Category Archives: Colby’s Corner

Welcome to Colby’s Corner, where the next best thing we could afford (we actually don’t pay him at all), Colby Kephart, pretends to be Don Cherry and presents his thoughts on various tidbits in hockey. While he currently doesn’t have any flashy suits- we’re working on that- he does have a flashy style, short and to the point.

Check out every Colby’s Corner in existence below and, while you’re at it, let us know if you want him to address something in the future. Tweet to @DtFrozenRiver and use the hashtag #ColbysCornerDTFR to join the conversation or you can always send an email to downthefrozenriver@gmail.com and hope for the best.

Colby’s Corner Lightning Strike back behind Dynamic duo

It was brought to my attention that one of the best teams in the league, if not the best team in the league, wasn’t receiving a lot of media attention. The Tampa Bay Lightning are atop the Eastern Conference and a big part of that is because of the play of their star forwards Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.

To say these two players are on fire might be understatement. Stamkos and Kucherov are one and two in the league in points with Stamkos leading the way with 30 points and Kucherov only one behind. Kucherov does have a league lead in one category though, as he leads the NHL in goals with 16. Someone has to set up all of those goals and – no surprise – it’s been Stamkos. Stammer leads the league in assists with 22 assists.

Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

These two have tremendous numbers, as both players are around 1.7 points-per-game this season. To put this in perspective, last season when Connor McDavid put up 100 points, his points-per-game was roughly 1.2. When Patrick Kane put up 106 points a few years ago, his points-per-game was roughly 1.3. I understand it’s early, but both of these players on pace for well over 100 points this season.

This is great for Tampa and their fans because they have Stamkos back from injury and he is making players around him better – just like he always has. They have also had strong play from goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy leads the league with 12 wins and he is top-10 in save percentage with .928. Vasilevskiy may be one of the bigger surprises for this team as he has filled Ben Bishop‘s shoes perfectly, if not better, in his young career.

As for media coverage, I understand it’s about market-size and money, but it does get on my nerves. These players aren’t being talked about as much as if it was McDavid, Sidney Crosby or Auston Matthews. If it was any of the other three players, we would already be reading articles all the time about them and hockey analysts would be all but handing them the MVP trophy already.

So I’m sorry Bolts fans: you do deserve better. But, if you remember when Stammer won the scoring title, you didn’t get that much coverage then either. If that’s the formula for a Hart or Art Ross Trophy, then it looks like the Lightning’s stars are well on their way.

So Bolts fans keep you head down hope for the players to continue to dominate and – more importantly – hope they stay healthy, because the Lightning could be an early favorite for the Presidents’ Trophy. This team should be playoff bound if they can keep it together.

Colby’s Corner Top five Players Poised to Breakout

A new season starts today, so it’s time for me to jump in and tell you five players to keep an eye out for as they could have breakout seasons. I didn’t limit myself to just rookies; I was also looking for players who could fill some big shoes or become a standout on their team.

First up,

  1. Oliver Bjorkstrand

This one may surprise a few, but after a strong preseason performance, Bjorkstrand could really step up this season and have a big role with the Columbus Blue Jackets. As a highly rated prospect, I believe Jacket fans have been waiting for him to show up in a big way.

Bjorkstrand only has 38 games played over the past two seasons, recording 10 goals and 11 assists in that time. I remember watching him play in World Juniors a few years ago and he had the ability to take over a game and control his team’s offensive flow. If he can provide that for the Jackets, this would give them another weapon with a nice scoring touch. Bjorkstrand could be a name that you hear more of this season.

Player’s goal: I think a successful season for him could be 10-15 goals with another 10-20 assists.

Next up,

  1. Matthew Tkachuk

I have been a huge fan of Tkachuk for a long time – if you have listened to podcasts you know this. Tkachuk had a solid rookie season, recording 13 goals and 35 assists. If that’s what you get from a 6th Overall pick in his first year, you are not going to complain if you are the Calgary Flames. Tkachuk’s physical game and willingness to get into dirty areas allowed him to find some extra points this past season.

Last season in four playoff games, Tkachuk was held pointless and I think that left a bitter taste in his mouth. If he used that as a motivator in his offseason, than he should come back as an even better player. Not to mention the Flames signed the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr to a one-year deal. Jagr can show Tkachuk how to use his big body to his advantage and give him other tips to have a great season.

Player’s goal: I think a successful season for him could be 20-25 goals with another 30-40 assists.

