Few have criticized the Sabres’ side of the recent Henri Jokiharju–Alexander Nylander trade, but it’s a fact that Buffalo is overflowing with defenders after acquiring the young right-hander from the Chicago Blackhawks. As Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News’ points out, the Sabres still have needs to fill up front and they could use their defensive depth to do so. Lysowski writes that Buffalo has ample cap space to make an addition at forward, but there are few ideal candidates left on the free agent market and the team may as well use their surplus of blue liners to swing a deal. Jokiharju is safe, as are fellow recent additions Brandon Montour and Colin Miller and 2017 No. 1 pick Rasmus Dahlin. RFA Jake McCabe is not likely to be dealt, but a potential candidate and injury-prone Zach Bogosian and overpaid veteran Matt Hunwick might be hard to move. That would seemingly leave Rasmus Ristolainen, a fixture on the rumor mill, Marco Scandella, and Casey Nelson as the most likely names to be dealt and it would not be a surprise if more than one ends up elsewhere. The Sabres are certainly not done making moves this summer.
- Of course, this makes Buffalo just one of a surprising number of teams not biting on Jake Gardiner this summer. PHR’s top-ranked UFA defenseman, Gardiner remains unsigned more than a week after the market opened. NBC Sports’ Scott Billeck reports that Gardiner is seeking $7MM annually in his next year, which is likely pricing himself out of the range that many D-needy teams are looking for. It’s hard to argue that Gardiner was not the best available defenseman when free agency opened, but he’s also not a top-pair defenseman by most metrics and teams aren’t willing to shell out right now simply due to a weak market. Billeck names the Winnipeg Jets as a team that could use Gardiner, but can’t afford him at his current asking price. The Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, and his own Toronto Maple Leafs also fit that description. Billeck feels the New Jersey Devils could be the leading candidate to land Gardiner right now, but there really aren’t many clear fits for the defender at this time unless he changes his expectations.
- Despite flirting with a jump to the NHL for several years, Vladimir Tkachyov has decided to re-sign in the KHL once again. SKA St. Petersburg has announced an extension with the young scorer. Tkachyov, 23, has been a solid offensive contributor for the past several years but the best may still be yet to come. The winger was acquired by SKA last month from Salavat Yulaev Ufa for the rights to Nikita Soshnikov, who has since signed in Ufa, and Tkachyov could be set for some career-highs with the perennial contenders in St. Petersburg. It is a two-year contract with SKA, so Tkachyov has a couple more years to further prove he is a formidable forward, and could very well drawn NHL attention once again in 2021.