5 Things each team needs to do to have a successful off season
With the off season already underway for majority of the teams now that it's down to the final four for the cup, here’s a 5 Step game plan that each team should to do in order to have a successful off-season, starting with the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres season was disappointing to say the least finishing last place with 25 wins good for 62 points.
1. FIND A FRANCHISE DEFENCEMAN
I know, I know, you can put this step down for any team but for the Sabres they have a chance to complete this step with the 1st overall pick in this years draft with the Swedish stud Rasmus Dahlin pegged as the first pick. Dahlin is a superstar in the waiting, with most projections for the 18 year old to be the next franchise defenceman. This is an easy slam dunk for Sabres GM Jason Botterill to kick off his quest to lift Buffalo back to promise land. Current defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen is the real winner out of this draft pick getting some much needed help on the backend being one of the anchors on this team.
2. WHO’S PLAYING IN THE CREASE?!?
Last year’s duo of Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson are both without contracts this year, and if you take in what Johnson said in his season exit interview it doesn’t sound like he will be back in the black n gold next season. I’ve never been a fan for Lehner so I think if they want to get serious about winning I would search for an upgrade over him to which I would hit the trade market. The Washington Capitals have signed their highly touted tendy out of the KHL Ilya Samsonov, now with a crowded crease that means soon Philip Grubauer or Brayden Holtby needs a new home. It’s going to be costly getting one of these goalies but the pros outweigh the cons as either of these two would add a level of certainty in net and someone that is able to take on the starters role.
As for the backup role, Linus Ullmark after spending last year in Rochester looks like he is ready for the next step to challenge for a spot, and there is also Lehner, who is still an RFA and could be brought back to have a competition in training camp between him and whoever else you bring in for the starters role.
3. FIND A WINGER FOR EICHEL
Scheifele has Wheeler, Backstorm has Ovechkin, and Bergeron has Pasternak. Outside of maybe Crosby every great centre has a winger, and that’s what the doctor is ordering for Jack Eichel.
Eichel had a tremendous season last year scoring 25 goals for 64 points in 67 games but is only scratching the surface for the young American. With a solid partner it isn't out of the question to assume Eichel can hit 100 points in a season, or at least average over 1 point a game. His current right winger Kyle Okposo isn’t terrible, and Alex Nylander might be a good solution down the road but if I’m Buffalo I’m hitting the market now. Buffalo has just under 20 million dollars to work with this offseason and I would try to land one of David Perron, James Neal, Rick Nash or even James van Reimsdyk till Nylander can handle top line duties.
4. MIX IN THE YOUTH
This step isn’t anything that the GM can assure but more for the coach, and that is to start Casey Mittelstadt and Alex Nylander on the roster. Both players grabbed a cup of coffee with the team down the stretch at the end of the season and didn’t look to out of place. Starting them off with a marginal role with the big club would allow them to take the next step in their development.
Being able to look up to players like Ryan O’Reilly, Jason Pominville or even Jack Eichel will give them great insight on what they need to do in order to be successful at this level. Plus the energy level that young players bring to the room could provide a fresh start after what was a stale season.
5. DO A LITTLE HOUSEKEEPING
To cap off this off season Jason Botterhill needs to get a new contract for Sam Reinhart who just completed his third season with the club improving his point production each season. Reinhart hasn’t been the player you would expect out of a former 2nd overall pick, but still a good player to have on your team. I would expect Reinhart to get a shorter term deal to prove if he's worth locking up long term, Buffalo wouldn't be busting the bank extending him.
In addition, signing a 4th line player through free agency to add to their depth to add some insurance incase of injuries and to add a stop gap for some of their other prospects waiting in the wings. I would look at Columbus's Max Calvert, Carolina's Derek Ryan or Boston's Riley Nash.
At the end of the day Buffalo can’t do any worse then what they did the past season and with the 1st overall pick they are going to add another star player to their lineup. The Atlantic Division is tough so I wouldn’t expect them to jump to the top next season but with these moves, fighting for a wild card position isn’t out of the question.
Thanks for reading.