Botterill & Sabres prepare for free agency

Sports

CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 23: Jason Botterill of the Buffalo Sabres works the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Based on some of the rumors and reports that are out there, the Sabres seem to be out of the running on some of the big names that will be available when free agency begins.

That doesn’t preclude the Blue & Gold from making a splash, but it might not be as big as fans might’ve hoped.

Jason Botterill has said he’d use the youth on the squad as a selling point along with some of the early season success they had at the start of last year.

But, as for what he anticipates when the free agent market opens Monday, the general managers said that’s always tough to predict.

“We’ve had some good conversations throughout the week both Ralph, myself and the rest of the management group. I think what we’ve seen in the league is you just never know when trades or signings are going to happen,” Botterill said Saturday after Development Camp. 

“I feel very comfortable we’re going to be adding to our depth in our organization in areas we’ve wanted to improve on.  And, we’ll just continue our dialogue with players and other teams to see if we can improve our team in general”

After signing Jeff Skinner to an eight-year $72 million extension earlier this month, Botterill told reports on a conference call it was more likely the Sabres improved the roster through trades rather than free agency.

And, as the speculation continues as to whether defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen will be dealt, new head coach Ralph Krueger believes there is still an opportunity for the 24-year-old to develop and improve.

“Risto is also somebody I had a long call with and I can feel the hunger to want to be an important player, first of all in Buffalo but then in the national hockey league also, going to another level,” Krueger said.  “And, I think that, more than anything we’re going to be looking for a compact, defensive game.

“We want to be playing aggressive on our toes.  He’s got that ability to play aggressively.  He’s a very physical player and for us as coaches, it’s bringing that into the team concept to make sure we’re doing it as a group. That it’s done at the right time and again — I don’t see one player that were not going to challenge ourself to improve.”

Free agency begins on Monday.

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