Buffalo Sabres sign Andre Benoit, ease pressure on blueline kids

Ryan Kennedy
Andre-Benoit

In a few years, the Buffalo blueline will be run by players such as Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov, Jake McCabe and Mark Pysyk. The hope of course, is that the Sabres will be a playoff team by then, helped up front by names such as Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons and perhaps Connor McDavid. But in order to get that organic progression, the organization must ensure that those current youngsters don’t get squashed by pressure and expectations along the way.

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Who’s going to win the turtle race for 30th – and gain a franchise player?

Columbus Blue Jackets v Carolina Hurricanes

If Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin are the top three amigos for the 2015 NHL draft, the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames are their top three suitors.

Yesterday, my esteemed boss Jason Kay wrote a blog wondering if the Sabres killed their chances of winning the McDavid sweepstakes by filling out their roster with established veterans Matt Moulson, Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, Andrej Meszaros and Cody McCormick. No need to worry, the Sabres aren’t going anywhere other than 30th place.

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Did Buffalo kill its chances of winning the Connor McDavid sweepstakes? Does it matter?

Jason Kay
Buffalo Sabres v Toronto Maple Leafs

As you might imagine, there were some intense discussions around our office following a free agency feeding frenzy a few weeks ago that lived up to the hype. Our staffers were dissecting the moves that were and weren’t made, the winners and losers, when someone floated the Buffalo Sabres.

On July 1 they splurged, adding Josh Gorges (via trade), Brian Gionta, Matt Moulson, Andrej Meszaros and Cody McCormick. That’s nearly $19 million towards their cap this season dedicated to five new players.

But money wasn’t the issue. The Sabres had oodles of cap space. The concern was whether they had done too much and had critically wounded their chances of landing the first overall pick in 2015, most likely Connor McDavid.

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Prospect Watch: Finland’s Esa Lindell develops for Dallas

Ryan Kennedy
Esa-Lindell

North American audiences haven’t seen much of Esa Lindell and if you ask the Swedes, they would have preferred not to have seen him at all this year.

Lindell, an offensive defenseman, scored thirty seconds into the gold medal game at the world juniors in Malmo, staking underdog Finland to a lead in a hotly-contested match that they would never trail.

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Nylander and Toninato soar at Toronto Maple Leafs rookie camp

Ryan Kennedy
Dom-Toninato

Yes, it’s July and yes, it was only a scrimmage, but do you like hockey or don’t ya? The Toronto Maple Leafs, like many NHL franchises, held their rookie development camp this week and the festivities ended with a scrimmage. Far from orthodox, the game featured a 15-minute period of 4-on-4 with players changing every 45 seconds, followed by a similar format but 3-on-3 (there was also a “normal” 15-minute period to begin with).

One player who looked pretty sharp was center Dakota Joshua. A member of the United States League’s Sioux Falls Stampede, the Dearborn, Mich., native was great on the forecheck, dogging defensemen and keeping plays alive in the corners.

“That helps me out a lot in the USHL, to make plays and help put points on the board by winning puck battles and finding the open teammate,” Joshua said.

The growing pivot will have an expanded role on the Stampede next season, as the team is losing a bunch of veterans. After that, he’ll head to Ohio State.

“It was a perfect overall fit for me,” he said. “It’s in the Big 10, which I felt was one of the best conferences in college hockey and it’s close to home. I know I’m going up against the best talent in America every night.”

Here’s who else stood out to me on the day:

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