Find a defenseman
This is obvious. Tim Murray made no qualms about this issue in his postseason press conference and made it abundantly clear that this was at the top of his agenda.
This first item on the to-do list will remain the same whoever the next GM is. The question is where is he going to find one? The free agency list is a bit sparse for the Sabres’ needs.
Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner, Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya may certainly be of some interest to the Sabres, but age and salary/term of contracts may force the next GM to get creative and look elsewhere.
RFA Shayne Gostisbehere is certainly a player that may have an offer sheet thrown his way, but with that comes some serious risk after having a sophomore slump for the Flyers. He was a healthy scratch a handful of times.
The trade market is where the Sabres next GM will most likely find his defenseman. Teams like Anaheim and Minnesota, who have a plethora of young defensive talent, will be forced to swing a deal with impending salary cap issues and the expansion draft.
Wouldn’t Cam Fowler or Jonas Brodin look good on a pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen?
Settle on a coach
Even with Tim Murray still in charge, Dan Bylsma’s job seemed doomed. Now that they’re both gone, Sabres’ ownership and management will have to tread carefully on finding a new coach.
The next Sabres coach will need to ‘lay down the law’ immediately upon his hiring and do his best to get the players to buy in – especially Jack Eichel. Too many times this past season we heard the word “disconnect”, amongst other drama-laden rumors such as Eichel not wanting to sign an extension if Bylsma was the coach. All of this needs to be put to bed.
Name a Captain
This could very well mean re-signing Brian Gionta on a one-year deal and bringing him back as the guy with the “C” on his sweater- or, bring him back and give it to someone else. The post-season press conferences with players, coaches, and Tim Murray all revolved around accountability and leadership. It may seem insignificant who wears the “C” and players will be the first to say “it’s not about the letters on your jersey”, but it does matter.
Ryan O’ Reilly is certainly captain material, but it’s looking more and more like Jack Eichel may be donned with the “C”. He was visibly distraught in his locker clean out and post-season press conference, along with many post-game pressers multiple times this season! Jack doesn’t like losing. He’s the Sabres best player and possesses the leadership qualities needed. Make Jack the captain.
Let go of dead weight
The defense core obviously has to be shed. The Sabres have too many bottom-role defensemen like Josh Gorges, Cody Franson and Zach Bogosian. One or two have to go. The forward group is better, but still has many questions surrounding it. Will Tyler Ennis live up to his $4 million a year contract? Johan Larsson or Zemgus Girgensons? Can Matt Moulson and Nicolas Deslauriers still compete for a spot on this team with the influx of youth and skill on this team?
It will definitely be interesting with a new GM at the reigns of this team. With no prior biases or loyalties, we could easily see some unexpected moves to be made. With so many important upcoming dates like the draft lottery, the draft, expansion, and free agency, the future GM of the Sabres will undoubtedly be pressed for time and make some inevitable mistakes.
Jack Eichel will be entering his final year of a three-year entry-level contract. Tim Murray alluded in his postseason press conference that on July 1st he planed on starting contract negotiations with Jack’s agent. Just like finding a defenseman, this will certainly be at the top of the next GM’s list. An 8-year deal almost seems obvious, but either way – just get it done.
Make a decision on Evander Kane
Evander still has one year left on his deal, but a decision on whether to sign him or trade him needs to come soon. Trading Kane has its allure. After a few run-ins with the law, being late for team meetings, and other shenanigans, it may seem right for the Sabres ‘culture’ to trade him.
Also, if the Sabres want a stud defenseman, Kane seems like a logical piece to be moved. He led the Sabres in goals this past season with 28, scoring the majority of them at 5-on-5, where the Sabres struggled the most to do much of anything. If Kane hadn’t gotten injured, he could have easily chased after 35 or 40 goals. And let’s face it, he plays like an absolute animal. He’s the exact type of player you want when you’re in the playoffs. Kane’s contract status with the team is of significant importance to the next GM of the Sabres.
The next GM and coach of the Sabres will absorb an immense amount of pressure and responsibility. Buckle up, Sabres fans!