Rumor Roundup: Goaltending questions for several teams as off-season nears

Antti Niemi (Francois Lacasse/Getty Images)

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch lists the San Jose Sharks, Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames “and possibly” the St. Louis Blues as teams that could seek goaltending this summer.

Free agency is one reason these clubs could be shopping for depth between the pipes. San Jose’s Antti Niemi, Buffalo’s Anders Lindback, Edmonton’s Viktor Fasth and Calgary’s Karri Ramo are eligible to become unrestricted free agents in July. If they test the market they’ll have to be replaced. Read more

When this much is at stake, who can blame Sabres fans for cheering for losses?

Ken Campbell
Buff fans

In a discussion with a GM recently, this is how he described Connor McDavid: “When you draft a guy, you hope that maybe someday he’s going to be an all-star. You look at this guy and you’re thinking Hall of Fame.”

This is not some crazed fan or a yahoo who calls into sports talk radio. This is a person who makes player personnel decisions for a living and has seen thousands of prospects over the years. And he’s bang-on in his assessment. Read more

Don’t openly cheer against your own team, Buffalo fans

Ryan Kennedy
At least the players were happy they scored (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

There is a very obvious subtext to the Buffalo Sabres’ 2014-15 campaign that all of us are aware of. Since the team is in a rebuild and this summer’s draft features not one but two incredible prospects in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, winning was not something that Sabres fans were overly concerned about.

But openly cheering against the Sabres at First Niagara Center? That’s weak (chicken wing) sauce, folks.

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Mike Smith big part of Coyotes future with or without McDavid or Eichel

Ken Campbell
Mike Smith  (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

BUFFALO – In a little more than 60 minutes, the 30th-place Buffalo Sabres and 29th-place Arizona Coyotes had a total of 124 shot attempts. That was three more than the Islanders and the Kings, 20 more than Carolina and Pittsburgh and 33 more than Nashville and the high-flying Tampa Bay Lightning.

All in all, a rather entertaining, if not surreal night in the latest installment of the Connor McDavid Sweepstakes™. The Sabres did a pretty good job of keeping the crowd out of it by staying in the game, but the cheers could not be contained when the Coyotes scored on the power play just 56 seconds into overtime for a 4-3 victory, which increased the Coyotes cushion over Buffalo to six points. The Sabres were quietly incensed at the reaction, but the people who speak with their feet and their wallets are entitled to react however they like. If the Sabres get either McDavid or Jack Eichel and he helps lead them to a Stanley Cup in five years, nobody is going to remember a night in March when the fans booed a Sabres loss. Read more

Why the Arizona Coyotes need to finish last more than the Buffalo Sabres do

Ken Campbell
Connor McDavid  (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

BUFFALO – Forty-five years ago, the Buffalo Sabres won the first overall pick with the spin of a wheel and chose Gilbert Perreault. The Vancouver Canucks settled for Dale Tallon. The Sabres got the better player and the Canucks got the better future GM. Of course, there was nothing preventing the Canucks from taking Darryl Sittler second overall in 1970.

But you get the point here. That one moment in time changed the course of history. And even though Perreault could never deliver a Stanley Cup to Buffalo, his Hall of Fame career gave the Sabres an identity and set them on a far better course.

Tonight’s game could be another one of those defining, franchise game-changing moments for the Sabres. Just as it could be for the Arizona Coyotes. All they have to do is lose tonight, then lose again in four days when the teams meet in the desert. It’s the only two times these teams meet this season and – wouldn’t you know it? – they play each other twice down the stretch with one of two generational talents on the line. Read more

Mark your calendars – the date has been set for the NHL’s most anticipated draft lottery in years

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announces the Buffalo Sabres as holders of the second pick in the 2014 entry draft. (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

For months now, hockey fans have slowly built their anticipation for one of the most highly-consequential NHL draft lotteries since the process was introduced in 1995. And now it appears the league has settled on a date people can circle on their calendars.

According to a Sportsnet.ca report, the league has decided to hold this year’s draft lottery Apr. 18, as part of a Hockey Night In Canada playoff broadcast. That leaves a little more than three weeks for fans of sad-sack teams to firm up viewing party plans and binge on lottery simulation websites – and when you look at some of the teams with a decent chance of drafting nascent superstars Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel (and the stakes involved if they fail to win the lottery), you’ve got near-perfect conditions to deliver what could very well be hockey’s most drama-packed off-ice night in history.

For one thing, the increasingly-improving chance the Maple Leafs have at McDavid is going to push TV ratings to record levels. Like them or not, the Leafs have millions of fans, and after their brutal free-fall through the NHL standings this season those fans are going to try every superstitious trick in the book in the hope it allows fortune to smile on their beloved Buds. If that does happen, the city of Toronto is going to instantly explode in the biggest hockey-related celebration since a Stanley Cup was won here in 1967.

And for as dramatic as that result would be for the Leafs franchise – it would almost certainly tempt team management to fast-track their rebuild – think of the ripple effect it would have on the rest of the league, and on Toronto rivals in particular: Read more

Want to stop tanking? Here’s how

Ken Campbell
Anders Lindback  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

It’s not hyperbole to suggest the next four days could provide a franchise-defining moment for the Buffalo Sabres and the Arizona Coyotes. It’s just kind of weird that a couple of games between the two worst teams in the league are accompanied by Super Bowl-type hype, and potentially toilet bowl results.

But there is so, so much on the line here. As we’ve said in this space a number of times this season, the reward for finishing 30th overall is not having a 20 percent chance of getting Connor McDavid in the draft. The motivation for finishing last is having a 100 percent chance of getting either McDavid or Jack Eichel. Read more

NCAA Frozen Four: Players to watch from every team in the tournament

Minnesota State goalie Stephon Williams (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

College hockey’s Frozen Four kicks off this week with 16 teams gunning for a spot in Boston, where the semifinal and final will be held in April. Regionals spread the squads across four cities and there is a lot of firepower at this year’s installment. But who are the players to watch for? Here’s a primer for every school, with an admitted bias towards NHL prospects.

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