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Team Reset

Sabres rebuild begins with new coach, general manager

Housley, Botterill arrive with winning experience as assistants

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Buffalo Sabres:

It's been an offseason of change for the Buffalo Sabres. The hope is that it translates to some long-awaited success.

Jason Botterill was hired as general manager May 11, one month and two days after the Sabres completed their sixth straight season without a trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

 

Botterill helped build the Pittsburgh Penguins into back-to-back Stanley Cup champions as assistant GM for the past eight seasons, so even though he's a first-time GM, he didn't arrive in Buffalo without credentials and experience.

Botterill made his first major hire June 15, when he named Phil Housley to replace Dan Bylsma as Sabres coach. Bylsma and general manager Tim Murray were fired April 20.

Housley, a Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman, was an assistant with the Nashville Predators, running the defense and helping them reach the Stanley Cup Final last season. So, even though he's a first-time coach, he arrives in Buffalo with significant credentials and experience.

Botterill went to work on the roster with some major trades and a minor splash into the free agent market on July 1. The question now is do the Sabres have enough to climb the standings to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2011?

Here is what the Sabres look like today:

 

Key arrivals

Jason Pominville, F: The 34-year-old spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with the Sabres before he was traded to the Minnesota Wild on April 3, 2013. He was traded back to Buffalo from Minnesota on June 30. Pominville had 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists) in 78 games with the Wild last season. … Benoit Pouliot, F: The 30-year-old signed a one-year, $1.15 million contract on July 1 after the Edmonton Oilers bought out the final two years of his contract. Pouliot had 14 points in 67 games last season. … Jacob Josefson, F: The 26-year-old signed a one-year, $700,000 contract on July 1. He had 10 points with the New Jersey Devils last season. … Marco Scandella, D: The Sabres acquired Scandella along with Pominville from the Wild in the June 30 trade. The 27-year-old had 13 points in 71 games last season and 89 points (27 goals, 62 assists) in 373 games in seven seasons with Minnesota. … Nathan Beaulieu, D: Buffalo acquired Beaulieu from the Montreal Canadiens on June 17 for a third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Beaulieu, 24, had 28 points (four goals, 24 assists) in 74 games with the Canadiens last season. He is a restricted free agent who has filed for salary arbitration. ... Chad Johnson, G: The 31-year-old signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract on July 1. Johnson won an NHL career-high 22 games for the Sabres in 2015-16, when he had a 2.36 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in an NHL career-high 45 games (40 starts).

Video: OTT@MIN: Pominville tallies in 900th NHL game

 

Key departures

Tyler Ennis, F: After eight seasons with the Sabres, Ennis was sent to Minnesota in the trade that brought Pominville and Scandella to Buffalo. The 27-year-old had 13 points in 51 games last season. … Marcus Foligno, F: The 25-year-old was the other player the Sabres sent to the Wild in the trade. He had 23 points each of the past two seasons. … Brian Gionta , F: It doesn't seem likely the 38-year-old unrestricted free agent will return to Buffalo. The Sabres captain the past three seasons, he had 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists) in 2016-17. … William Carrier, F: The 22-year-old was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft. … Dmitry Kulikov, D: The 26-year-old signed a three-year, $12.99 million contract with the Winnipeg Jets on July 1. … Cody Franson , D: It doesn't appear the Sabres have interest in bringing back the unrestricted free agent, who turns 30 on Aug. 8. … Anders Nilsson, G: After one season in Buffalo, the 27-year-old signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1.

 

On the cusp

Linus Ullmark, G: The 23-year-old is expected to start the season with Rochester of the American Hockey League. He went 26-27-2 with a 2.87 GAA and .909 save percentage in 55 games as Rochester's No. 1 last season. … Alexander Nylander, F: The Sabres' first-round pick (No. 8) in the 2016 NHL Draft, he had 10 goals and 28 points in 65 games with Rochester last season. … Victor Antipin, D: The Sabres signed Antipin, 24, to a one-year contract on May 25. He helped Russia win bronze at the 2017 IIHF World Championship and was named to the Kontinental Hockey League All-Star team last season.

Video: BUF@TBL: Ullmark robs Drouin with great glove save

 

What they still need

Depth at left wing. The Sabres could enter training camp with Pouliot slotted as their second-line left wing. He's likely more suited for a bottom-six role but so too are Matt Moulson and Nicolas Deslauriers. The Sabres also need to re-sign Robin Lehner to get their goaltending depth in order. Lehner filed for salary arbitration.

 

Pete Jensen's fantasy focus

How good was center Jack Eichel on a per-game basis last season? He was tied for 11th in the NHL in points per game (0.93; minimum 20 games) and led the League in shots on goal per game (4.1). The Sabres had the League's best power play (24.5 percent), and Eichel scored 24 power-play points in 61 games. Those levels of production over a full season would make Eichel well worth a first-round fantasy pick, but his health and that of his supporting cast will determine whether the Sabres can take a step forward at even strength.

Video: TOR@BUF: Eichel pots backhand goal on breakaway

 

Projected lineup

Evander Kane -- Jack Eichel -- Sam Reinhart

Benoit Pouliot -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Kyle Okposo

Matt Moulson -- Johan Larsson -- Jason Pominville

Nicolas Deslauriers -- Zemgus Girgensons -- Hudson Fasching

Marco Scandella -- Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe -- Zach Bogosian

Nathan Beaulieu -- Victor Antipin

Robin Lehner

Chad Johnson

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