Who has the Brighter Future: Sabres or Leafs?


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By Chris Chilelli

Buffalo Sabres Writer

 

Who Has the Brighter Future?
When your team is consistently near or at the bottom of the standings the only thing people can talk about is how promising the team’s future is. Several teams that have been preaching future over the years are the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes. The purpose of this article is to look at the futures of the Sabres and Leafs.
Being a Sabres fan, I have a tough time believing that anyone has a brighter future than my team. They have an ownership group that is willing to spend to the cap, a management team that isn’t afraid to make the bold move, and the players and prospects that can make it all come together. The Leafs also have an insanely bright future, which will make for an awesome rivalry for years to come. So let’s dive in and take a look at the futures of each club.
I am going to start with the goalie situations for each teams, but that isn’t limited to who will be playing in net for the big clubs at this time, but also who is in the pipeline. The Sabres are hoping that Robin Lehner will be able to carry the load for them this season, something that he wasn’t able to do last year after an ankle sprain limited him to just 21 games played. He was fantastic when he played, he finished the season with a .924 save percentage. He showed flashed when he was out there that he was worth the steep price Buffalo paid to acquire him. After that Buffalo has Anders Nilsson, who is relatively young and unproven. The Sabres gave up a 5th round pick to acquire him, and they are hoping that he will come in and be the backup this season. In terms of prospects the Sabres are loaded between the pipes. That starts with Linus Ullmark, who played his first season in North America last year, and was brought in to play games with the Sabres. He impressed many in his time with Buffalo, but had a bit of a roller coaster ride in the AHL with the Rochester Americans. With Buffalo he posted an 8-10-2 record, .913 save percentage and a 2.60 goals against average. With the Amerks he was 10-16 with a .902, he will be back with Rochester again next year, and the thinking is with a full summer to work on his game he will come back better than he played last season. Having a full Summer will help him too, as last year he had double hip surgery which kept him out right up until training camp. Two of the Sabres other top goalie prospects were college hockey standouts last year in Jason Kasdorf and Cal Petersen. Kasdorf posted a .931 save percentage in his senior year at RPI and Petersen posted a .927 last season with Notre Dame. Buffalo looks good in goal in both the present and the future, but goalies are tough to judge, so we will see how they pan out.
The Maple Leafs have struggled to find a constant between the pipes for years now, but they finally might have it right with Frederik Andersen. Andersen played in split time with the Ducks the past few season, but the Leafs are hoping that the investment they have made in him will pay dividends for them. Andersen has been a solid goalie over his NHL career, last year he finished with a .919 save percentage behind a far superior defensive unit in Anaheim, but he is a for sure upgrade for Toronto. There has been a rumor floating around the past few days that Jhonas Enroth is going to sign with the Leafs, and it is my opinion that this is a bad signing. Sure, Enroth posted a .922 save percentage last year, but that was behind the Los Angeles Kings’ stellar defense. Just a year before that he was at a .903 with Buffalo. If you want to argue that is because the Sabres were so bad, then what would you say to the .906 he posted with the Dallas Stars after he was traded there? I will admit that I can be proven wrong, but I think Enroth is a below average backup in this league, and his size is going to hurt him with the new rules for goalie gear. After that, the Leafs have Garret Sparks, who was absolutely atrocious for the Leafs last year. There is no other adjective that could adequately describe his play last year, he was just brutal. The Leafs lack real skill at the position, and are hoping that Andersen is the answer now and in the future.
The next discussion will be on defense. The Sabres have a solid group at the NHL level, highlighted by Rasmus Ristolainen and now second-year Sabre, Jake McCabe. The Sabres also have Dmitry Kulikov on the back-end and Zach Bogosian, both have offensive upside and a good physical style of play. Buffalo also has a few high-end prospects that have Sabre fans excited about the future of the club. The big three in terms of defensive prospects for Buffalo are Casey Nelson, Brendan Guhle and Will Borgen. Nelson was an undrafted college free agent who impressed Sabres brass in his seven games with the team last season. Guhle was viewed as the Sabres top prospect by many before the team had a stellar draft in 2016, but now he is a top-five prospect, and has a real chance to make the team out of camp this year. Borgen really made a name for himself last year after being a fifth round pick in the 2015 draft. The Sabres could really use another left shot defenseman to help further elevate Ristolainen’s game, but at the moment they have a solid core that can be built upon.
Toronto has a very impressive stable of young defenseman as well, highlighted by future star, Morgan Rielly. Another solid young player on that blueline is Jake Gardiner, and although he is no Rielly, he will be a good player in his own right. They have young players in the pipeline such as Connor Carrick, Nikita Zaitsev, and Stuart Percy. The Leafs are said to lack top end talent on the back end, but that should change over time as they focus on building their team. It could be argued that Buffalo is further along in the rebuild process and that is why they have a better defensive stable as well, but another argument could be that Buffalo has just been able to draft better, which is a specialty of GM Tim Murray.
The forward conversation is the most exciting to me, and might be the closest contest of them all. In Buffalo, they are absolutely loaded down the middle, so much so that they have had to move talent to the wing. Looking at the center situation in Buffalo you will see Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly on the top two lines. These are two young players with star written all over them, Eichel finished last year, his rookie season, with a team leading 24 goals and 56 points and O’Reilly had a career high in points last season with 60. Then you add in Sam Reinhart, who was second on the team in goals during his rookie year with 23. Then you factor in Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis and even Zemgus Girgensons and you see that Buffalo has a great stable of forwards at the NHL level. When it comes to prospects, Buffalo isn’t as strong as the Leafs, simply because all of their offensive prospects are making actual impacts at the NHL level. But players like Alex Nylander, Rasmus Asplund, Justin Bailey and Hudson Fasching show that Buffalo still has plenty of firepower yet to make it to the NHL.
Toronto has great players on offense as well capped off with number one pick Auston Matthews. Other players like Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, and James van Riemsdyk are other players at the NHL level making an impact. Prospects such as William Nylander and Mitchell Marner show that there is some top-end talent down on the farm for Toronto. But all in all I still feel that Buffalo has the better offensive unit than Toronto.
Both organizations have groups in place that will make this an exciting, skilled rivalry for years to come. I know I can’t wait to see how it plays out starting in the 2016-17 season.

