By Brandon J. Koch
A lot has happened since locker cleanout day. Players are coming and going, the franchise FINALLY won the lottery and Russ Brandon is out as the team’s President.
So, it’s the perfect time for some 10 thoughts.
1. All of Buffalo is still hyped about winning the lottery. Rightfully so. Dahlin is the real deal and automatically makes this franchise better. He is going to be that quarterback in the backend and will change the game. When talent evaluators compare him to Nicolas Lindstrom and Erik Karlsson, how do you not get excited for June?
2. Having Eichel and Dahlin as the two core pieces of the Sabres has me fired up for the whole summer. I will throw in Mittelstadt as well and maybe Reinhart. But those three are a very good start.
3. Now there will discussions the whole summer about Rasmus Ristolainen and if he will get traded. I’ll say this- unless Botterill is overwhelmed by an offer that he can’t refuse, Risto should be a piece on that blue line. This team needs good defenseman badly and while Ristolainen isn’t a true 1st pair, he is a player this team should want to keep.
4. I’m wondering who could Botterill get in here this July to help Eichel lead that dressing room. We all know this is Jack’s team but he can’t lead on his own. They had a very good leader in Brian Gionta and players looked the other way. Who could be that player to come in and help reshape that locker room? Question I will be thinking about a lot these next two months leading up to free agency.
5. Robin Lehner is going to be a constant thought for me until a decision is made. No way Botterill gives him $4 million dollars again. Does he try and make a trade or just let him walk and wash his hands clean?
6. Having Jacob Josefson sign with a Sweden team is the first sign of the roster turnover coming this summer.
7. Certainly disappointing that Rochester got swept in the first round of the AHL playoffs. The question is, how many players in Rochester are ready to make that jump to be in Buffalo full time?
8. Jason Botterill said that there will be jobs up for grabs in training camp and players need to step up. We need to see if CJ Smith, Justin Bailey, Nicholas Baptiste can be those bottom six forwards. Sean Malone intrigues me as a wildcard to make the team this fall.
9. Looks like Victor Antipin will be going back to the KHL. Reports say he has multiple offers to go back to Russia. It’s sort of disappointing because he wasn’t used properly throughout the year. He was one of the best passers on the team, something that other defenseman struggled so much with during the season. It’s for the best that both sides move on.
10. I think fans will remember Russ Brandon’s time as President of the Sabres for empty seats, raising ticket prices and bad arena experience. Although, Brandon was front and center on making much needed KeyBank Center renovations. What will happen now?