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Bove: Sabres roster projection after the Ryan O'Reilly trade

Bove: Sabres roster projection after the Ryan O'Reilly trade
Posted at 10:12 PM, Jul 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-02 09:05:04-04

When Jason Botterill said the Buffalo Sabres needed a major shakeup, he wasn't kidding. But how will the recent roster moves look on opening night? It's too early to tell but let's take a guess, shall we? 


Conor Sheary - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart 

Acquired last week from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Conor Sheary is used to playing with elite players. Lining up on the left with Jack Eichel, Sheary will bring some desperately needed speed to the Sabres lineup. Sheary isn't a prototypical top-line winger, but he'll almost immediately become one of the most talented players Eichel has played with while in Buffalo.

On the right side of the top line, Sam Reinhart, who was one of the most productive players in the NHL during the second half of last season. I'd imagine Reinhart can be signed to a two or three-year bridge deal, with an average salary between $4M and $5M per season. 

Vladimír Sobotka - Patrik Berglund - Kyle Okposo

You don't need to tell me --- this is a pretty below average 'second' line. During their careers, both Sobotka and Berglund have thrived in bottom-six roles. With the Sabres, at least next season, they'll need to play on the second line while the Sabres continue to develop some of their younger players. If nothing else, this trio should be able to play tough minutes against skilled players while still having some offensive upside. Not a ton, but at least some.  

Evan Rodrigues - Casey Mittelstadt - Tage Thompson

Good news Sabres fans -- this has the potential to be a pretty exciting 'third' line. The quotes around third are because this line will play just as significant of a role as the aforementioned trio. 
Mittelstadt absolutely has the skill and potential to one day become a very good top-six forward in the NHL, it just may take time. Limiting his minutes and responsibility seems like the right thing to do, at least next season. 

As for Rodrigues, he's the versatile player on this line who can contribute at both ends of the ice. 

By all accounts, Thompson has an exceptional shot and can thrive if he plays with someone who can create space and make plays. Mittelstdt can certainly do that. Pairing the Sabres newest prospect with one of their most coveted makes sense if Thompson has a strong training camp/preseason. If he doesn't impress, Thompson can start the season in Rochester. 

Scott Wilson - Zemgus Girgensons - Jason Pominville 

Wilson won't wow anyone with his offensive production but he's a very dependable two-way player who should get a new contract in the offseason. Girgensons and Pominville both underperformed for much of last season but there isn't much the Sabres can do. 


Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen 

At times in 2016-2017, McCabe and Ristolainen played very well together as a pair, logging top-minutes on a more competitive team. Last season didn't go as planned for McCabe, appearing in only 53 games before undergoing season-ending surgery. 

Ristolainen finished with the fourth most points on the Sabres, despite missing nine games. His offensive production has been consistently solid but defensively he's at times been a liability.  To be fair, Ristolainen has been asked to play nearly 30-minutes a night against the opposing top-line. Adding Dahlin and Guhle as full-time players next season should take a lot of the responsibility off Ristolainen, who could prove to be a rock-solid No. 3 defenseman with offensive upside. 

Marco Scandella - Rasmus Dahlin

It has been decades since the Sabres had a franchise defenseman, and while Dahlin is still an 18-year-old kid, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't believe he'll become one of the best defenders in the league. 

For what it's worth, Dahlin played on both the left and right side while in Sweden, despite being a left-handed shot. Pairing him with Marco Scandella might be a smart way for the Sabres to ease him into the season. If Dahlin wants to fly up the ice, Scandella will likely be there to hold down the fort at the other end of the ice. Scandella was certainly not perfect defensively last season but was often left out to dry because of mistakes made by his teammates. 

Brendan Guhle - Zach Bogosian 

Bogosian, who played only 18 games last season, is as big of a wild card as any on the Sabres roster next season. When healthy, Bogosian can contribute and has the potential to help the Sabres at both ends of the ice. That said, the 27-year-old hasn't played in more than 64 games in a season since he was traded to the Sabres in 2015. Paying a bottom pair defenseman $5.1M per season certainly isn't ideal. But moving Bogosian because of his injury history and salary may be nearly impossible. 

Guhle showed flashes of brilliance last season in his 18 games with the Sabres in the NHL. He's still a work in progress in the defensive zone but has all the tools to grow into a top-four NHL defenseman. 

Extras: Casey Nelson & Matt Hunwick

Nelson had a short but impressive stint with the Sabres last season, scoring three goals and adding five assists in 37 games. As the season carried along he continued to improve, earning a two-year contract extension in May ($812,500 per). Hunwick has plenty of NHL experience and if the injury bug bites, Hunwick can easily slide into the lineup. 


Carter Hutton 

For weeks leading up to free agency, the Sabres were linked to Hutton and just minutes after noon on July 1, the Sabres made it official. Hutton isn't a proven starter in the league but is coming off an incredible season. 

Linus Ullmark 

After a strong start to last season earning AHL All-Star honors, Ullmark regressed and struggled after suffering a concussion. In the playoffs, Ullmark allowed 16 goals in three games with Rochester.  Giving Ullmark 30 games next seasons would be ideal for his continued development.