitments to a College program. Much of the same goes for a player like Luukkonen, who should be NHL ready by the beginning of 2021-22.
Mid-Level Assets:
• C.J. Smith
• Linus Ullmark
• Carter Hutton
• Evan Rodrigues
• Conor Sheary
• Will Borgen
• Casey Nelson
This grouping of players will be important to the depth of the Sabres roster this season. Hutton and Ullmark aside, Buffalo could really benefit from some strong showings from the likes of Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues. Watch for pending RFA C.J. Smith to have a dark horse-esque season if he can crack the roster out of Training Camp if resigned.
Tradeable Assets:
• Zemgus Girgensons
• Johan Larsson
• Rasmus Ristolainen
• Jake McCabe
• Zach Bogosian
There’s no denying the Sabres could use some roster surgery this summer. The easiest decisions, however, should lie within this list of players. While I’m not the largest fan of trading Ristolainen, he’s probably the player whose value is going to bring back the most assets in a trade scenario. McCabe and Bogosian find themselves in this category simply because of health concerns. Both have suffered season-ending injuries in recent years and could potentially use a change of scenery.
Stuck With Assets:
• Kyle Okposo
• Marco Scandella
• Vladimir Sobotka
There’s nothing fun or intriguing about this list of players. Simply put, these are bad contracts that not many teams would consider taking on unless a pretty good sweetener is added into the deal. Scandella and Sobotka are both one season away from Unrestricted Free Agency, so that should benefit the team next season when the time comes to resign guys like Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Dahlin.
Long Term Prospects:
• Arttu Ruotsalainen
• Matej Pekar
• Oskari Laaksonen
• Marcus Davidsson
• Rasmus Asplund
One bright side with the Sabres being unsuccessful the past 7 seasons is that they’ve built a talented pool of prospects, several of which have already solidified their spot on the roster. This tier of players will be hoping to follow suit in the seasons to come. Look for these players to hone their skills in Rochester as they hunt for a Calder Cup title. There are more guys left off the list to save time but Bryson, Cronholm, etc fall here.

Trade Scenario #1

With many trade rumors in the air, we decide to shift our focus to a trade partner who has yet to be mentioned in connection to Buffalo but will surely be active this off-season. The Ottawa Senators are in a clear rebuild and have ample cap space to explore a number of trade possibilities.

With many teams eyeing Ottawa as a “Cap-Dump” opportunity the Buffalo Sabres look to one of their few veteran players as a target. Jean-Gabriel Pageau who may be best known for his performance on April 29th of 2017 where he scored 4 goals, including the final tally, in double OT against the New York Rangers. Could he be a fit in Buffalo?

Since that season much has changed in Ottawa, but the centerman has been a regular in the lineup. While his numbers on paper are lacking it is important to note that of his career 63 goals, 51 of them were at 5v5 and 10 of them were while short-handed. That’s right, he has only 2 powerplay goals and of his career total 142 points, only 4 were while with the man advantage. Pageau is by no means a powerplay regular being as last season JGP only played a total of 36 minutes and in the year previous he saw 81 minutes in nearly double the number of games.

At the risk of dragging this on too long, I’ll sum up JGP’s player profile. He is very good defensively and a noticeable difference maker while killing penalties. He is not a bonafide L2 center, but for cheap he is an excellent L3 center that can help to shut down a top line and in the Atlantic that is valuable. I believe this gives Mittelstadt a chance to take a number of offensive zone draws which will help him thrive as a playmaker. Pageau can take over Sobotka’s role and do a far superior job of it. My favorite stat regarding Pageau is his numbers around Penalties drawn vs Penalties taken which, for a defensive zone starter are phenomenal.

