Shannon: Sabres roster not as deep as people think it is

John Shannon from Sportsnet joined Howard and Jeremy with the latest news and notes from around the league before this weekend's NHL Draft

Howard & Jeremy | Weekdays 6a-10a
June 21, 2019 - 11:12 am

Photo: Ezra Shaw - Getty Images

With the first round of NHL Draft taking place in Vancouver on Friday, the trade market around the league is expected to heat up.

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A number of players have already been traded since the Stanley Cup Final ended last week, and chatter around the league would suggest that we could see more movement coming this weekend.

Multiple reports around the league have indicated that players like Jesse Puljujärvi wants out of Edmonton, as well as the Oilers having a desire for a top-six forward in return.The Pittsburgh Penguins could potentially move on from defenseman Kris Letang, while the Colorado Avalanche have reportedly dangled both defenseman Tyson Barrie and forward Carl Soderberg on the market.

Letang and Barrie aren’t the only defenseman being brought up in trade rumors. Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has become a hot name on the trade market for teams looking for help on the blue line. It’s also been speculated that the Sabres are looking for help on the front line and could potentially look to acquire a top-six winger over the course of the draft. Pierre LeBrun from The Athletic reported on Thursday that Buffalo is interested in New York Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey, but will explore all options on the trade market in hopes of acquiring a top-six forward. He also reported that the Sabres were looking at Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker as someone who could fit the bill.

John Shannon from Sportsnet joined Howard Simon and Jeremy White on Friday and acknowledged the persistent Ristolainen trade rumors, but he wouldn’t be surprised if the Sabres don’t trade the 24-year-old now that head coach Ralph Krueger is at the helm.

“If you’re talking to Ralph Krueger, he’ll say ‘well hold on, I can do something with him,’” Shannon said. “Krueger is one of those guys that will make a player better, and he believes that. So if he can get in the right head space with Rasmus, then things will be ok.”

Other than Ristolainen, there is a lack of other Sabres players that are known to be on the trade market. The Sabres are in the market this offseason for a second line center to play behind Jack Eichel, but the market seems to be relatively dry. Shannon believes this is a testament to the lack of depth on the Sabres roster, and he goes on to question whether or not a player like Casey Mittelstadt can embrace the role of second line center for another season.

“Mittelstadt, they’re not too sure what they’ve got, but it’s way to early to sell him,” Shannon said. “Then the question becomes, how deep is this hockey club? The answer is, it’s not as deep as people who have watched it every day at the KeyBank Center say it is.”

If the Sabres can’t address the lack of depth on the roster, then Shannon thinks they need an upgrade in net. Carter Hutton is the only goalie currently under contract, but the Sabres have reportedly extended a qualifying offer to goaltender Linus Ullmark.

“The question then becomes, if they can, how do they improve in goal,” Shannon said. “Or do they believe they need to improve in goal? I quite frankly think they need to improve in goal.”

A lot of teams will hope to be able to start re-tooling their rosters this offseason at the NHL Draft with the ability to talk in person and negotiate trades. However, Shannon does not believe that there will be much activity on the trade market this weekend, and that things may not really start to pick up until other dominos have fallen in free agency.

"If anything, what's going to happen in order to free up cap space is [to trade assets] for draft picks," Shannon explained. "I am hearing about more defensemen [being available], but at the same time a guy like Ristolainen and the centers that are out there right now, it's such high currency for people to covet them that I'm not sure many [players will get traded] at this point."

You can listen to the entire interview below:

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