Next up,

  1. Alexander DeBrincat

Rookie Alert: Alex DeBrincat makes my list as a player that could be the next Artemi Panarin in the Chicago Blackhawks organization. DeBrincat has been one of the best junior players over the past few seasons trying to crack the Hawks roster, and has finally done that this season. Yes, he is a rookie – and a small one at that – but he has proven he knows were the net is. DeBrincat has scored over 100 points in three-straight OHL seasons, including his final year with the Erie Otters when he finished with 65 goals and 62 assists for a 127 points.

The argument that it won’t convert over is nonsense as junior players like Mitch Marner and Matthew Tkachuk are finding goals in this league. Another reason he is so high on my list is the opportunity he could have to play with some of the best players in the league in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. If he can learn from either of them, this kid could become a star in no time.

Player’s goal: I think a successful season for him could be 20-25 goals with another 35-45 assists.

Next up,

  1. Jake Guentzel

Now you can say Jake Guentzel is already a star from his Stanley Cup-winning performance last season. I agree, but I think he can play even better than he was in the playoffs. Guentzel had 13 goals and 8 assists in 25 playoff games last spring. It was a performance so strong that he deserved the Conn Smythe Trophy – only have it ripped from him by Sidney Crosby. We haven’t seen Guentzel in playoff form for a whole season, but this is that season.

Thinking about Guentzel, Crosby, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin all performing in top form has me believing this team could be looking at a three-peat without question, as they are probably the favorite in the East again. Guentzel’s scoring touch and being on the same page and line as Crosby could see his numbers sky rocket and he could be an even bigger star in Pittsburgh.

Player’s goal: I think a successful season for him could be 30-35 goals with another 40-50 assists.

Finally,

  1. Jack Eichel

Jack Eichel will look to keep pace with fellow 2015 first-rounder Connor McDavid‘s scoring this year after missing the start of last season with a high ankle sprain. In addition to ruining Jack’s chance to shine for all 82 games, his injury was also a major contributor to the Buffalo Sabres’ slow start that potentially cost them their first postseason appearance since 2011. And the fact that Eichel had to watch his buddies Auston Matthews and McDavid in the playoffs last season was surely his motivator this offseason. Just watching a few preseason games, Jack looks faster and smoother this than he did last year.

Eichel was very open about how he missed out on  a $1 million bonus for his points-per-game percentage last season. Jack had 57 points in 61 games played, but he hovered around one point-per-game for most of the season before finishing the season in a slump to fall short of his goal. After signing an 8-year, $10 million AAV Tuesday and with the potential to assume captaincy of this Sabres team and lead them to the playoffs, I bet Eichel will earn every cent of his bonus this season.

Player’s goal: I think a successful season for him could be 30-35 goals with another 40-50 assists.

Colby’s Corner Trouba Trouble

Jacob Trouba is a confusing guy who caused the Winnipeg Jets a lot of trouble for nothing. He pulled a Jonathan Drouin and it was very much uncalled for. If I was one of his teammates, I wouldn’t welcome him back with open arms.

For those of you who weren’t aware of the Jacob Trouba story, this is Unknown-4what you missed: Before this season started, Trouba, a restricted free agent, requested a trade because he wanted to play right side defense. He felt it was his best position and for him to get better as a player he needed to play the right side.

Trouba, being 22 years old and supposedly the future of the Jets defense, shocked many people that he would want out. A lot of people still felt it was cap related; he was supposed to get a contract comparable to Rasmus Ristolainen, Seth Jones, and Morgan Rielly, 5 to 6 years with $5 million to $6 million average annual value (per year). The Jets were tight on cap space and it was unclear if they could afford to pay him that much.

A lot of interest from the league started up with teams like the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings showing a lot of interest in the young man. People waited months for a trade to happen and to see Trouba moved out of Winniepeg.

Then November 7th comes around and boom! Trouba signs a 2-year, 3 million dollar AAV deal with the Jets and rescinds his trade request.

THREE MILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR, are you kidding me? He will get some time on right side defense, but it won’t last with Tyler Myers and Dustin Byfuglien both needing to play right side too. I say he pulled a Jonny Drouin, he requested a trade to show his team his value and yet he never wanted to be traded. This has to be the most ridiculous outcome to a player hold-out ever.

Let’s see what he got from it:

Play right handed defense= temporarily, due to injuries

His comparable value= at least two million under it and three years short

Loyal fan base= a lot of people pissed off

Play full season= nope, already missed 15 games

By my calculations, he got nothing right here. I would turn to my agent and ask what the hell happened? Now there is still some hope. Many people believe he is easier to trade now. Hockey remembers when Kyle Turris wanted out of Phoenix; he had to sign a deal and then months later he was traded. So there is still some hope for Trouba, but for right now I am left scratching my head and asking: What are you doing, Trouba? 

