Players > Picks

It's time for Jason Botterill to show us what he's made of

Jeremy White
June 21, 2018 - 2:10 pm

Photo: Dan Hamilton - USA TODAY Sports

As Jason Botterill enters his second offseason as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, his goals and timelines shift a bit. While he’s not likely to be on the hot seat all that quickly, we’re now one year into his build, and that team finished in last place. (Important note - This last place finish was most definitely NOT by design). It wasn’t the tank, it was a team with 10 new skaters on opening night. Year 1 for Botterill showed us very little.

His predecessor, Tim Murray, took the team to the basement on purpose, and then failed to adequately move them in the right direction from that point. While it’s not Botterill’s fault the Sabres squandered a treasure chest of picks, it is his problem.

Botterill can’t just sell parts for picks.

As the Ryan O’Reilly trade winds swirl, Botterill has to find a way to get rostered players to prove he knows how to build a team. Two offseasons poured into a team that finished with 78 points just before he took over, the pressure gets dialed up quite a bit if they don't get past that mark. Rentals? Sure. Young wingers and defensemen? Abso-friggin-lutely. Second round picks in 2019 and 2020? GTFO. Not moving any needle there.

What’s Ryan O’Rielly worth? Depends who you ask.

There are some suggesting the Sabres would like to snag the third overall pick from Montreal, which would be a huge win for Botterill. O’Reilly for the third pick is a no-brainer. (Here's why I say that). O’Reilly for the 14th and/or 19th from Philadelphia is only something I’m interested in the Sabres doing if they have plans to use those picks to trade for some actual players. The organization and fanbase has had enough of the “Wait until you see our prospects” routine. It’s time to show something on the ice with the parent club. The time was yesterday.

Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli says he’s willing to send off the 10th overall pick for a quality defenseman. Why? Same reason Marc Bergevin is hunting for O’Reilly or another center. These two, long punchlines of the league, need immediate results. The desperation to stay employed and rescue sinking ships could be taken advantage of… Should Botterill deal with these teams? YES.

Is the 10th pick enough to get Rasmus Ristolainen?

HA! Hell to the no.  

Chiarelli openly calling for a quality defenseman is a pretty good indication he's going to take some middle-of-the-road guy. Why would any team give up a rostered NHL defenseman of significant value for the 10th pick? Ottawa maybe? Other than that, it's just not great value and doesn't really fit the timelines that most general managers would be working on.

We don’t yet know if the Sabres will move Ristolainen or O’Reilly, but both are known NHL commodities and if moved, should be sent out for returning NHL commodities. These are not deadline dumps that put you in a spot where you accept a second-rate offer because the possibility exists that you walk away with nothing. Botterill doesn’t have to move any one player. He does have to improve his team. If you're dumping an unrestricted free agent at the deadline, take a third rounder cause you have to. If you're trading a top-two center in the summer, you don't take a pair of second rounders unless the plan is to immediately spin those for other pieces.

Botterill’s wish list should include the third pick: Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, Hampus Lindholm, Brandon Montour, and a host of other guys-about-to-get-paid or offer-sheet-worthy or haven’t-gotten-their-shot-yets.

Offer sheet some guys. Take on rentals. Get to the playoffs. I’ve got room for a Jeff Skinner or Max Pacioretty too… any rental player can be used to try to get the team to the playoffs this year, and sold off at the deadline for whatever you can get. Skinner and/or Pacioretty shouldn’t be the centerpieces of any return, but they have value now and in the future.

Don’t mortgage the future. 

Don’t sell me on futures. 

This weekend it has to be about players over picks.

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