For the first time in a long time the Buffalo Sabres appear to have some depth on the blue line. But they shouldn’t be satisfied, at least just yet.
After weeks of roster changes and turnaround the Sabres should consider adding another veteran into the mix, if he can be added at the right price. As it turns out, perhaps the Sabres best option may have plenty of ties to Western New York.
It’s time for Jason Botterill to call 37-year-old Brooks Orpik, who grew up in Amherst and attended Nichols.
Before your eyes begin to roll, if they haven’t already, adding Orpik into the mix on a short term deal could make sense for a Sabres team looking to develop some promising defenders. While that may seem counterintuitive, hear me out.
Everywhere he’s gone, Orpik has had team success, logging big minutes with the Capitals and helping the franchise win their first Stanley Cup in June. Orpik, who has hoisted the coveted trophy twice [2009 with Penguins] appeared in all 24 games during the Caps playoff run, tallying five points and posting a +17 plus/minus rating.
While his age isn’t desirable, it’s not a bad idea for the Sabres to try signing him to a one-year deal in the $3 million [or less] range to help show Rasmus Dahlin and Brendan Guhle how things should be done. With plenty of cap-space available, signing Orpik wouldn’t handcuff the Sabres in the future. It would simply be an added piece to help the Sabres be more competitive this season.
*Sabres have 48 NHL contracts right now & will try and agree to terms with Sam Reinhart. NHL teams are only allowed 50 NHL contracts*
If things spiral out of control in Buffalo this season, which could certainly happen, Orpik could be moved at the deadline for an asset. While this isn’t the sole reason to look into the acquisition, you’d have to imagine a team would like adding Orpik for his experience in the playoffs. If that means you get Orpik in the lineup for 70-percent of the season and add a second/third-round pick at the deadline, why wouldn’t you explore the move?
As it stands now, the Sabres blue line has gotten pretty crowded with:
But let’s be real. After the first few names, there are plenty of questions.
Bogosian hasn’t appeared in more than 65 games since the 2011-2012 season. Last year with the Sabres, he played in only 18 games before undergoing season-ending hip surgery.
McCabe also saw his 2017-2018 season cut short because of season ending surgery. However, in his prior two seasons with the Sabres, McCabe proved to be a reliable defender despite given more responsibility than he was ready to handle.
If Buffalo can add a winger in exchange for McCabe, it’s a deal worth exploring. He by no means should be given away, but it’s an option.
Guhle has oodles of potential and has shown flashes of rock-solid play during his short stint in the NHL. But it’s important to remember, Guhle is still just 20-years-old. Ensuring he continues to develop is imperative for the Sabres. A veteran addition like Orpik, assuming the Sabres don’t get severely bit by the injury bug would protect Guhle’s minutes.
As for Hunwick, Nelson and Beaulieu — None of the aforementioned trio, at least right now — appear to be a guarantee to be in the Sabres opening night lineup. Hunwick was added so the Sabres could acquire Sheary. Nelson had an impressive few months with the Sabres, but is still a major question. And Beaulieu struggled in his first season with the Sabres.
There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. Injuries happen to every team. Sliding in whoever is scratched or Hunwick/Nelson is a lot more comforting than some of the guys the Sabres have had to call upon in the last few years.
Orpik isn’t flashy by any stretch. But when you think about it, the pros of adding one more veteran presence outweigh the cons, at least if you ask me. If it works out or if he can be flipped into another asset than that’s great. If not, there are no long term problems to worry about after next season.