Colby’s Corner Situation on the Island

The New York Islanders have found themselves another player situation, this time with goalies. And yes, of course, goalies, considering how this season has gone. This situation is very interesting however as the Islanders have three goalies on their New York Islanders Logoactive roster. They are Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube. Two of the goalies (Halak and Berube) are represented by sports agent Allan Walsh.

Allan Walsh took to Twitter calling out the Islanders for using a three-goalie system. It was unclear which player was unhappy with the system. Walsh said players aren’t getting enough practice time to stay sharp and they are starting a goalie most times with only one solid day of practice.

Garth Snow, GM of the Islanders, made it clear to everyone that Halak is available to other teams, essentially saying ‘if you need a goalie we will give you Halak’. Now last word on the interest of Halak was that two teams have inquired about the asking price. Halak currently has 2 years, $9 million cap hit remaining.

The current stats of the goalies are:

Greiss 5GP- 2-3-0  .908 S%  2.87 GAA

Halak 6 GP 2-3-1  .908 S%  2.94 GAA

Berube DNP

Here are my thoughts…

First of all, if you’re thinking, just send Berube down, that’s not going to happen because they are worried that he will get claimed off waivers. The Islanders think Berube is their goalie of the future and they don’t want to risk losing him.

Next if you think the agent should’ve kept his mouth shut you are again wrong! Walsh needed to voice this opinion; one if not both of his clients are unhappy with this situation. There are only two nets at practice. That means one goalie is standing around or rotating in. Halak wasn’t at a morning skate and then started a game that night. How does that make sense? This team didn’t change that much in the off season losing Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and Matt Martin. They found replacements for most with Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera. This team is better than 4 wins.

I am okay with Snow shopping Halak to teams; something needs to change and trading one of the goalies solves these issues. Now I am wondering which teams are interested. My guess is the Kings and Hurricanes. I highly doubt Halak would like Carolina as a new home but he would love LA. I also don’t think Walsh is mad about this happening. He had an issue, he said something to get it to change.

As for the Islanders point of view, first give Berube a start and see what happens. If he shines, then pull the trigger on a deal. If he falls on his face, then maybe reconsider your future. If you do trade Halak away and Greiss becomes your new number one, good luck with that. Don’t get me wrong, he is a decent goalie, but I don’t think he is number one goalie material. I think something needs to happen soon before all players get more upset and they fall further in the standings.

Colby’s Corner Sophomores led by McDavid

Last year’s Calder Trophy was a red hot race through the whole season. From Jack Eichel, Shayne Gostisbehere, Connor McDavid and the eventual winner Artemi Panarin. So with all the attention on this year’s rookie class again, I wanted to do a “where are they now” style article in their sophomore seasons.

First up, Shayne Gostisbehere. After a 17-goal season and 29 assists last year, Gostisbehere has one goal and four assists in the first 8 games. His point-per-game ratio is a little lower than last year as he had a .71 and is down to .62 ppg. The stat that shows another step down is the minus 4 this early in the season. This stat isn’t just based off him but the team as a whole and the Flyers have struggled early this season with a 3-4-1 record. I wouldn’t worry too much about his play just yet as he still is producing.

Another player that had a good rookie season is Arizona Coyotes forward Max Domi. Domi had 18 goals and 34 assists last season. This season Domi has five assists in seven games. Domi has yet to record a goal this season and has a minus one rating thus far. Again, nobody is worried about his production this season thus far as the Coyotes have struggled this season. I don’t see Domi having the best sophomore season from this stacked class.  

So how is last year’s Calder Trophy winner doing this year? Artemi Panarin had 30 goals and 47 assists last season. He currently has two goals and three assists in seven games played. The reason for his production seeming low is due to line juggling in Chicago. Panarin hasn’t played too much with Patrick Kane this season. Chicago has also struggled this season with losses to teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames.

The best sophomore season thus far, and the league leader in points

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with 11 total, is Connor McDavid. McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers are having a great start of the season. He has four goals and seven assists in seven games played. The Oilers are 6-1-0 and McDavid has a 1.57 PPG ratio. He is continuing where he left off last season when he put up 16 goals and 32 assists in 48 games played.

