WHEELS KEEP ON SPIN­NING

Sabres don’t have much to show for all those prized high draft se­lec­tions. But all is not lost

The Hockey News - - NHL - – KC

WHEN THE SABRES

hired Tim Mur­ray as GM in 2014, they were get­ting the equivalent of a can’t-miss prospect in terms of draft­ing and de­vel­op­ing play­ers. But as is the case with play­ers, some­times even blue-chip GMs don’t work out. In three Mur­ray drafts, the Sabres have almost noth­ing to show from them be­yond the low-hang­ing fruit that came from em­brac­ing the tank. That will have to change un­der Ja­son Bot­ter­ill. Casey Mit­tel­stadt is a good start, but the Sabres need some lat­er­ound gems to get the depth re­quired to be a con­tender. IM­ME­DI­ATE NEEDS: This may sound ba­sic, but NHL­cal­iber play­ers at ev­ery po­si­tion. One rea­son the Sabres have been mired in the muck is there hasn’t been enough depth to push play­ers who have be­come too com­fort­able in their sur­round­ings. The Sabres need mas­sive up­grades at for­ward, par­tic­u­larly on the left side, and some­one with game-break­ing skills. LONG-TERM NEEDS: The Sabres haven’t had a bona fide No. 1 goalie since Ryan Miller was traded, and it re­mains a gap­ing hole. It’s dif­fi­cult to tell whether Robin Lehner or Li­nus Ull­mark is the an­swer be­cause both have been plagued by in­con­sis­tency and in­juries. CAP SIT­U­A­TION: The Sabres have a ton of room to clean house, par­tic­u­larly if the salary cap goes up. With just $58 mil­lion com­mit­ted to 16 play­ers, Buf­falo has the space to go af­ter free agents and re­sign their own RFAs, the most prominent of whom are Lehner and Sam Rein­hart. IN THE SYS­TEM 2018-19: Sabres fans who drooled over Mit­tel­stadt at the 2018 WJC in Buf­falo got their wish when the team signed him late in the sea­son and gave up a year of his en­try-level sta­tus. They’re still wait­ing for Alexan­der Ny­lan­der to show con­sis­tency, but rear­guard Bren­dan Guhle is ready to make the jump. DID YOU KNOW: Since the mod­ern draft was es­tab­lished in 1969, the Sabres are the 14th team to have a top-eight pick for five straight years. Some – Mon­treal, New Jer­sey, Pitts­burgh (twice) and Que­bec/ Colorado – used those picks to build Cup winners, while oth­ers frit­tered them away.

SAM REIN­HART

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