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2016 Offseason Power Rankings


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Hockey Trade Central

Hockey Trade Central Twitter:

 

Every month, Hockey Trade Central will be posting Power Rankings. They will be posted the 1st of every month during the regular season, and will reflect the previous month’s play.

 

The Power Rankings are voted on by the writers.

 

Offseason Power Rankings are based on how well the teams drafted, how well they did in Free Agency, and the trades the teams have made.

 

2016 Offseason Rankings:

 

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins /
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning +1
  3. San Jose Sharks -1
  4. Dallas Stars +1
  5. Washington Capitals +2
  6. Nashville Predators /
  7. Florida Panthers +4
  8. Chicago Blackhawks +2
  9. St. Louis Blues -5
  10. New York Islanders -2
  11. Anaheim Ducks -2
  12. Los Angeles Kings +3
  13. Philadelphia Flyers /
  14. Minnesota Wild -2
  15. Detroit Red Wings -1
  16. Boston Bruins +1
  17. New Jersey Devils +3
  18. New York Rangers -2
  19. Carolina Hurricanes -1
  20. Buffalo Sabres +3
  21. Ottawa Senators -2
  22. Montreal Canadiens /
  23. Calgary Flames +3
  24. Arizona Coyotes /
  25. Winnipeg Jets /
  26. Colorado Avalanche -5
  27. Edmonton Oilers +2
  28. Toronto Maple Leafs +2
  29. Columbus Blue Jackets -2
  30. Vancouver Canucks -2

 

Previous Rankings:

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins
  2. San Jose Sharks
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning
  4. St. Louis Blues
  5. Dallas Stars
  6. Nashville Predators
  7. Washington Capitals
  8. New York Islanders
  9. Anaheim Ducks
  10. Chicago Blackhawks
  11. Florida Panthers
  12. Minnesota Wild
  13. Philadelphia Flyers
  14. Detroit Red Wings
  15. Los Angeles Kings
  16. New York Rangers
  17. Boston Bruins
  18. Carolina Hurricanes
  19. Ottawa Senators
  20. New Jersey Devils
  21. Colorado Avalanche
  22. Montreal Canadiens
  23. Buffalo Sabres
  24. Arizona Coyotes
  25. Winnipeg Jets
  26. Calgary Flames
  27. Columbus Blue Jackets
  28. Vancouver Canucks
  29. Edmonton Oilers
  30. Toronto Maple Leafs

More Affiliations Added


By Bobby Bauders
Senior Writer/Editor

Hockey Trade Central has added 3 more affiliated accounts. Accounts for the Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Buffalo Trade Central (Sabres):
Twitter:

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Twitter:

Leafs Trade Central (Maple Leafs):
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We’re also looking for writers for all of our affiliations! Any experience is welcomed! If you’re interested, just fill out the form above. In the preferred team section, tell us what team you’d like to write for. You can select any of the 31 NHL teams, the Las Vegas club included.