Now I don’t think McDavid will win the Art Ross this year for most points in the league, but I do believe he can continue to post at a similar rate. McDavid’s rival Jack Eichel has yet to play this season as he has a high ankle sprain that he suffered in practice the day before the season opener.

So unless a big change in Chicago occurs, I see McDavid taking my sophomore trophy with ease!

Colby’s Corner Flames Found a Goalie

The Calgary Flames had a rough season last year due to some pretty bad goalies. They had a carousal of goalies starting with Jonas Hiller. Hiller played in 26 games last year and finished with a goals against average (GAA) of 3.51 and a terrible save percentage of .879. They soon gave up on Hiller and they turned to Karri Ramo. Ramo played the most games of their season with 37 games, Ramo wasn’t much better as he posted a 2.63 GAA and save percentage .909.

They gave youngster Joni Ortio 22 games and the trend continued with him as his numbers were 2.76 GAA and save percentage .902. The team got desperate as they turned to Niklas Backstrom for four games and his numbers were also pretty bad as he posted 3.35 GAA and save percentage of .881.

So it didn’t come as surprise that the team needed to bring in some Calgary Flames Logobetter goaltending. They thought they accomplished this when they traded with St. Louis for Brian Elliott. He was set to become the Flames new number one goalie.

They also added Chad Johnson through free agency after his career year in Buffalo. He was set to be the backup to start the season. Johnson believes he can be a number one goalie and maybe believed he could beat Elliott out for the number one spot, but was content as number two.

Well things didn’t go as suspected for Brian Elliott. After back-to-back losses to Edmonton and allowing 10 goals. They final give Chad Johnson his first start of the season against Vancouver and he earns the team the first points of the season as the team falls to Vancouver in overtime. They give Johnson his second start of the season 3 days later vs. Buffalo and he gives the team their first win of the season.

The Flames gave Brian Elliott another chance against the Carolina Hurricanes. He gave up another 4 goals and another loss for the Flames. Elliott’s season stats thus far are horrible with a GAA of 4.72 and save percentage of .839. Johnson however has tremendous numbers thus far with GAA of 1.89 and save percentage of .923. This ranks him top 10 in NHL in both stats.

The Flames still believe Brian Elliott is their number one goalie even when the stats don’t back the information up. I am a believer in playing the hot goalie and thus I think Johnson should take over as number one. Elliott may have a better career numbers and more experience in bigger games. But Johnson can be a number one goalie and Calgary should give him the chance.

Although a team can’t make the playoffs this early in the year, they can definitely lose hope. When a team plays their hearts out and yet they lose because of a lack of goaltending, it can kill a team’s morale and impact a team greatly. I am not saying Calgary’s season is over, all I am saying is Johnson is the hot goalie and they should give him a chance to be the number one.

Colby’s Corner Stanley Cup Finals Prediction

So as most of you know, I make a lot of bold predictions. I can be right sometimes, and others not so much. Well I’m hoping to continue this trend this year, so I am taking a crack at the Stanley Cup finals not even a week into the season.

So from the Eastern Conference:

This is a tough one for me because you have the defending Stanley Cup champions in the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose core didn’t change much. They still have the HBK line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel. They still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby is currently out with a concussion but will be returning soon.

Another team that comes to my mind in the battle of the east is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa’s general manager Steve Yzerman made amazing moves to keep all of his players like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. They also have Victor Hedman who received an extension this off-season. I just think this team will be a tough one to beat in the playoffs.

However, my team coming from the east is the Washington Capitals. Washington Capitals LogoBehind Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin this team is looking to win a cup. They all now have another year of playoff experience and if they didn’t meet the red hot Penguins last year, we could’ve been talking about the Capitals looking to defend the Cup. Players like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky gained a crucial year of experience and hopefully this allows them to show up this time. Not to mention players like Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie, this team has to bring a Cup to Washington and I think this year is the year to do it.

So from the Western Conference:

Similar to the East, three teams come to mind: The Chicago Blackhawks, the San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues.

The San Jose Sharks feel they should’ve won the Cup last year, and I personally believe Joe Pavelski is looking to avenge the loss and I think he will have a great season leading this team. Players like Brent Burns, Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl will be key in returning to the playoffs, although I don’t see them returning to the finals this year.  

Everyone knows the Chicago Blackhawks are a good team every other year. This year will be no different. They will get hot at the right time of the season and make the first few rounds of playoffs look easy. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are going to be leaders that get this team going in front of Corey Crawford.

