Once again, Jason Botterill has shown he was serious when he said it'd be a top priority to retool the Buffalo Sabres' defense. In his month and a half as general manager, he's added Victor Antipin, Nathan Beaulieu and now Marco Scandella, acquired as part of a deal with Minnesota on Friday.
That's three left-shot, puck-moving defensemen who will be expected to contribute this season on top of a group of returning players that still includes Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe, Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges and Justin Falk. Taylor Fedun also signed a two-year, two-way extension earlier this week.
Yet with all of that in the cupboard, Botterill said his job is still not done on the blue line.
"Well, let's be honest, as NHL general managers we're always looking for more," he said. "We're very greedy. You always want to have more defense up there. Is our defense a finished product? Not at all. But it's a scenario where we like the style and some of the assets that these players can bring.
"We have veteran leaders back there, we have young players, and from a puck-mobility standpoint we have guys who can play a two-way game. It's a long way from a finished product but this is also where I think Phil [Housley] is going to excel as a coach."
Botterill believes in Housley's ability to get the best out of his defensemen. In the case of Scandella, 27, it will mean giving more minutes and more responsibility to a player who averaged 18:20 of ice time last season in Minnesota as a part of one of the League's deepest defensive units.
"We think he can really handle more," Botterill said. "It'll be interesting to see how much his offensive numbers really increase, but we think he's a type of player that can really handle minutes … Whether he gets the assists or not, he's going to start our transition game out of our own end and in the neutral zone and then with his size and his compete down low, his reach, we really think he's going to be able to log a lot of minutes on our PK and be able to play against other teams' top two lines."
Botterill said discussions with Minnesota were ongoing leading up to the NHL Expansion Draft and then surrounding the NHL Draft last weekend. While the Sabres were comfortable heading into next season with Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno on the roster, those were the two players that Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher highlighted as return for Scandella.
In addition to Scandella, the Sabres also brought back long-time forward Jason Pominville, who Botterill played with in Rochester and has long been a fan of from afar.
READ: Pominville excited about direction of Sabres
"He can provide secondary scoring, certainly an asset on the power play and just from a pure leadership standpoint, maybe not the most vocal guy but a guy whose reputation before practice, before the games, is going to improve our culture," Botterill said.
Botterill said he'll continue to monitor the trade market as the beginning of free agency, at 12 p.m. on Saturday, quickly approaches. But don't expect a big splash to come out of the free agent market.
"The expectation for tomorrow would probably be positional players, finding the right fit, versus a big bang," he said. "I think this was an important addition, making this trade today. It sort of put us at ease where, 'Hey we don't have to force issues tomorrow.' If there's something that makes our team better we'll certainly do it, but we don't have to do anything crazy."