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Thoughts on some hockey players

What I think of some guys who go to free agency on Saturday

Mike Schopp
June 30, 2017 - 10:28 am

As you already know if you read the headline, these are some thoughts about NHL players who hit free agency Saturday.

They're in no particular order.
 

KEVIN SHATTENKIRK: Sabres? Sure! - I probably shouldn't be blase' about what probably would be the most expensive signing of the off-season. I'm not. I'd like it for the Sabres. Personally, because of Shattenkirk's offensive style and lack of 1990s-era ruggedness, I'd love it for our show. I'd enjoy sticking up for this player.

We talked about this idea Thursday and will again Friday. At this point I'm convinced the Sabres want Shattenkirk. What I don't know is if another move -- a departure -- would come with it? Would Jason Botterill want to sign Shattenkirk without an exit strategy for Zach Bogosian, or (ducking) Rasmus Ristolainen. If not he's got three $5 million-plus defensemen here for at least three seasons. The presumed expansion-draft escape hatch proved locked. 

Whether he's perfect for the Sabres is debatable; what isn't is that Kevin Shattenkirk is a legit number-one defenseman. That his game leans offense isn't -- AT ALL -- a liability, it is most definitely and provably a strength. In the old days when we held "defensive defensemen" so close to our hearts we didn't have forwards blocking shots like nothing and giant goaltenders making 92 percent of all saves. If a guy is less than perfect defensively but has important strengths in skating and puck-moving, you run to acquire him.

The Sabres had maybe the worst defense in their history last season and still gave up fewer than three goals per game.

Context.

I'd love it if the Sabres signed Shattenkirk but as someone who will benefit from the interesting conversation that should ensue, I'm biased.

JOE THORNTON: Somewhere cool. - Thornton's presence would elevate any team's visit to Buffalo this year for me. He's on the level of opposing players I enjoy at games just looking at. Patrick Marleau is this to a lesser extent. Thursday on WGR I told Ryan Gates I'd like to see them both in Toronto, with which he disagrees. Toronto seems an underdog for them. Fine, then just go to a team people care about. 

BRIAN GIONTA: Another team. - Gionta's agent, Steve Bartlett, told me Thursday on WGR that returning to the Sabres is Gionta's preference. I'd seriously question that if it happened. The Sabres have both superior options in free agency, and, more importantly, young players (Bailey, Baptiste) who should be ready to ascend to a role like Gionta's. It's also fair to point out that while Gionta was the captain and is generally lauded for his leadership skills, his team was fractured and at season's end left a wake of causalities. When it's like that there's only so much credit you can get.

If Gionta had been a Sabre many years ago he might have been a player I liked. But instead he was signed to help put a good face on a team hoping and expecting to finish last. His first year I staunchly rooted against him, and mostly because of that I've never warmed up.

THOMAS VANEK: Hmmmm. - Vanek was sixth in the NHL (!) in 5-on-5 points per 60 minutes last year. He did that starting about half his shifts in the offensive zone and playing relatively few minutes. Three reasons why I like the idea of his returning to the Sabres: 1. He shouldn't cost much. 2. There are some warm and fuzzies with Vanek. 3. Shootouts.

If it's permitted, I'd like to stick up for the idea of Vanek playing on Jack Eichel's team in a new era of Sabres hockey for the main reason that it would be fun.

I think his return shouldn't be ruled out. If the Sabres did that though, I'd expect Evander Kane or another winger to be moved.

DMITRY KULIKOV: Don't care at all. - He wasn't #actuallygood in Florida and I hated the Sabres' trade for him. Good luck, Dmitry.

CODY FRANSON: Somewhere. - Some people seem to think Franson's NHL days are over. At 29 with a perfect 8-out-of-8 NHL seasons with a positive Relative Corsi, I'll say different. I like the Franson conversation. It's unfortunate that the Sabres never had an important game in his two years here so it was never really that interesting to debate his quality.

RYAN MILLER: Philadelphia. - A report Thursday predicted Miller will go to Anaheim. Philly would be more fun -- for us, probably not him.

JAROMIR JAGR: Please keep playing. - Anywhere would be fine.

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