Although the team I am picking in the finals from the west is a big rival Unknown-1of the Chicago Blackhawks and that is the St. Louis Blues. Yes that’s right, I am picking Connor’s team. They have looked solid to start the season. Jake Allen has surprised many through the way he has played as their number one goalie. Vladimir Tarasenko has also played well early on, netting two goals in the opening game against Chicago.

 

So who will win it all?

Washington. Strictly on the basis of goaltending. Braden Holtby is better than Jake Allen and I don’t see Allen being able to play that many games in a row and keep it together. I think the teams will match up well offensively and defensively. I am taking Washington in 6 games!

Colby’s Corner Defenseless Devils

The New Jersey Devils had a huge highlight this summer with the New Jersey Devils Logoblockbuster trade that saw Adam Larsson go to Edmonton Oilers for left wing Taylor Hall. Now everyone, including Devils fans, were excited by this deal. They had a right to be; Hall is an elite winger who has produced in the league for years now.

Many people believe the Devils stand a chance to make the playoffs this year. But something went overlooked: who is supposed to play defense now?

This is where I began digging and realized that the Devils don’t really have a defense now. Their best defender is Andy Greene. Now in my opinion, Andy Greene isn’t playing on a top pairing in any team, except maybe Edmonton.

You may think I’m being crazy, so let me show you the defenseman on their roster.

Andy Greene

Ben Lovejoy

Damon Severson

Kyle Quincey (signed Wednesday)

Jonathon Merrill

John Moore

Brandon Gormley

They have a few young players in there with decent potential like Damon Severson and Jonathon Merrill. However, I don’t see any of these guys shut down guys. Talking with other people about this, many believe this team is filled with top-six defenseman (3rd line Defense) with a few top-four defensemen (2nd line defense).

Yes, players can grow and get better, but are any of these players ready to step up this season. Adam Larsson was the only top two defenseman (1st line defense) they had last year and they sent him away.

Ben Lovejoy and John Moore are both top-6 guys. However on this Devils roster they are asked to play bigger roles. This could come back to cost the Devils and make you wonder if the trade was really as good as people thought.

I am not denying the team will be better offensively. But I think questions need to be asked on the back end and I don’t think Wednesday’s afternoon signing of Kyle Quincey was the answer.

I do not seeing the Devils making the playoffs unless they have another move up their sleeve.

So what are possible solutions?

There is Kris Russell still on the free agent market. They could make a move for him, although there are questions if Russell is good enough for the money he wants. Signing Russell would also give them a lot of defenseman and not enough spots to play them.

I think the best plan of attack would come via trade. Jacob Trouba is a big name on the market. He has requested a trade out of Winnipeg because he wants to play right side defense according to his agent. This deal would require a big return, though. The Devils would probably be forced to move one of the young defenseman plus extra. This may be worth it for a more established defenseman in Jacob Trouba.

Other trade targets could be Hampus Lindholm or Travis Hamonic. Lindholm is an RFA without a contract in Anaheim. The return would be comparable to the possible Trouba trade. Then the Devils would have to get him to sign. According to Bob McKenzie, Lindholm is looking for a long-term deal around $6-6.5 million AAV.

Travis Hamonic requested a trade during the year last year. The Islanders were unable to move him. Still could be shopping him still, but again, more than likely he will be an Islander at the start of the season.

Overall this is a tough position to be in. I do not believe this defense is good enough for an 82-game season resulting in the playoffs.

Colby’s Corner World Cup of Hockey Predictions

This year the World Cup of Hockey makes its long-awaited return and it has many excited. It’s an eight-team spectacle and show of nationalism on a different platform than the usual tournaments.

world cup of hockey

The eight teams are Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, USA, Canada, Team Europe and Team North America. Team Europe is made up of all of the best players from Europe, who don’t have teams represented in the tournament. Team North America is made up of American- and Canadian-born players under the age of 23.

All of these teams played three exhibition games against the other teams. Most of the teams finished with a record of two and one, except for team Finland, team Russia and Team Europe, as all three teams went 1-2.

With all of this being said, I am here to share my final four teams and who I think the favorite is to win it all.

My first semi-finalist isn’t a big surprise as I have Canada.

Canada is the powerhouse in all of the national tournaments and will be in the semis, and I don’t think anyone will argue with me on this point. Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Toews all on one team. These are three of the best leaders in the league and they are all one team.

Not to mention the best goaltending issue ever, they have Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford and Carey Price. I think I wouldn’t mind any of these goalies being my number one goalie. However Canada is not my favorite to win it all. Sorry Canada!

