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