I have been telling you since June that the Buffalo Sabres are actively shopping for a new goaltender. Kevyn Adams and Ralph Kruger like their starting goaltending tandem of Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton. However, the Sabres front office brass are not in love with their starting goaltending. As a tandem, Ullmark and Hutton are good, but, they are far from great.
If the Sabres are going to earn a wild card berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2021, they are definutely going to have to make a trade to bolster their starting goaltending.
Comes news today from Elliotte Friedman that Ullmark is asking the NHL arbitrator to rule in his favor to increase his salary from $1.325 million to $4.1 million dollars. Ullmark's arb hearing is scheduled for Monday. He and the Sabres are encouraged to hammer out a mutually beneficial contract before the arb hearing begins.
At first blush, I wish Ullmark well.
Plain and simple, Ullmark is not worth the $4.1 million average annual value.
The Detroit Red Wings recently signed veteran free agent tendy Thomas Greiss and paid him $3.6 million.
The Montreal Canadiens traded for veteran backup goalie Jake Allen who has one year remaining on his scontract at $4.35 million. habs GM Marc Bergevin signed Allen to a two year contract extension worth $$5.75 million ($2.875M AAV).
Is Ullmark the same type of goalie as Greiss and Allen?
I say not yet. Ullmark is on his way to becoming a reliably consistent NHL goaltender, however, his fundamentals and positioning become a question mark when opposing teams apply heavy pressure in teh Buffalo end of teh rink which causes Ullmark to improvise and loose his angles and net security.
In 34 games played in 2019-20, Ullmark was 17-14-3 with a respectable 2.69 GAA and .915 SV%. Ullmark eaned one shutout last season.
In 97 career games, Ullmark has started 92 and has complied a 41-41-10 combined record. His 2.81 career GAA, .911 SV% and 3 shutouts are decent but not great.
Ullmark’s .930 save percentage at 5v5 ranked the big Swede fifth in the NHL last season.
Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the arbitrator can only award a 1 or 2 year contract. The party that did not elect the arbitration selects the term (if the player selected arbitration, the team selects 1 or 2 year term). Players that are only 1 year away from being a UFA can only have a 1 year contract awarded.
New in 2020 MOU: Agreements can be reached between the teams and players only prior to the arbitration hearing commencing. Previously, an agreement could be made prior to award being delivered.
For Player elected arbitration, the Team can walk away if the award is $4,538,958M or more in 2020. If they walk away, the player becomes a UFA.
If I am Adams and Krueger, I counter Ullmark with a one-year, take it or leave it offer of $2.5 million.
The arbitrator generally saws it in half which in this case would give Ullmark a $3.1 million average annual value. In my opinion, $3.1 million is still a high AAV for a goalie that still has to improve at his craft.
The Sabres have pending arbitration cases and will therefore have a second buyout window opening two days after the final case is settled or awarded. Victor Olofsson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for November 4. Samson Reinhart’s arb hearing is scheduled for October 27.
Were I Adams, I would pronto amp up my phone calls and texts to rival GMs.
I would offer right shot defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen in exchange for a package that includes a proven starting goalie. I'm looking at you, Jarmo Kekalainen of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jax have stockpiled excellent goaltending assets in Elvis Merzlikins, Joonas Korpisalo, and red hot Russian prospect Daniil Tarasov.
Kekalainen can affored to trade Korpisalo to the Sabres along with a second round pick in exchange for Ristolainen. Korpisalo, 26, is a big Finn who 19-12-5 with a 2.60 GAA and .911 SV% last season. In his 116 career starts, Korpisalo is 60-43 -14 with an impressive 2.80 GAA and .908 SV%. Korpisalo has 3 career shutouts.
Merzlikins and Tarasov can carry the load for the Blue Jackets in 2021.
Korpisalo is cost controlled at $2.8 million in 2021.
I like the idea of Korpisalo warming the throne for fellow Finn Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who is Buffalo's goalie of teh future. The huge 6'4" Finn "UPL" has all the pedigree and talent to become one of the best goalies in the NHL. UPL is a year away from starting for the Sabres.