—————————————————————

With that the Buffalo Sabres offer:

Ottawa Senators Receive: Casey Fitzgerald + 2020 4th

Buffalo Sabres Receive: Jean-Gabriel Pageau

—————————————————————

GM Colin Cudmore @CudmoreColin of The Silver Seven Sens Response:

Answer: Decline

While most Sens fans might just immediately laugh at this proposal, I think it would at least address one area in the Sens’ system: the lack of right-shot defensive prospects. With only Jacob Bernard-Docker in the pipeline (everybody else shoots left), Casey Fitzgerald could help a Belleville blueline that was patched in with veteran free agents last season.

The list of cons, however, is much, much larger. Pageau is a player I wouldn’t even be shopping based on the team’s current setup. Colin White is the only centre clearly ahead of him on the depth chart right now, although that middle range will soon get very crowded with Logan Brown, Filip Chlapik, Josh Norris and Nick Paul all fighting for roster spots.

Instead, I’d be much more amenable to trading Chris Tierney, acquired in the Karlsson trade, for a variety of reasons. His 48 points were more than Pageau’s career high, and he’s two years younger, so he’s bound to fetch a significantly higher price on the trade market. Underneath, though, Tierney was a defensive disaster, especially when he was saddled to a line with Bobby Ryan and Mikkel Boedker, as they allowed more chances against than any other line in the league. Pageau, meanwhile, managed to turn around Ottawa’s penalty kill results after rebounding early from a severe injury. Considering last year’s Senators were the worst defensive team in the cap era, that must count for something.

Pageau is also a marketing staple in Ottawa. He’s originally from Ottawa, played his entire career here, and has done a lot to connect with the local French community — something the Sens have dropped the ball on in recent history. He sells tickets in this market like he wouldn’t in any other, and Melnyk is grasping at every nickel.

Even when it comes to Fitzgerald, I’m not too convinced that he’s a legitimate prospect. His point production has consistently gone down since his freshman year, and while it’s cool that he sported the ‘C’ at one of the top collegiate hockey programs (Boston College), it seems unlikely that he’ll be an NHL regular at this point. Corsica’s prospect model has him close in value to Cale Fleury, Jake Bischoff, Ryan Shea, and Griffin Reinhart… not exactly the most inspiring company.

A 4th round pick is nice and all, but it’s basically just a throw-in piece. Nowhere near enough to tip the scales on dealing Pageau, in my opinion.

Conclusion: There was a conversation of sweetening the deal with Marcus Davidsson, but The Charging Buffalo have decided to pull our offer and look elsewhere. Obviously, there is a difference in what the GMs see as the value of Pageau and we do not feel comfortable closing the gap with Davidsson. This is bound to happen in the offseason and Pageau could be a potential deadline deal to consider with 1 year left at $3.1 million. We feel it is important to take our time with finding the right trade fit and could potentially re-visit as the off-season continues. We have shifted our focus to Nashville.


Trade Scenario #2:

The Nashville Predators are another team who will be active this off-season. With sights set on bringing home that elusive Stanley Cup the Preds will need to shuffle the deck and bring talent to the 2nd line. With just over $7 million in cap space and Colton Sissons seemingly a guy they will look to keep there is a need to move a player with some cap in order to try and obtain a Matt Duchene type of asset.

That brings us to Kyle Turris. Turning 30 at the end of August, Turris brings with him a 5-year contract with 6 million in cap space. Coming off a 23-point season there are huge red-flags with bringing this deal over to the Sabres. On the hand, there is plenty of reason to believe that Turris can rebound and bring some value in the coming years.

For starters, Turris bounced back and forth from the IR to begin the season which led to his fewest games played since the NHL lockout and before that his rookie season. On top of that, his PDO dipped dramatically (from 103.2 in 17-18 to 98.6 in 18-19) which shows us he was not getting the easy goals. Stepping away from the stats it strikes me as interesting that Kyle Turris was named the captain of Team Canada in the 2019 IIHF World Championship while Botterill was the GM.

I’m not saying that it was GMJB’s decision, but I’m sure he was included in the conversation. This may be the reason why Pierre LeBrun linked them together in one of his recent articles on The Athletic (post link). With the full picture in mind we believe Turris is a risk worth pursuing, but if the deal is to get done a bit of value would have to come back to the Sabres.