My second finalist is kind of surprise as I’m backing the young guns with Team North America.

North America is going to surprise a lot of people when they make the semis of this tournament. Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin and others have a point to prove as the youth movement is coming and they can compete with these vets. They are extremely fast and I think will blow the doors off some of these aging teams.

They have Aaron Ekblad, a kid who plays like 10-year veteran. They also have the hottest goalie in the NHL in Matt Murray. I don’t think he’ll have any issues in this tourney, but again, North America isn’t my favorite to win it all.

 

My third finalist, and my favorite to win it all, is team Sweden

Sweden is my favorite to win it all strictly because they are the best-rounded team in my opinion. They have Henrik Lundqvist in goal, and we know how good he is at the start of the year. They have the strongest defense core with Victor Hedman and Erik Karlsson looking to lead the way.

Let’s not forget the Vancouver 1st line with the Sedin twins (Daniel and Henrik) and Loui Eriksson. I think this will be the best line of the tournament and you will see them in the end with the highest point totals. Sweden will win the tournament and they will get back on the top of the world.

 

My fourth finalist was the hardest to pick, however, I’ll take team USA.

I choose USA based off of heart and grit… No I am not Don Sweeney! I chose USA because they have a point to prove. They aren’t the biggest underdog, but many people don’t think USA will have a good showing in this tournament.

The best part of team USA is John Tortorella. He is a quote machine and makes a good tournament from a media perspective. A lot of team USA’s hope will rely on Patrick Kane, and after a 100-plus point season, I am interested in finding out if he can do it again.

Colby’s Corner Sabres’ Swords In the Playoffs

If you have been following the blog at all or just me personally you know I am a huge Buffalo Sabres fan. With this being said, it has been a year since I have written an article about them, so it’s about time for the Sabres update. Unknown-2

The Sabres roster looks a little different going into this season as Chad Johnson, David Legwand and Carlo Colaiacovo’s contracts have expired and they are no longer with the team.

At the 2016 draft, Tim Murray made another trade as the Sabres acquired a top four defenseman Dmitry Kulikov for Mark Pysyk. Another trade at the draft was a 3rd round pick for the negotiating rights of Jimmy Vesey. Jimmy Vesey was due to become a UFA on August 15th when Murray acquired him. This gave the Sabres a few weeks to talk with Vesey before that date. In the end, Vesey decided to become a UFA and eventually chose the New York Rangers as his new team.

The team continued to get better as they landed a top free agent in Kyle Okposo for a 7-year, $42 million contract. This figures out to be a six million dollar average annual value (per year cap hit). The Sabres added a few AHL players for Rochester in free agency, the biggest name being Justin Falk, who will fight to be the depth guy in Buffalo. Most of the Sabres offseason was trying to re-sign their current players.

The Sabres gave one-year deals to Zemgus Girgensons, Marcus Foligno, Daniel Catenacci, Cole Schneider and Johan Larsson. Jason Kasdorf, Casey Nelson and Nicolas Deslauriers got 2-year deals. Jake McCabe got a 3-year deal with $1.6M average annual value. There is only one RFA left and that is Rasmus Ristolainen. Not to worry, though, he is expected to sign a big long-term deal keeping him with the Sabres for a while. (As for why Murray is waiting, I have no clue and I am as frustrated as you are.)

So with all of these moves plus adding a top six winger and top four defenseman, what does this mean for the Sabres this upcoming season?  

Here are my thoughts on the subject. The Sabres need to be playoff-bound this year for a few reasons:

First, the Atlantic division is completely up for grabs this year. Looking at the division, there isn’t one clear winner like years past. Boston and Montreal have questions defensively to figure out. The Florida Panthers have a lot of new faces, but will they all fit and work together right? Tampa might be the strongest team in the division after keeping Steven Stamkos.

Photo Credit: Bill Wippert
Photo Credit: Bill Wippert

Second, if the Sabres don’t make the playoffs, it could be the end of Dan Bylsma in Buffalo. Bylsma wasn’t Murray first choice to be coach of this team, and if the team doesn’t improve at the rate Murray wants them to, there could be big changes and Bylsma could be one of them.

Finally, do it for Marcus and Zemgus. Folgino and Girgensons had a few question asked of them about production last season. If the team doesn’t make the playoffs this season, these are two guys who could be playing their last season in Buffalo unless their production jumps up dramatically. You may call me crazy for this thought, but it really does hurt me knowing that my favorite player (Girgensons) may be traded at some point.