Though the Buffalo Sabres appear to be in for a rough year, that doesn’t mean that the future is all grim.

Over the past few years, Darcy Regier and company have built up a stable of very talented prospects through the NHL Entry Draft. It’s the hope of both the organization and the fans that these players turn around the franchise’s misfortunes and bring a Stanley Cup to Buffalo.

Because the team just held its annual prospect development camp, it seems appropriate to take a look at which of these youngsters will be making the biggest impact in the future. It may take some time, but look for guys like Mikhail Grigorenko and Rasmus Ristolainen to usher in a new era of success in Buffalo.

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The Buffalo Sabres‘ offseason has been busy and quiet at the same time.

Essentially there haven’t been a lot of big moves from the Sabres this offseason, but there have been plenty of questions that have arisen from the Sabres’ actions—or inaction. 

So here we’ll provide a few answers to the questions lingering in many Sabres fans’ minds.

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On July 11, Ilya Kovalchuk surprised many in the hockey world by retiring from the New Jersey Devils and walking away from the remainder of his ridiculous 15-year, $100 million contract he signed with them a few seasons ago. 

With the Devils now left with a gaping hole in their first line on the left wing, the speculation immediately turned to the Buffalo Sabres and their purportedly available star left winger Thomas Vanek

Now, it’s important to state that any talk to this point has been completely speculative and the idea of a N.J.-Buffalo trade has, as far as anyone knows, been the complete product of that rampant speculation.

Yet this is not just everyone grasping at straws.

The Devils have a serious need for a top-line winger now and the Sabres may have one available for them. For the right price, of course.

That is where this speculation starts to hit a wall called reality.

While the deal makes a lot of sense in theory, there are a few considerations that make it much less likely than some would have you believe.

First, the Sabres’ initial asking price is likely starting at Adam Henrique, the Devils’ 23-year old center who also happens to be a restricted free agent looking for a sizable pay day. The problem here is that Henrique is likely the Devils’ “guy” now. After losing Zach Parise last offseason, and David Clarkson and Kovalchuk this year (Clarkson signed with Toronto as a free agent), the Devils do not have much left on the roster. Henrique, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac are really the only top-six forwards the team has left. 

So, essentially, despite the fact that Henrique is going to get paid well, he is almost as untouchable as it gets right now. Therefore, the Sabres would have to look elsewhere on the roster. 

That brings us to the second hurdle: the Devils’ shallow prospect pool. 

The Devils, despite their long-ranging success, are quite bare in the prospect cupboard at the moment. There are seemingly only four prospects the Sabres would even consider trading Vanek for: Adam Larsson (if you still consider him a prospect), Jon Merrill, Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau

Larsson and Merrill are their best prospects, but they are also defensemen. Given the logjam the Sabres have at the prospect and NHL levels at defense, their value is likely significantly reduced. 

That leaves Boucher, a mid-sized winger with skill, and Matteau, a two-way center. Given the choice of those two, the Sabres would probably lean toward Boucher, but is that enough? 

Probably not, which brings us to what may be the biggest problem: The Devils must forfeit their first-round pick in the 2014 draft due to the cap circumvention penalty they incurred due to the (funny enough) Kovalchuk contract. 

Right now, on paper, that pick is going to be in the lottery. That would be extremely attractive to the Sabres, but seeing the earliest they could cash in on a first-round pick from New Jersey would be 2015, that, again, reduces its value—although two potential chances in the Connor McDavid contest may be extremely valuable. 

So, while it makes theoretical sense, unless New Jersey surprises most and moves Henrique, Vanek will likely not be headed to the Devils.


Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all offseason: @SwordPlay18

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As the available free agents begin to dwindle, the Buffalo Sabres are left with fewer options to aid them in their rebuilding process. 

Despite having fewer options than those available on July 5, the Sabres still have the ability to bring in a few players that will help them moving forward.

This list does not consider any restricted free agents, including the Sabres’ own RFAs, due to the unlikeliness of any such signings occurring. 

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all off-season: @SwordPlay18

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When the floodgates to free agency opened on July 5, the Buffalo Sabres were passive observers as the rest of their yet-to-be-named conference added some important pieces. 

The Sabres re-upped defenseman Alexander Sulzer to a one-year deal Saturday and signed another defenseman, Drew Bagnall, to a deal as well. Nathan Gerbe was also bought out, freeing up a roster space for the likes of Corey Tropp and Joel Armia.  

Meanwhile, the Sabres’ conference-mates made some big splashes. 

Current division members made some of the biggest waves of the day. The Toronto Maple Leafs added David Clarkson, giving him a monster seven-year deal. The Boston Bruins were finally able to bring Jarome Iginla into the mix on a one-year deal. The Ottawa Senators may have lost captain Daniel Alfredsson, but acquired Anaheim sniper Bobby Ryan in a blockbuster trade.

New conference-mates did not fall behind, however. The Tampa Bay Lightning added Valtteri Filppula to be their second-line pivot. The Detroit Red Wings added Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss and could be close to bringing back Damien Brunner.

Only the Florida Panthers have remained as quiet as the Sabres. 

So where does this leave the Sabres?

In reality, it does not change much. The Sabres, with or without Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek, were not going to be one of the better teams in the conference next season as it was. Now it’s just a bit more pronounced. 

The other reality is there were not very many “great fits” for the Sabres in the market. Wingers Nathan Horton—who signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets for seven years and $37 million—Ryane Clowe—who signed with the New Jersey Devils for five years and just shy of $25 million—and Clarkson were likely the best fits, but they were also extremely expensive. 

Overpaying a guy is not the way to rebuild unless you believe that he will help in the long run. The three aforementioned names were potentially able to do that, but could also become huge hurdles in the rebuilding process. 

Beyond that, the Sabres were quite adamant in allowing their young guys—especially Cody Hodgson and Mikhail Grigorenko—the playing time needed to grow.

Signing someone for the sole purpose of signing someone goes against that. 

Some free agents that they may reach out to in the coming days are Brunner, Dustin Penner and Brenden Morrow.

Morrow would be a welcome addition to the team, able to add instant leadership and grit on what is to be a very young roster next season. However, it is unlikely Morrow would want to forgo a shot at the Stanley Cup next season to play with a work in progress. 

However, the Sabres’ passiveness in the free-agent market is an extremely strong indication that the Sabres are not being passive in the trade market. 

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun tweeted on Friday that the St. Louis Blues and the Sabres have had talks regarding Ryan Miller, but that the price was “too high.” While not being reported, one can assume Vanek is the subject of at least a few calls a day as well. 

The Sabres also have a handful of important restricted free agents to lock up, including Hodgson, Tropp, Matt Hackett, Brian Flynn and Luke Adam. 

While the Sabres have been quiet, it seems like there is a lot going on under the surface that may be the cause for some excitement in the coming days.


Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all offseason @SwordPlay18

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The Buffalo Sabres used all 10 of their draft picks yesterday and acquired another via trade to re-stock their prospect cupboard. 

While the Sabres’ draft has been applauded by many, there still were some negatives at the end of the day. 

What were they?

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all off-season: @SwordPlay18.

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