Recently, Buffalo has been the place where players wills go to die. We saw Ryan O’Rielly almost gave up hockey as a whole, Robin Lehner also had a serious problem with playing there, and Zach Bogosian left money on the table just to get out of there. I am also fairly certain that Jack Eichel’s will to play diminished last year as multiple stories came out saying that he felt as if he was the only player trying on that team. Buffalo never seemed to allure me personally, in the winter its dark and snowy, maybe I would love it.
We also have watched The Sabers use a bevy of high picks on defense such as, Ryan Johnson( 2019, 31st), Rasmus Sandin( 2018 1st), Mattias Samuelsson(2018 32nd), Oskari Laaksonen ( 2017 89th). Its great to have amazing D prospects, but they have left Jack to be the lone man on offense. For Buffalo’s three fans, no this is not a slam piece, Buffalo has some amazing players waiting to take the next step. Dylan Cozens will be great, Casey Middelstadt still has plenty of time to turn it around, and it would have been nice if Nylander stuck around.
Yesterday, Buffalo stole Eric Staal from the Minnesota Wild. Eric Staal comes from a insane hockey family, all three of the Staal brothers made it to the NHL, and two of them won Stanley Cups, with his brother Marc being a few goals away from one himself. Also important to note that Eric Staal is part of the fabled Triple Gold Club. Eric played the majority of his career with Carolina, then played 25 games in New York for the Rangers, and has spent the last 4 seasons with the Wild. Where he seemed to find the fountain of youth playing with the ghost of Koivu. For a team struggling at the center position, its strange that the Wild gave up Staal.
Staal became a fan favorite in Minnesota, and seemed to love playing there. Its strange to me that Minnesota gave up a solid second line center for a third line center at best. They got Marcus Johansson straight up for Eric Staal. The six year age difference between the two may be a reason for this odd trade, but at 35 I still feel that Eric is the better player at his position.
Adding a player like Staal to your young core has a value that is immeasurable. Eichel gets a solid #2 behind him, and takes a few pounds of the young captains back. Eric’s track record of success will greatly improve not only moral, but on and off ice performance for the young Sabres roster. Eric Staal at 35 is still a 20 goal scorer, giving Buffalo some extremely needed depth scoring. Its also important to note that both Staal and Johansson have contracts that expire after this odd 2020-2021 season. I think Staal still has a few years under him, but honestly he has nothing left to prove.
It will be interesting to see what else Buffalo does going into the draft, as they try to dig themselves out of the whole there previous GM put them in.