Atlantic Division Draft Day: Team Needs



By Bobby Bauders
Senior Writer/Editor

 

We’ll have four team needs stories highlighting the draft needs of the teams in every division. Written on June 23rd, any trades that happened after this story was written will not be mentioned in this story, therefore some draft spots may be outdated.

 

Our Updated Mock Draft

 

Boston Bruins:

1st Round Picks: 2

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 7

The Bruins have an aging defense. I expect them to try and replinish that in this year’s draft. Especially since Zdeno Chara’s days are likely numbered. Possibly Charles McAvoy or Jakob Chychrun if he’s available.

 

Buffalo Sabres:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 11

Buffalo needs to draft a defenseman here. They still don’t have their go-to number one defender. Expect them to take Mkhail Sergachev. He’ll fit in well with Buffalo’s system.

 

Detroit Red Wings:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 6

With the departure of Pavel Datsyuk, it’s clear Detroit needs to invest in their offense. Expect them to look at Kieffer Bellows, Max Jones, and Luke Kunin.

 

Florida Panthers:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 5

Florida has an aging forward core featuring the likes of Jaromir Jagr and Jussi Jokinen. They’ll likely draft a forward in this draft, maybe Alex DeBrincat or Brett Howden. Or maybe Rasmus Asplund or German Rubstov.

 

Montreal Canadiens:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 2

Total Draft Picks: 7

The Canadiens want a high-end scoring forward. Someone who handles the puck nicely, has good vision, and scores with ease. That player would be Pierre-Luc Dubois. He’ll unfortunately be gone before Montreal picks at 9, so they’ll have to trade up.

 

If they stay at 9, they’ll likely choose Clayton Keller or Logan Brown.

 

Ottawa Senators:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 6

Ottawa has a fairly old team all around. They could use a scoring winger or a shut down defenseman in this draft.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 2

Total Draft Picks: 9

I see Tampa going after defense this year. Their offense is good for a few years, and they likely want to strengthen their blue line’s future.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 2

Total Draft Picks: 11

The Toronto Maple Leafs need Auston Matthews. Plain and simple. They’re going to select him, that’s obvious. In about 3 years, he will turn Maple Leaf hockey around. The Leafs will finally get their number one center.

 

They also have some holes on defense that they are expected to fill up with trades. Not to mention they’re actually quite cap-squeezed.

 

Who’ll Acquire Shattenkirk?


By Bobby Bauders
Senior Writer/Editor

Kevin Shattenkirk, 27-years-old will not be part of the St. Louis Blues next year. Shattenkirk is currently making $4.25 million and will likely expect a hefty raise next year. St. Louis cannot take his cap hit any longer, and a bidding war is reportedly taking place between the Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Let’s explore what it would take for each team to acquire Shattenkirk. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s being reported that a deal isn’t closed to being reached between Shattenkirk and St. Louis.

 

Arizona Coyotes:

As explained in previous stories, the Coyotes have hired GM John Chayka, and he’ll be wanting to put his stamp on the team. Shattenkirk is an excellent right-handed defenseman who actually knows how to score. He got 88 points combined in his previous 2 seasons. Defense is something the Coyotes need to address and will likely address at this year’s draft with the likes of Olli Juolevi or Mikhail Sergachev.

 

But what about what they could do now? Chayka has already acquired the negotiating rights to Alex Goligoski, and it looks like he’s going to sign a 5 year deal. That’s evidence enough that Chayka isn’t only thinking about the future.

 

Let’s take a look at the possible defensive pairings should the Coyotes sign Goligoski and acquire Shattenkirk.

 

Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Kevin Shattenkirk

Alex Goligoski – Michael Stone (currently injured)

Klas Dahlbeck/Niklas Grossmann – Connor Murphy/Zybnek Michalek

 

Personally, if Shattenkirk is acquired, once Stone is recovered the Coyotes should look into trading Michalek again.

 

But what would Chayka be willing to give up? You’re mind probably automatically goes to the Coyotes’ 7th overall pick. While that seems obvious, I think Chayka is comfortable at 7. The Coyotes also have the 20th overall pick and two 2nd round picks. Maybe they could be involved. Maybe package the 20th overall plus a second round pick with a mid-low end prospect? It’s been reported that the Coyotes have received an impressive offer for the 7th overall. Could it be for Kevin Shattenkirk?

 

Maybe add a top-scoring forward for the right price (say Okposo, Ladd?) and the Coyotes look pretty good going into next season. It’ll be interesting to see what Chayka does with the Coyotes this summer.

