NHL Rumor Mill – March 29, 2019
Check out the latest on the Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche in today’s NHL rumor mill.
UPDATE ON THE SABRES
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Joe Yerdon examined possible unrestricted free agent targets for the Buffalo Sabres. He ruled out the possibility of landing big-name stars such as San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson or Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin. More realistic options could include such notables as Blue Jackets center Matt Duchene, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner, New York Islanders winger Jordan Eberle or Winnipeg Jets center Kevin Hayes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Sabres have just over $57 million invested in 19 players. Assuming the salary cap reaches $83 million as projected, they’ll have around $26 million to work with if ownership is willing to spend to the cap maximum.
Re-signing Jeff Skinner will eat up between $9-$10 million annually but he’s their only core player slated for free agency this summer. That leaves enough room to re-sign restricted free agents like Linus Ullmark and to bring in a quality player via free agency if they wish.
Having lots of cap space, however, won’t make the Sabres an enticing option for free-agent talent. While Buffalo is a terrific hockey market their erratic rebuild makes it difficult to make a big splash via free agency.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun believes the Sabres’ poor performance in recent weeks could spell trouble for Phil Housley’s tenure as head coach. While that doesn’t mean Housley will be fired, LeBrun feels general manager Jason Botterill could evaluate the coaching position. Player-exit meetings at season’s end could also determine Housley’s future.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Housley deserves his share of the blame for the Sabres’ struggles but it’s not solely his fault. The culture is rotten within that organization. To be blunt, they are the Eastern Conference version of the Edmonton Oilers. Until that changes, the Sabres will continue to flounder.
AVALANCHE COULD BE BUSY THIS SUMMER.
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Appearing on Montreal’s TSN 690, Darren Dreger said Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic has no intention of losing winger Mikko Rantanen to an offer sheet this summer. Sakic noted his club has plenty of cap space to match any offer for the highly-skilled Rantanen.
Dreger also gets the impression Sakic could be busy this summer as he looks to add more pieces to his roster. He believes the Avs GM wants to improve his blueline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With just over $48 million invested in 12 players, the Avalanche have plenty of cap room to match an offer sheet for Rantanen, re-sign their other noteworthy restricted free agents (Alex Kerfoot, J.T. Compher, Nikita Zadorov) and re-sign or replace pending UFAs such as Semyon Varlamov, Derick Brassard, and Colin Wilson.
If they intend to spend close to the cap, they have room to bolster their defense and perhaps add a second-line scorer. Sakic also has depth in prospects plus two first-round and two third-round picks in this year’s draft but indicated last month he’s not trading those picks or his top prospects.