Sabers mailbag: Buffalo brings back Goat’s head shirts, Thompson and Lokonen brand, and thoughts on playoff hopes

The Cyber It’s still a few weeks away from hitting the ice, but hockey news has held steady in western New York. Thompson’s crown She signed a seven-year, $50 million extension. Buffalo also booked goalkeeper Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen on an affordable two-year contract with an annual cap of $837,500. If that wasn’t enough, the team announced that it will bring back the goat-headed, red and black jerseys from the late 1990s and early 2000s as a third alternative jersey this season. Sabers will be wearing them for dozens of games this year, which should inject a lot of nostalgia into the arena.

All of that, plus the calendar shifting to September signals the approaching hockey season. So that we can feel warm, let’s empty the mail bag for the first time this season.

Thoughts on the Tage Thompson deal? – Jacob F.

It’s fair to admit that there are some risks involved with Tage Thompson’s contract. A seven-year deal with an annual cap of $7.1 million for a player with one season of premium production is an expectation. Understandably, cyber fans are scarred by the bad contracts that burned this team in the recent past. But I think signing Thompson now was an important step because if he continues on the path he set last season, his price could go up. With the potential for a salary cap increase and other contracts driving the market forward, a Thompson contract might look reasonable in a few years. It depends on him continuing to play the way he played last season. Thompson might take a step back, but he’ll probably be more productive. Mailbag reader Fletcher D. noted that 28 of Thompson’s 38 goals last season came in 50 games. Alex cloth game. Thompson may have just started.

The other element here is how Thompson fits into the bigger picture of what Don Granato and Kevin Adams are trying to build. Adams has often said he wants players who want to be in Buffalo. With no success on the ice over the past decade, Sabers is not yet the most attractive free agent or commercial destination for players looking for a new team. Winning is the best way to change that. In the meantime, retaining local talent is the best recipe for a return to competition. Thompson, despite being a little late, is now an example the coaching staff and front office can use for players to show they are willing to reward players who buy and produce. Players care about who they get paid, and by all accounts, Thompson is the exact type of player and person Granato and Adams are trying to build around.

Are there risks and expectations included in the contract? surely. Could they have waited to see how Thompson would play to start the season just to be safe? Can. But keep in mind that Thompson will be a restricted free agent outside of next season. We’ve seen that these situations end badly for teams that fail to commit to a player. Making sure Thompson didn’t get to that point made bequeathing a little risk worth it for the Sabers.

Other Owen PowerIf you had to pick one player to make the opening night roster from the 2021 or 2022 draft, who would it be? – Brian F.

Outside of Owen Power, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect any of the last two draft players to be on the opening night’s roster. It doesn’t align with the patient approach that Sabers has shown under Adams, but it also doesn’t look like a realistic timeline for any of the players from those classes. Even with the first four rounds out of Power, I’m not sure any of them will start in NHL. Isak Rosen needs a year in the AHL to get stronger. Matthew Savoy He might have the talent to compete for a spot, but he’s coming off an injury and the sword doesn’t need to be pushed into the lineup. Noah Ostlund He will most likely return to Sweden. plan for Jiri Kulich To play in Rochester, to be a black horse to make up the team. But there aren’t a lot of positions up front, so it’s hard to expect any of those players to be in the squad, especially on opening night.

What will the Saber actually require to make the playoffs this year? What should happen other than another team that needs to fall? – Timothy S.

Last season, every Eastern Conference playoff team finished the regular season with at least 100 points. In the West, 97 points was the lowest total among teams that qualified for the post-season. Sword finished with 75 points, so there’s plenty of ground to make up. The Saber played at an 88-point pace after breaking all-stars, so even carrying that pace might not be enough.

To start, the saber needs better luck to get injured. Early in the season, Buffalo was already tested by injuries and ended up in a hole that was difficult to climb from. The Cypresses will also need a few young players to make big strides in their development if they are to become an accessory team. That doesn’t mean they need multiple players to succumb to the Tage Thompson-esque glow. But what they got out of Owen Power, Dylan Cousins, Jack Quinn and other young players can determine if they can push for the post-season. They will also need players who have shown new life under Don Granato to continue this production. Rasmus DahlinAnd the Kyle OkposuAnd the Jeff Skinner Thompson was among those who looked like different players under Granato. This needs to keep up.

Of course, target orientation will also play a role. saber depend on Eric Comry The ability to handle a large portion of the beginnings. How well he handles that will determine how competitive this team can be on a nightly basis.

Looking at the Eastern Conference, Boston It might be the team that might take a step back. Given their injuries and age in key locations, the Bruins may be out looking inward. But Al Saif is not the only rising team in the conference. The east is harsh, and the Atlantic division is particularly strong at the summit. There are a lot of variables that must be properly broken down for a Buffalo buffalo to find a way to get in. But expectations for the Sabers should be closer to the 90-point range than the 75 they had a year ago.

Why didn’t he sign the UPL, and management lost faith in his chances of becoming an NHL goalkeeper? – John M.