 

Edmonton Oilers:

It’s no secret Edmonton needs an overhaul and help on the blue line. Shattenkirk would be a good fit in Edmonton. But what would the Oilers be willing to give up? They have the 4th overall pick as well as a 2nd and three 3rd round picks. It’s hard to imagine Shattenkirk going for the 4th overall straight up.

 

It’s going to be hard for the Blues to get the 4th overall straight up. Maybe throw in one of their 2nd/3rd round picks?

 

Edmonton’s current defensive lineup is just straight up bad. Adding a top D-Man is crucial. Let’s look at their lineup adding Shattenkirk.

 

Andrej Sekera – Kevin Shattenkirk

Oscar Klefbom – Andrew Ference

Brandon Davidson – Mark Fayne

Nikita Nikitin – Adam Clendening

 

Not perfect, but a definite improvement. Peter Chiarelli needs to look into this, especially considering that Sekera isn’t getting any younger.

 

Boston Bruins:

First off, I’m not really sure how Boston gets this done. They’re in a tight cap situation right now, so Shattenkirk would likely just be a rental. Boston isn’t exactly in a position to be renting players.

 

But let’s explore. They have 2 first round picks and 1 second round picks. Maybe they could package their late first and their second? Maybe even throw in the rights to an expiring contract to sweeten the pot? Also, I think they’d have to add Adam McQuaid in there somehow in order to get some cap relief. So maybe instead of the second round pick it’s the first and McQuaid? Not to mention McQuaid and Shattenkirk are both right-handed. This would then be considered an upgrade from McQuaid.

 

Let’s take a look at their potential lineup. This is assuming all the players listed in this lineup are re-signed somehow and McQuaid is involved in the trade.

 

Zdeno Chara – Kevin Shattenkirk

Torey Krug – Dennis Seidenberh

Joe Morrow – Kevan/Colin Miller

 

That’s an upgraded defense. It’ll be interesting to see if Boston can swing Shatty, especially given the fact that they have cap troubles and a lot of contract drama.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs:

The Toronto Maple Leafs are another rebuilding team looking in the now. The acquisition of goalie Frederik Andersen shows this. A solid defender could help their season next year. It’s rumored that they’re currently offering James van Riemsdyk to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Cam Fowler. Let me start off by saying that makes the most sense considering Anaheim is looking for another top-six forward. Also, St. Louis will likely not be interested in JVR due to cap issues.

 

What else could they trade? Obviously not the first overall, that’s not going anywhere. But they do have 2 second round picks and quite the prospect pool. I was thinking something along the lines of the 2 second round picks and Scott Harrington.

 

Let’s look at their prospective lineup with Shattenkirk:

 

Jake Gardiner – Kevin Shattenkirk

Jared Cowen – Morgan Rielly

Andrew Campbell – Matt Hunwick

 

Not great, but certainly an improvement from last year’s lineup. Also, they’d have to find a way to dump Stephane Robdias. But given their cap surplus, that’s not crucial.

 

 

 

BREAKING NEWS: Frederik Andersen Traded to Toronto


By Bobby Bauders
Senior Writer/Editor

UPDATE: Toronto agrees to a 5 year extension with Andersen.

The first domino of the 2016 goalie drama has fallen. The Anaheim Ducks have traded goaltender Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 30th overall pick and a 2nd round pick in 2017.

Toronto addresses their need for a high end goalie. Now some of the trade speculation falls on Jonathan Bernier.

Anaheim has addressed their goaltender drama. With next year’s expansion draft, the Ducks would likely only protect one goaltender. Now their decision has been made, and that goalie is John Gibson.

This trade was valued pretty well for Anaheim. Andersen is 26-years-old is a RFA on July 1st. Although, they probably could’ve swung some sort of prospect.

The Leafs’ rebuild is now coming along faster than expected. If they can get their hands on a top 4 D-Man, they could be fighting for a playoff spot in a year or two.

The Leafs are wanting to win. They’re long history of just being plain awful has gotten old. They’re acquiring for now, and the future. With Andersen’s young age and the right development, he could be the goalie of the future in behind an Auston Matthews and Kasperi Kapanen lead offense.

Steven Stamkos Free Agency Destinations


By Bobby Bauders
Senior Writer/Editor

Steven Stamkos is probably done in Tampa Bay, unless General Manager Steve Yzerman can somehow get a deal worked out and still be able to re-sign his massive load of impending free agents next offseason. More info on that here: Where’s Steven Stamkos going?

Given the likelihood of Stamkos hitting the open market, let’s explore where the 26-year-old center may end up. We’ll look at the front runners, and then some surprising dark horses.