With that The Buffalo Sabres Offer:

Nashville Predators Receive: Marco Scandella, 2019 4th (From WPG), Conditional 2nd 2020

Buffalo Sabres Receive: Kyle Turris, Rem Pitlick

Condition: If Turris scores 50+ points OR Buffalo Sabres reach ECF than pick stays 2nd round if not the pick becomes 2020 4th round

GM Adam Jazdzewski @LedgerSko Find all of his work here

Answer: Counteroffer

The expendability of Kyle Turris depends on there being an adequate replacement. Nick Bonino is clearly not a 2C but there isn’t another capable top-six center on the roster. If there is a free agent signing in the works, like the rumored mutual interest of Matt Duchene than Turris becomes far easier to move.

Trading Turris right now is the definition of selling low. He’s coming off perhaps his worst professional season. He will, however, turn 30 in August and will need to be paid through his age 34 season.

So while I’m not against a Turris trade, what’s plan B here? Another center has to be acquired one way or another.

Scandella is pretty much a salary dump for Buffalo, and wouldn’t even make the lineup in Nashville behind Subban Ellis and Fabbro. So, Nashville wouldn’t be any closer to the cup with this deal and would likely buy out Scandella.

There is nothing wrong with the condition but if Turris puts up 50 points you can argue he’s worth the $6M price tag

If I have a Duchene deal in hand, something has to be done looking forward to locking up Josi long term. Someone has to go. I’m ok with that being Turris if the picks are guaranteed.

Conclusion: I assume this type of situation happens often within trade conversations. Two sides have a conversation around a player and get close only to be pushed off by a condition. I can’t see taking on the risk of Turris without any sort of security blanket. If Turris does underperform then he is a buyout candidate towards the end of the contract and the deal is 2, 4th round picks for Pitlick and a bit of cap relief for the Preds. If Turris can bring his offensive upside to Buffalo centering potentially Skinner, Nylander, Thompson, etc. then I would gladly send our 2nd round pick. I’d also imagine Sabres fans would be fine letting go of the 2nd round pick if they make the Eastern Conference Finals as well. Rem Pitlick who just finished a 109-point 3-year career for the Gophers would slot in with the Amerks next season and have a chance to crack the lineup in 2020-2021. Another important note is that Turris does not have a full NMC. Which means he would not need to be protected in the upcoming expansion draft. This is a deal worth revisiting if we can’t get something more reasonable done, but for now, we will continue our search in part 2 of the series.

If you haven’t already go and follow @LedgerSko and @CudmoreColin on Twitter. They both do amazing work both for the teams they love and for the NHL in general.

  1. Tage Thompson “High End Asset” lol, my ribs hurt from laughing. Funniest thing on the internet!

    Like

    Reply

  2. These trades are both heavily weighted in Buffalo’s favour and would be quickly rejected.

    The Turris offer would likely result in David Poile blocking your phone number, essentially you are offering a 2nd (maybe) & a 4th for a legitimate #2 center with 50+ points in 4 of his last 5 healthy seasons, also Turris is a positive possession guy and responsible defensively.

    Like

    Reply

    1. I’ve been told I’m crazy by Sabres fans for even wanting Turris and crazy to think that’s enough to get him. I think it’s a fair offer because of the cap relief the Preds get for the 2020 offseason when they need to resign so many assets. LeBrun said that the Sabres might look into Turris at a “rebate” which alludes to his value being negative based on his contract. You can’t please everyone with these articles but I appreciate you reading and leaving feedback!

      Like

      Reply

  3. How in the world is Alex Nylander and Tage Thompson worth a high end asset? Plus McCabe is rated too low and you undervalue three strong prospects is Pekar, Laaksonen and Asplund, our only viable center prospect at this stage. None of those last four are untouchable but sounds like you are willing to move them for a cheap return and I wouldn’t.

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: