So, I’m zipping along. However, I’ve noticed something that I never paid attention to while I was just playing the sim, instead of creating a story around it. The thing is, the game often schedules exhibition games while teams are supposed to be in the middle of training camp. I didn’t really think about it; I knew roughly when camp was going to start and I put in a request for a few overseas games: my guys vs. the champs of the Elitserien in Sweden, for example, or the KHL (which is called the Russian Elite League in the game). But I’ve realized that when it gets on to the end of August and through September, none of the dates are going to make a lick of sense. This is going to be a challenge.
In the meantime, I still have to work on getting some screen shots of the various key players, or maybe upload some google docs summarizing the roster. Might as well act like the documentarist I’m pretending to be!
JULY 3, 2021
The eventual result of Mike Beginner’s draft-day discussions with Buffalo is revealed by a simple press release:
The Buffalo Sabres announce that they have acquired C Ryan Getzlaf from the Florida Panthers in exchange for D Axel Mattsson and two prospects.
The release goes into some details on Getzlaf’s career and ability, and a statement that he is looking forward to the challenge of returning Buffalo to the playoffs and working with their talented young players. In Mario Brendl, the 35th choice of the 2018 draft, the Sabres have a fine one indeed to skate with Getzlaf; the emergence of Markus Voigt on the other wing can only help. It slides Patrice Cormier down to form the pivot of a substantial second line. And from Florida’s point of view, it means that for good or ill, their own top line is in the hands of whomever of the homegrown prospects performs best.
Or… whomever comes back in exchange for some defensive prospects. The Panthers now have about two teams’ worth of blueliners. Bouwmeester, Laine, and Ludvík are your clear top three; Svoboda and Mattsson are your probable 4th and 5th men, and the veteran Denis Kulyash holds the sixth spot. Youngsters Nosov, Anderle, and Nadeau will compete for the seventh, and the two runners-up will be the primary call-ups.
Or maybe Gary Flynn. Or Kaj Bergkvist. Or even Ari Gasparini, if he really impresses in his first camp. So that’s twelve. And on the horizon are Little, Bengtsson, Åberg, McConnell, and newcomer Art Hunter. (One can only imagine what McConnell’s mother is thinking.)
It’s a test of Beginner’s seeming insistence on going younger and putting developing players into major roles. The media began immediate speculation that this was the opening salvo in a retooling to get the Panthers’ vets the proverbial “one last shot” while they’re in their primes. It was hard to fault the thinking – that seems to be the pattern Beginner often follows. Last year he was not above adding offense on the wing in the form of Patrick Sjölund. Even this offseason he gave Kulyash, aged 38, a one-year deal. Still, the signs have been brewing for a long while: people have gotten to the point of taking Cerny, Cyr, and Kozack for granted, but very recently the team has thrust its own kids into key spots. Laine and Ludvík have been vital players for years now, and Artyem Filatov and Nicolas Filiatrault have each made themselves useful. In fact, Sjölund only came along because Filiatrault has thus far proved to be a more-reliable on defense and counterattack than on the power play… and this is the last season under contract for both.
In fact, the trade signals very clearly that Beginner thinks of the three years’ contract he gave Getzlaf in 2020 as a blunder. He’s now freed up four million dollars for whomever earns it. The candidates are Cyr and Kozack, both unrestricted free agents after the 2021-22 season; newcomer Söderqvist; and RFA wingers Sjölund, Filiatrault, and Kyle Byrne.
The defensive corps will see some of this competition as well. Bouwmeester’s deal expires in June 2023, and he will turn 40 before play begins in October. That’s a little more than six million. Kulyash will almost certainly not return, and that’s nearly two million more. Ludvík and Laine, paired off so often in the public mind, will by then be paired on the ice as well – and both will be free agents, along with Roman Svoboda. Nosov and Flynn are almost certain to be extended. So acquiring Mattsson, soon to be 27, starts a derby between him, Anderle, and the first of the next wave to merit consideration. And the odd man out can be cut free without regret, because of the depth of the prospect pool behind them.