What happened with the UPL? For years, he was the man everyone had been waiting for. And in a year’s time, we’re looking forward to Levi and (maybe) Portillo. Are they just better, or is the UPL not spreading? – Michael H

Between posting the call for mailbag questions and publishing this column, Sabers signed Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to a two-year deal with an average annual value of $837,500. This contract indicates that the Sabers still want Luukonen to prove himself. He’s at least got a head start in impressing management, while Devon Levy and Eric Portillo are still in college. Portillo is also not guaranteed to sign, so Luukkonen hasn’t lost his place in the organization.

I don’t think the management has completely lost faith in Lukonen. Injuries were an issue, but there was still a chance he could become an NHL goalkeeper. What the Cypress did was give themselves enough insurance to be patient with Lukonen. Eric Comery’s signature and back Craig Anderson Meaning Sabers doesn’t need to force Luukkonen into a bigger NHL role than he’s ready for. Maybe he takes first place in Rochester again and gets more time. Let’s not forget that the goalkeeper position requires a lot of patience. Lukonen is still young. Yes, he has a few potential talents behind him in the pipeline, but the same patience will be required with these guys. Luukkonen reached a critical point in his development. But there is still plenty of time for him to make use of his talent.

Kyle Okposo is a nice story, he’s had a really good year in the last year, seems to have the beat of the room, a good mentor to younger players, etc. He had only one year left on his deal. Is it wrong to give him the lead this year knowing he could be out the door? Would it make sense to have alternate leaders for another year before giving a C to a youngster? – Matthew N.

I don’t think giving Kyle Okposo the lead would be a problem. The worst case scenario is that he keeps it for a year while someone like Alex Tuch or Rasmus Dahlin gets another year before he inherits that responsibility. I don’t see the harm in that. The best case scenario is Okposo gets the lead, has another productive season and gets a short-term extension by a reasonable number. Then he could stay in that role for a few more years and keep the seat warm for Tuch, Dahlin, or another candidate like Dylan Cozens.

Matt, it’s great to bring you back to Buffalo Sports coverage; We are a lucky fan base. My question is about the consequences of the Cypress administration’s taking such a hard line with Eshel. They’ve been right under the CBA, sure, but it can’t be endearing to the organization for current or future employees. To what extent was handling Eichel’s situation a factor in signing/not signing draft picks (Portillo comes to mind), attracting free agents, etc.? Thank you! – Ken B.

Thanks for the kind words, Ken. I appreciate your support to our work. This is a fair question. I haven’t yet made enough across the league to say definitively one way or the other what impact the Sabers’ dealings with Jack Eichel have had on their league-wide reputation. It’s fair to wonder if that would make future free agents take a closer look, but it was also a unique situation. What I can say is my early impression speaking to a few agents is that Kevin Adams and Don Granato have a solid reputation in the league and the current players enjoy playing with them. Word about those things is spreading. While Eichel might say one thing about Sabers, Okposo and others sing a different tune.

In the end, winning decides a lot. Sabers is not the most attractive free proxy destination at the moment because it hasn’t gotten results on the ice. That’s not to say dealing with Eichel doesn’t invite some questions from players who consider Buffalo their next home. I just think that if the organization can start to turn things around on the ice, Eichel’s situation won’t be much of a hurdle in the way of talent acquisition. Adams and Granato still have to do to repair the franchise’s reputation, but it’s off to a solid start.

Now that RJ is retired, will Sabers do the right thing and split radio and TV broadcasts like most leagues do? Synchronization hurts both broadcasts (because it can’t be full for TV or radio) and I might miss it if I had to hear Rayzor read the onscreen graphics word for word again this year. – Bob F.

From what I’ve been told, the plan is for Sabers to continue on radio and TV with Dan Dunleavy taking over play-by-play full-time.

Do you know what Sabers think about Dylan Cousins? Bronman’s ratings make him very high but I haven’t seen him yet – Christian E.

Unless Granato is spewing smoke, which I doubt, he seems to be intrigued by the Dylan Cozens person and player. The Cozens made a trip to Buffalo to be at the Horizons camp in July so he could help the younger players in any way he could. Granato loves that drive and there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Cozens outside of his. He is indeed a strong defensive player and has shown signs of being a playmaker with his passing skills and transitional play. He needs to improve when it comes to finishing scoring chances, but Cozens is still young and could unlock that upside in his game. As it stands, its floor is raised.

What NHL cities/arenas are you most looking forward to traveling for this season? – John H.

Lots of squares and cities would be new to me. I’ve been to eight of the NHL’s arenas (Boston, Montreal, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, and Toronto) outside of Buffalo. This leaves more than half of the league to explore. I’ve never been to Western Canada, so those towns and squares would top the list. Madison Square Garden is the place that has always been on my list. I also hear that hockey games are a sight worth seeing in Vegas. A certain type of former Saber sparked those matches with golden knights.

Are there any updates on arena renovations? – Tom L.

I don’t have anything new to share here, but this is a story I plan to keep an eye on. My understanding is that Pegulas were getting the football field deal before considering arena upgrades, so we’ll see if there’s any movement.

(Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports)