The OT: Sabres will have competition on seller’s market from a pair of division rivals

January 4, 2018
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As 31 Thoughts is typically home to some of the juiciest trade rumors around, it can be a challenge to pull factoids out that aren’t related to the trade market. Especially with the Sabres in the state they’re currently in.

Last week focused on a lot of trade chatter and this week’s 31 Thoughts is no different. That’s going to continue for the next month and if you’re like me, you’ll be very pleased with the development. I’ll be sure to slot in as many worthwhile nuggets outside of the trade market as possible to ensure this doesn’t become repetitive leading up to the deadline.

With that, let’s dive into this week’s edition.

  1. With Seattle now very much in the picture, I’m curious to see how negotiations go between teams and players on no-move clauses. Some of Vegas’s strength came from other clubs who had too many and needed to escape. Will GMs resist them, or simply ask that protection not include a future expansion draft? Will players with leverage be willing to agree? Something to watch.

This is something I’ve been curious about since the Seattle announcement came about. The NHL is a very reactionary league. One GM finds a salary cap loophole, his colleagues follow suit (until the CBA has to be changed). A team uses NMCs in an effort to gain leverage in negotiations, the rest of the league hands them out like candy. Now here we are with the Golden Knights benefiting, at least in part, from teams handcuffing themselves with no move clauses.

Something else that’s on my mind regarding Seattle’s eventual expansion: Will owners and GMs lobby for slightly looser protection rules? Seattle’s expansion fee will be higher than that of Vegas, but I can’t imagine teams around the league will be interested in potentially stocking another upstart Cinderella the way they did with Vegas.

  1. The market’s cracking open, though. There was a shortage of scoring touch with Vegas’s success, but now there’s Pacioretty, there’s Evander Kane, there’s Mike Hoffman. What’s most interesting is that all three have different term remaining on their contracts. Kane’s unrestricted, Pacioretty’s got one year and Hoffman two. Curious to see how that affects each player’s value.

I made some reference to Hoffman affecting Kane’s value last time around and Friedman now notes how buyers have an impressive trio to attempt to acquire.

His note about contract term is particularly interesting especially where Pacioretty is concerned. If Montreal is willing to eat some of his salary, he could be a very attractive option for a team that knows they’re close this year but maybe doesn’t see themselves as a Cup favorite just yet. Whether or not that makes him more attractive on the trade market is another story. The Canadiens have been struggling and Pacioretty is leading the charge, so his value is quite low at the moment.

  1. Mentioned St. Louis as one potential team for Hoffman. There is some interest and the Blues are loaded with prospects, especially at forward — Klim KostinJordan Kyrou, Rob Thomas, Tage Thompson. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some interest in Robby Fabbri, too, even though he’s out for the year. The one thing to watch with St. Louis is Jay Bouwmeester’s health. If he can’t stay in the lineup, I’m not as sure of the Blues’ plans.

I love the Blues as a target for the Sabres and Kane for all the reasons listed above. They lack a first round pick, which may make a deal tough to complete, but imagine adding a player like Thompson or Kyrou to Buffalo’s own first round pick in this year’s draft. That would solve a lot of Buffalo’s pipeline issues in a hurry.

  1. Ottawa’s situation is made even more complex by the conditions on the first-rounder sent to Colorado in the Duchene deal. The Senators can protect it if it’s in the top 10, but then must give up their first in 2019 no matter what. No chance the organization ever thought this would be an issue.

If this sounds familiar it’s because the Sabres and Islanders were in the same boat just a few years ago. The Sens, like the Isles in 2014, don’t look like a team that’s anywhere close to improving in a single offseason but that’s precisely what the Islanders did after picking Michael Dal Colle fifth in that year’s draft. So while I don’t want to jump to any conclusions regarding the mess the Senators are in, it’s hard to look at the hole they’ve dug and have any faith they’ll be getting out any time soon.

It’s probably safe to assume they save their 2018 pick, knowing it’s on the inside track for the top 5 and roll the dice on 2019. But man, they have a baker’s dozen worth of holes on their ship that need plugging.

  1. I didn’t hate the Canada-USA outdoor game as much as everyone else seemed to. Sometimes you’ve got to take chances and outdoor games are for the people in attendance, not so much the people watching on television. What I can’t understand is why host Team USA allowed their schedule to be manipulated in that way. An 8 p.m. ET game followed by an outdoor game 19 hours later? Yikes. You’re going for a double gold medal on home soil, give yourself a better draw than that.

I was glad to read this analysis, both regarding the game and team USA’s poor scheduling. This was a point made by a number of people on Twitter in the wake of the outdoor game, but it seems likely that had the Canadians won, we would’ve read a lot of glowing pieces about the team’s triumph in conditions perfectly suited for a group of kids who grew up playing outdoors.

The win erased any serious questions about Team USA’s scheduling but it would have likely gotten a bit more had they fallen to their neighbors. There have been a lot of questions asked about the decisions of the organizers of this year’s tournament, not giving the host team a more favorable schedule might as well get added to the list.

  1. Speaking of Vegas, one executive compared them to Leicester City — which stunningly won the English Premier League out of nowhere in 2016. Thought that was pretty good.

One question about this comparison: Does the executive see any further comparison to Vegas and Leicester beyond the unexpected success? It would be quite telling if league execs felt that Vegas had simply caught lightning in a bottle or if they’re viewed as a serious, long-term contender.

Chris Ostrander
About Chris Ostrander

Chris Ostrander is a contributor to The Buffalo Star and also runs the Sabres and Buffalo-focused blog Two in the Box and The Instigator Podcast. Fascinated by design, gear and fan engagement, Chris is a goaltending fanatic with a passion for Buffalo development.

Browse more articles by Chris Ostrander.

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