UPL's career accomplishemnts are impressive:
OHL Best SVS% (.920)
OHL First All-Star Team
OHL Goaltender of the Year
OHL Most Outstanding Player (Red Tilson Trophy)
U20 WJC All-Star Team
U20 WJC Gold Medal
U20 WJC Top 3 Player on Team
ECHL All-Star Game
ECHL Goaltender of the Month (November)
Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi will have his long awaited meeting with the contract arbitrator on Sunday. Several NHL restricted free agent forwards are watching the Bertuzzi case very carefully.
Two other NHL RFA forwards in particular are looking to cash in and prosper when Bertuzzi scores a higher annual average value. Two such restricted free agents are Buffalo Sabres top six forwards Samson Reinhart and Victor Olofsson.
Reinhart, Bertuzzi and Olofsson are the three highest scoring restricted free agent forwards from 2019-2020.
On Friday, the Bertuzzi camp and the Red Wings filed their respective arbitration figures.
According to Elliotte Friedman, Bertuzzi is asking for $4.25M AAV while Wings GM Steve Yzerman is looking to lock up the scoring forward for a $3.15M AAV. The gap is over $1 million.
Bertuzzi just annihilated his two-year, $2,800,000 bridge contract.
In 71 games in the 2019-20 season, Bertuzzi tucked 21 goals and added 27 assists for 48 points. In his last two seasons, Bertuzzi has scored 42 goals and 53 assist for 95 points in 14 games played.
The arbitrator generally finds a soft landing place between the player's ask and the team's offer. It is not a given that the Bertuzzi case will be heard by the arbitrator. As is the custom, the player and the team are encouraged to reach a mutually beneficial award in the days and hours leading up to the hearing time.
Bertuzzi's demands will not exceed the $4,538,938 “walk away” line in the sand, which means that the Red Wings will have to sign Bertuzzi to the AAV that the arbitrator awards should the hearing actually begin.
The 25-year-old restricted free agent has been one of the most dependable and consistent players for the Red Wings. The prickly left winger plays a heavy game. He hits, chirps, haacks, slaashes and is a pain in the ass to play against. Bertuzzi earns his living in the scuzzy areas at the edges of the goal crease. In 199 career NHL games, Bertuzzi has scored 49 goals and 70 assists for 119 points.
Let's talk about the Buffalo Sabres and their restricted free agents with arbitration rights. Samson Reinhart and Victor Olofsson have signed their qualifying offers.
Reinhart, 25, was the second player selected at the 2014 NHL Draft and has kicked the crap out of his most recent two-year "'show me" contract. Reinhart is now imploring the Sabres to "show me you want me to contribute to the long term success of the Sabres."
Reinhart was a $3.65M AAV his past two seasons. The Sabres quaified him at a modest 10% bump to $4.015M AAV. Earlier this week, Ottawa re-signed RFA forwatd Connor Brown for three years at a $3.6 million average annual value. Reinhart is shooting top shelf on this next contract.
Like Bertuzzi, Reinhart isn't playing around. He knows what he is worth and he is not intending to blink first in the negotiation with his rookie GM Kevyn Adams. Reinhart is a core contributor and he feels strongly that he he met and exceeded all expectations placed upon him by the three general managers he has played for Tim Murray, Jason Botterill and Kevyn Adams.
Reinhart is cognizant of the factors that are making dollars hard to come by in the tamped-down $81.5 million salary cap economy.
During the COVID19-shortened NHL season of 2019-20, the four-time 20-goal scorer potted 22 goals and 28 assists in 69 games played. In 2018-19, Reinhart ripped 22 goals and 43 assists for 65 points in 82 games played.
In 400 career NHL games, Reinhart has produced 109 goals and 146 assists for 255 points.
Reinhart has created a ton of value for himself which is why he is not ready to accept his qualifying offer. The Vancouver native
Assuming Bertuzzi settles his arbitration case for $4 million average annual value, Reinhart's agent will then drive a hard bargain for Reinhart to be paid comensurate with his impressive production.
Reinhart will turn 25 next month and will be one step closer to unrestricted free agency.
