It’s that time of year where Sabres fans begin to get restless. With the trade deadline looming, rumors surface and people begin getting anxious about the future along with the current state of the team.
But this current situation is all too familiar with the Sabres' loyal fan base. Sitting well out of a playoff spot once again, the drought that has been in effect since 2011 doesn’t look to be getting broken anytime soon.
And the fans seem more annoyed than years past. With jerseys being thrown on the ice to fans calling in to local sports radio and shredding practically everything about the team, the pressure is on. Terry and Kim Pegula have done so much good for Buffalo and really have revitalized the city along with Buffalo Bills, who are one of the up and coming teams in the NFL. They have not had similar luck with the Sabres. Fans understandably are demanding answers and more importantly, results.
The question remains, what needs to be done?
The first option to look at is trade. Sabres really don’t have many in-demand assets that they would actually want to trade. The main two names that would actually have some value and seem to pop up in rumors are defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Brandon Montour. If one or both of these players were to be moved, a top-six forward needs to be coming back.
A player that seems might be targeted would be right wing Alex Tuch from the Vegas Golden Knights. The Syracuse native is only 23 years old and is on an extremely team-friendly deal. So why would he be moved? He has not put up numbers this year and Vegas has a very solid top 6 already, in which Tuch is not included. Vegas also could desperately use defensemen who can move the puck and provide some offense from the blue line. Ristolainen and Montour both fit that mold. There have been no rumors, but considering all that, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Botterill working on something behind the scenes with Vegas.
The next option for improvement would come in the offseason, and that is free agency. Sabres seem to not have the greatest luck in free agency, usually overpaying for players or just not getting who they really want.
This year there are three names that should really be focused on.
One of the most realistic scenarios would be Alex Galchenyuk. There is no secret that Galchenyuk has struggled year after year. He was just traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins as they make a playoff push. However, there is no lack of skill and if Sabres could get him cheap, he could become the bargain of the summer.
A bit more of a sure option for production would be Mikael Granlund. Although he has struggled this past year in Nashville, he is a versatile forward who can immediately improve Buffalo's top six most likely at a fairly reasonable price. He can really play any of the forward positions, which makes him an excellent asset to have.
The last option is a long shot, but Sabres fans have to be able to get excited about something. This would be left wing Taylor Hall. This would be expensive, but with proper cap management it could be done. Hall has a relationship with head coach Ralph Krueger and it has been noted that he really enjoyed him as a coach during his time in Edmonton. This would be an immediate upgrade but will be a huge challenge considering he will be in high demand.
The final option for improvement is the most likely considering no one has to be acquired or signed. That would be prospects and younger guys making the next step.
The first name will have some people rolling their eyes, but Casey Mittelstadt. There is no reason for any eye rolling. He is only 21 years old and was forced into a very tough situation last year as a rookie that that he wasn’t ready for. Finally he was sent down to the minors this year and he is developing his game while gaining confidence. There is a ton to look forward to with Mittelstadt still.
The next guy is someone who is always judged super hard due to being one of the pieces coming back in the notorious Ryan O’Reilly trade: Tage Thompson. With his size, hands and wicked shot, Thompson is easily a player who can become a top line guy and improve this team. At only 22 years old, he still is finding his game and once he does, it could pay off big for the Sabres. Unfortunately in his first call up this year, he had a season-ending shoulder injury. Hopefully next season he is ready to win a spot.
The last guy, Dylan Cozens, is viewed as one of the top prospects in the league. If he is not ready next season, the Sabres should allow him to continue to develop. However, with Cozens' size, speed and work ethic, he could very well be ready to hop in the lineup next year and have an impact. There is a lot to like in his game and he should be a guy Sabres fans are excited for.
Rebuilding is not a word that should be mentioned with the Sabres anymore. They have struggled for the past decade and need to turn this team around. The fans are demanding better and they deserve better. Patience cannot be preached because the loyal people who always support this team deserve a winner.
Now to wait and see if they can pull some positives out of what has been a very negative season.
Austin Sauer is a Niagara Wheatfield alumnus. Want to respond, or have a take? Email email@example.com.