With just a couple of months before the NHL Draft and Free Agency is set to begin, the Buffalo Sabres find themselves without a General Manager and Head coach. Although the search is currently underway, the new GM will have his hands full with difficult decisions that must be made rather quickly. Will the Sabres elect to full out rebuild once again? Or will they try to salvage what they can with their current roster?
One of the more strenuous situations the new Sabres GM will encounter is what to do with College Free Agent Cal Petersen. After being drafted by the Sabres in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Petersen had an illustrious career at Notre Dame. This past season, he posted a record of 23-12-5 to go along with a 2.22 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. The Fighting Irish would not have made it to the Frozen Four if it weren’t for the stellar play of Petersen.
The Sabres are yet to ink Petersen to an entry-level contract, and with the uncertainty of the front office and the direction the team will be heading in, there is no guarantee that this will happen.
Both Sabres goalies from last year, Robin Lehner (RFA) and Anders Nillson (UFA) had solid seasons and will be looking for extensions this summer. It would be a major shock for the Sabres to not bring Lehner back on a multi-year deal.
The Swedish net minder is coming off a career high in wins, amassing a 23-26-8 record with an impressive .920 save percentage. Former GM Tim Murray gave up a lot to acquire Lehner, so it would make sense to keep him around in Buffalo for a few more seasons. When healthy, he can be a dominant goalie at times.
WHERE DOES PETERSEN FIT IN?
The Buffalo Sabres cannot risk losing Petersen as a college free agent and not get anything in return. If Petersen continues to develop, there is no doubt that he will be a legitimate starting goalie at the NHL level in the coming years. There are definitely many teams that would love the chance to ink Petersen before he is set to become a free agent.
One of these teams is the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets have a very talented roster and should have been in contention for a playoff spot last season; however, they had some of the worst starting goaltending in the league. The Jets would love to get their hands on the Waterloo, Iowa native.
WHAT’S THE ASKING PRICE?
The Buffalo Sabres still have a glaring need when it comes to their defense. With Cody Franson and Dmitri Kulikov set to become UFA’s on July 1st, Buffalo needs to bolster their blue line. The Jets have exactly what the Sabres need.
When new management takes over, they should consider offering Petersen and the 8th overall selection in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft to the Jets for defenseman Jacob Trouba. This trade would be a win-win for both teams.
If the Jets are able to ink Petersen, they would appear to have a potential franchise goaltender and have another top 10 pick in the draft, while the Sabres would acquire a young top pairing defenseman that Tim Murray was never able to bring in.
Trouba, the former first round selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft would add size and much needed offense to the backend of the Sabres.
If the Sabres are able to add Trouba to go along with the rumoured signing of KHL defenseman Viktor Antipin, the Sabres defensive group will be heavily improved come the 2017-18 season.