Vancouver Canucks

Owner Pegula: Sabres have gone through ‘two of the most successful seasons we’ve ever had’

45 Comments

Statistically speaking, the last two seasons have been among the worst in Buffalo’s history, but Sabres owner Terry Pegula sees great value in those painful years. In fact, he would list them as “two of the most successful seasons we’ve ever had,” per the Associated Press.

Obviously, those losing records allowed the Sabres to draft second overall in back-to-back years (having lost the draft lottery both times). They used those picks to select Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel, but general manager Tim Murray was also able to get plenty of other pieces for the rebuild over that span. He also acquired the likes of Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, and Robin Lehner in trades while moving other players like Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek to get future assets, including first round picks.

A couple rough seasons in the service of a long-term goal can make sense, but the success of the Sabres’ rebuilding effort will be measured by how they do going forward. They don’t have to look any further than the Edmonton Oilers to know how hard it can be to transition from a rebuilding phase to a competitive one. Having a generational talent like Eichel on the roster certainly helps, but he and the Sabres have a lot to prove.

Given that, we can’t call the last two seasons successful for Buffalo in terms of on-ice accomplishments, we’ll have to let history judge if the off-ice moves are as beneficial as Sabres fans hope.

Related: Gionta: Sabres’ offseason ‘excites guys in the locker room’

Report: Canucks, Sutter closing in on five-year deal, north of $20M

28 Comments

Jim Benning wasn’t kidding when he called Brandon Sutter a “foundation piece.”

Just days after acquiring Sutter from Pittsburgh in a multi-player trade, the Canucks GM is reportedly close to inking the 26-year-old to a fairly large extension, per Sportsnet:

If accurate, the extension — which would kick in for 2016-17 — will make Sutter one of just two players on the active roster signed until 2020, the other being defenseman Chris Tanev. The estimated cap hit would also make Sutter one of the highest-paid forwards on the team next season, behind the Sedins ($7M each) and Alex Burrows ($4.5M).

Sutter’s two-year, $6.6M deal expires at the end of this season.

Given the reported money and term, it’s pretty clear Benning sees Sutter as the fix to Vancouver’s second-line center problem. Nick Bonino, part of the package sent to Pittsburgh for Sutter, looked over his head at times last year as the No. 2, and the club isn’t keen on rushing promising prospect Bo Horvat into the role.

“Horvat, the last half the year, played really well for us,” Benning said on Tuesday. “We don’t want to put pressure on him to be somewhere in the lineup that he can’t handle it going forward. We want to make sure that he keeps developing as a player.”

Whether Sutter can fill the No. 2 role remains to be seen. He was largely a No. 3 guy throughout his time in Pittsburgh, though some of that had to do with being stuck behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the depth chart.

Canucks stay busy, ink Baertschi to one-year, one-way deal (Update: $900K)

3 Comments

Just hours after trading Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening to Pittsburgh for Brandon Sutter, the Canucks signed forward Sven Baertschi to a one-year, one-way deal.

UPDATE: Per Sportsnet, it’s worth $900,000 — up from the $894,166 cap hit he carried from his entry-level deal.

Baertschi, 22, was originally Calgary’s first-round pick (13th overall) at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, only to be flipped to Vancouver at last season’s trade deadline in a much-needed change of scenery. The skillfull Swiss winger struggled to find his niche with the Flames but showed well within the Canucks organization following the trade — he scored 15 points in 15 games for AHL Utica during the regular season, and another 15 in 21 games en route to the Calder Cup Final.

Baertschi also played in three regular-season games for the Canucks — scoring twice — and got called up for a pair of games in Vancouver’s opening-round playoff loss to Calgary.

The one-way deal suggests Baertschi should start next year in Vancouver.

For Pens, Tuesday’s moves were all about depth and finances up front

22 Comments

Following a busy day in which he flipped Brandon Sutter to Vancouver for Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening, then signed ex-Capital Eric Fehr, Pens GM Jim Rutherford explained how those moves met two of his biggest objectives.

“The two deals went hand-in-hand so we can add more depth,” Rutherford said. “We have enough good players now that guys are going to have to compete for those spots [in training camp] and compete for them all year.”

He then addressed the money issue.

“When you look at the structure of our salaries and our cap, it’s important to get those bottom-six cap hits in better shape,” Rutherford explained. “That’s what we were able to do with these two deals.”

It’s not surprising that depth and finances were two of Pittsburgh’s biggest offseason priorities. Money allotment has been an issue — Sutter, a pending UFA potentially in line for a raise, was making $3.3 million while playing what amounted to a third-line center role.

Combined, Bonino and Fehr are a $3.9M cap hit.

(Lest we forget that, in the Phil Kessel trade earlier this month, Rutherford dealt away another relatively expensive third-liner in Nick Spaling, who makes $2.2M annually.)

Earlier, veteran depth guys Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Daniel Winnik and Craig Adams were allowed to walk in free agency, giving likes of Beau Bennett ($800K), KHLer Sergei Plotnikov ($925K), Swedish prospect Oskar Sundqvist ($700K) and Czech Leaguer Dominik Simon ($692K) a chance to get into the rotation.

So that’s the financial side.

In terms of depth up front, Pittsburgh seems far better suited to deal with injuries — something that, you may remember, was a recurring issue in ’14-15. Kessel gives the club a bonafide scoring winger to play alongside either Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, while Fehr and Bonino, both natural centers, provide nice depth down the middle.

Fehr could even bounce outside if need be.

“Eric is definitely comfortable as a two-positional player,” Rutherford said. “He could possibly jump up into the top six, if that situation presented itself, but he’s coming off of a year where he played center.”

Pascal Dupuis is expected to return after playing just 16 games last year, and the club will get a full season of David Perron, acquired from Edmonton in January. Add it all up, and it’s easy to see why Rutherford is so pleased with Pittsburgh’s new-look forward group — it’s deeper, with a more sensible financial structure.

“If a guy falls off, there’s a guy waiting to jump right in there,” he explained. “I like the fact that we have enough guys that each guy can push each other.

“I like our depth at forward now.”

Benning calls Sutter a ‘foundation piece’ for Canucks

24 Comments

The Vancouver Canucks have big plans for Brandon Sutter.

“Acquiring Brandon Sutter, to me he’s a foundation piece for our group going forward,” GM Jim Benning said today after sending Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening to Pittsburgh in a trade.

“He can play a good two-way game. He brings us speed. He goes to the net hard. I thought in the playoffs for Pittsburgh last year, he was really good. He’s a playoff player. When the games mean something, that’s when he’s at his best.”

Benning hopes to work with Sutter’s agent over the next few days to get a contract extension hammered out. The 26-year-old center is a pending unrestricted free agent.

The addition of Sutter, who figures to slot in below Henrik Sedin as Vancouver’s second-line center, will also give 20-year-old Bo Horvat more time to develop.

“Bo Horvat, the last half the year, played really well for us,” said Benning. “We don’t want to put pressure on him to be somewhere in the lineup that he can’t handle it going forward. We want to make sure that he keeps developing as a player.

“Brandon’s a proven NHL player, match-up player. He’s played against the other teams’ top players and shut them down. And he can still bring offense to our team.”

Related: Hamhuis, Vrbata will not sign extensions this summer