VANCOUVER - Jason Botterill expects to take the stage inside Rogers Arena tonight with a smile on his face when he announces the Sabres' selection with the seventh overall pick in the NHL Draft, a testament to the depth of talent available in this year's class.
After that, it's back to work.
The Sabres general manager met with the media in Vancouver to discuss tonight's first round and the offseason to-do list ahead of him. Here are some takeaways.
On tonight's first round
Botterill said the Sabres are comfortable holding onto the seventh pick, although he left the door open regarding the possibility of moving up.
"We feel very, very comfortable with that at seven," he said. "You always put inquiries into possibly moving up and what's there. But those other teams have players that they certainly want to get too, so I'd be surprised if there's a lot of movement. But predicting whether there's trades or anything I think is very difficult from standpoint."
We've written throughout the month about the unpredictable nature of this year's first round beyond the top two picks. Botterill said he expects most teams to have the same players ranked from Nos. 3 to 12, but with a lot of variance in their arrangements.
The consensus is that this is a deep class at the top, and Botterill said he's confident the Sabres will be getting a good player when they take the stage. (Read up on the candidates here.)
"What's unique about this draft is you do have a little bit of everything," he said. "You have the defensemen, you have the centermen, scoring wingers, power forwards. It's a little bit of whatever you think your organization needs from that standpoint.
"… I think our group has done a really good job, led by [amateur scouting director] Ryan Jankowski. You can just see that another year of them being together as an organization, challenging each other and what is expected of them, it's been very positive meetings this week."
The Sabres also hold the final pick in the first round at 31st overall, which presents a variety of options.
"That's where you're sitting at the table and watching how the draft is progressing," Botterill said. "Is there an opportunity to still move up with one of your late-round picks or a player? You're also having some discussions with teams about NHL players with that pick too. You just have to see what's there."
Speaking of trades
One of Botterill's priorities this summer is bolstering the team's forward depth, which began with the re-signing of Jeff Skinner earlier this month. He said the Sabres will be prepared to do that via trade or free agency, although he believes the quantity of talent in this year's free agent crop is limited.
"Well, we do have some salary cap space right now," he said. "There's always that balance. We have younger players that we know we're going to have to pay in the future, so you're trying to find things that will help your team right now.
"We did it last year with Conor Sheary and certainly we're going to be open to that. Whether that materializes over the next couple days or next couple weeks, that's still to be determined. But certainly, that's something we're looking at."
Rasmus Ristolainen is a name that's popped up in rumors, but Botterill said that he and coach Ralph Krueger have had discussions about how to further develop the 24-year-old defenseman.
"We value Risto a lot as a player," he said. "Right-shot defenseman, physical presence, and Ralph and I have talked a lot about how we continue his development. I know everyone talks about development in our organization, they talk more about our young players: Dahlin, Mittelstadt, some of our players who aren't here yet. But we still view Risto as a developing player.
"So, look, we understand there's going to be inquiries about him. We're open as an organization to continue to try and find ways to improve our team. But we're very glad to have Risto as a part of our organization."
The Sabres will make a formal announcement next week, but Botterill confirmed that they have extended qualifying offers to their restricted free agents who were regulars in the NHL last season. That group includes Zemgus Girgensons, Jake McCabe, Johan Larsson, Evan Rodrigues, and Linus Ullmark.