 

Front Runners:

Toronto Maple Leafs:

First of all, Stamkos will not sign with the Leafs. Sorry Toronto fans, but you’re getting your future number 1 center in Auston Matthews. If Stamkos hits the open market he’s going to be the most sought after free agent in recent memory, including teams who are MUCH closer to the Stanley Cup than Toronto. The Maple Leafs are rebuilding, they’re not in win-now mode, and won’t be for a few years. Stay patient Leafs fans, your time will be here soon. Now the Maple Leafs would be able to offer Stamkos a very lucrative salary with the Phaneuf cap dump, but I just can’t see Stamkos signing with someone who is as far away from the Stanley Cup as Toronto is. As wonderful of a fairy tale story this may be to bring hometown boy Stamkos back to Toronto, I just don’t see it happening.

 

Detroit Red Wings:

With the departure of Pavel Datsyuk back to Russia, the Detroit Red Wings are going to need a first line center. The Red Wings are significantly closer to the Cup than the Maple Leafs are, being that they were just in the playoffs whereas Toronto posted the worst record in the league. Still, with the cap situation, it may be difficult to get a deal worked out with Stamkos. Detroit is still liable for Datsyuk’s contract until next year, which carries a $7.5 million cap hit. Unless the Wings find a way to trade Datsyuk’s contract, which will cost them valuable draft picks/prospects, Stamkos will not be coming to Detroit. Not to mention that Stamkos is still fairly young, and the Red Wings are showing many signs of slowing down, and may not be in contention much longer.

 

Montreal Canadiens:

The Montreal Canadiens have emerged as another front runner. I can’t really imagine why as they’d be in cap hell. Before re-signings that would occur, they currently have about $7 million in cap space. That in itself isn’t even enough to sign Stamkos as he’ll require at least $8.5 million. Not to mention that Alex Galchenyuk is a RFA next season and will want more than what he’s currently making at $2.8 million. The only way if the Habs sign Stamkos is if they trade either Andrei Markov or Jeff Petry or both, but I don’t see many GMs knocking down Marc Bergevin’s door in order to acquire either of them.

 

Buffalo Sabres:

This is another interesting option. Stamkos should be interested in Buffalo because of their ability to pay him and their bright future, but I don’t see why Buffalo would be inrested in Stamkos, quite frankly because of their bright future. They have offensive prospect after offensive prospect in the Sabres system. Buffalo should stay patient with their current crop, which will bring them a lot of success in the future. Overloading on one position hardly ever works in the long run, as it really strains a team’s cap situation. I don’t see the point in this franchise log jamming the center position with Ryan O’Reilly, Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Zemgus Girgensons. Yes some of those players can play on the wing, including Stamkos if you think about it with his sniping ability, but Buffalo already has plenty of forward prospects. But you know what, if Tim Murray has a plan for how Buffalo will deal with this log jam, I say go for it. It’s not easy to not offer Stamkos a contract when he’s there for anyone’s taking. Should they sign Stamkos, Buffalo will have to decide on their number 1 and number 2 centers, and then either trade the rest or move them to the wing.

 

Dark Horses:

Arizona Coyotes:

I know I said that Stamkos won’t want  to sign with Toronto because of their distance from the Cup, and the Coyotes may look just as far away, but they’re not. Without Stamkos, I predicted they’d be in the playoffs in 3 years. Not saying they’re winning the Cup in 3 years, but they’ll be a serious threat. Adding Stamkos to the mix? Wow. The Coyotes recently hired a new GM who will be eager to place his stamp on the team. What better way to do that than signing Steven Stamkos? I’m not saying he’ll sign with the Coyotes, it’ll be a tough sale given their shaky arena situation, but they do have a selling point in their prospect pool. And they have the cap room, around $30 million currently available. GM John Chayka should at the very least contact the Stamkos camp and gauge their interest when talks can start on June 25th.

 

Boston Bruins:

Now the Bruins are quite loaded at the center position with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, but Stamkos will likely listen to offers. That’s why I’m including them: they’re one of the only decent teams with anywhere near enough cap room. They currently sit at around $18.5 million, but have to think about re-signing Loui Eriksson. But that’s a whole different story, as Boston and the Eriksson camp have been talking for months reports say that there hasn’t been any progress. So if Boston decides to let Eriksson walk or trade his rights, hello Stamkos?

 

 

Tampa Bay Lightning:

Tampa Bay is the definition of dark horse in this situation. I don’t see how they can re-sign Stamkos, it’s just not realistic given next year’s cap situation. Steve Yzerman would have to work a miracle. The reason I’m listing them is because Tampa is still trying to figure out how they can re-sign him, but it doesn’t seem likely at this point.