Rather than sign a two to three year contract in the so-tight-its-squeaking NHL salary cap market, Reinhart may want bet on himself and sign a one-year contract at a $5.5 million to $6 million annual average value. If and when Reinhart scores 30 goals or more his unrestricted free agent season, he will earn himself a multi-year contract in the $6.5 million to $7 million range. Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher is a solid comparable for Reinhart. Recently, Gallagher signed a six-year, $39,000,000 contract that carries a $6.5 million AAV. The difference between Reinhart's contract status and Gallagher's is that the Canadiens' winger was unresticted when he signed his new deal. Reinhart is still a restricted RFA.
Reinhart's camp and the Sabres have yet to comment on the negotiations. Reinhart's arb hearing is scheduled for October 27.
Victor Olofsson earned an appointment to the NHL All-Rookie team after he produced 20 goals and 22 assists 54 games during his freshman season in the NHL. The 24 year old Swedish sniper was super impressive riding shotgun for Jack Eichel on Buffalo's top forward trio. An unfortunate injury caused Olofsson to miss 15 games due to injury. When healthy, Olofsson can score 25-30 goals per season. He's a lethal shooter at 15.7% shooting percentage which is why he scored 11 power play goals (tied for team lead with Eichel) in his rookie season.
Olofsson, the Frolunda product, signed a two-year, $1,535,000 ($767,500 AAV) contract with the Sabres in 2018 and quickly proved to the Sabres that he is an elite level scorer. In 2018-19, Olofsson played 66 games for the Rochester Americans and sniped 30 goals and 33 assists. His quick catch, quick release and sick hand-eye cooordination puts him in a class with superior shooters Alex Ovechkin, Patrik Laine, and Steven Stamkos. Olofsson's bomb of a shot makes him a rarity in today's NHL. He is going to get paid! Twenty-goal scorers don't grow on trees. That's why Olofsson's agent will be sseking a $3 million to $3.5 million annual average value for a two-year contract that will stride him into unrestricted free agency. When Olofsson scores 20-plus goals a season for the next two seasons, he will then be a candidate to score a fat multi-year contract when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July 2022.
Olofsson's arb hearung is scheduled for November 4.
Earlier this week, Dallas signed their restricted free agent forward Denis Gurianov to a two-year, $5.1 million ($2.55M AAV) contract extension. Like Olofsson, Gurianov scored 20 goals during his first full time NHL season in 2019-20. Last week, the Calgary Flames re-upped RFA winger Andrew Mangiapane for two years and $4.85M AAV ($2.425M AAV). Mangiapane scored a career high 17 goals in 2019-20.
This week, the Ottawa Senators signed restricted free agent winer Connor Brown to a three year contract at a $3.6M AAV. Brown has one 20-goal season in his three year NHL career.
Should his care be presneted to the arbitrator, Olofsson's agent will argue that his client is more worthy of a contract in the range of what Tyler Bertuzzi eventually settles on and that of Connor Brown than the RFA contracts of Denis Gurianov and Andrew Mangiapane.
The New Jersey Devils got a good one when they hired Chris Taylor as an assistant coach on Friday. Taylor joins Assistant Coaches Alain Nasreddine, Mark Recchi and rgoaltending coach Dave Rogalski in completing Lindy Ruff's impressive coaching staff.
Taylor, 48, started his professional coaching career with the Rochester Amerks as an assistant from 2012-16. After the 2016-17 season as an assistant with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he returned to Rochester to serve as the club's head coach. Taylor reached the playoffs in his first two seasons and was on pace in his third with the Americans, finishing with a career record of 116-65-33 in 214 games. He served as head coach of the North Division All-Star team for the American Hockey League All-Star Classic this past January. Taylor also served as an interim assistant coach with Buffalo for two months last season.
Taylor began his professional coaching career as a Development Coach for Rochester in 2011-12 before moving to a coaching position the next season. As a head and assistant coach, Rochester posted a 239-204-57 record for 571 points in 518 games. In his lone season with Wilkes-Barre as an assistant, the Penguins recorded a 43-27-6 record for 92 points, going to the Conference Semi-Finals in the Calder Cup.