It’s no secret that Jack Eichel was upset after his teams dismal 2016-2017 season. The second overall selection in 2015 let that be known when there were leaks that he wouldn’t sign a contract with Dan Bylsma as the head coach. Subsequently Bylsma and and General Manager Tim Murray were released, with eyes towards the off-season there are many choices for GM and Head Coach.
There’s an adage that says you “build from the net out and then down the center” and there is no doubt Eichel is a future superstar in the National Hockey League but are the Sabres set in net? The 25 year old Robin Lehner is a restricted free agent this summer and Anders Nilsson is a 27 unrestricted free agent. Lehner had a good year with 59 games played, 23 wins, 2.68 goals against average and a .920 save percentage, while these numbers look good it is the most games he has started in single year at the NHL level. To those numbers Buffalo was 19th in save percentage but ended the season with the fifth worst record.
With the expansion draft looming Buffalo will need to do something in net (see our expansion piece for full rules) to expose 1 goalie. And here is where I think Buffalo needs to make a splash and keep their young superstar happy. There is a goalie sitting in the market who for the right price turned a flailing Tampa Bay Lightning team into a perennial contender and that’s of course former Vezina Candidate Ben Bishop. Bishop is coming off of a two-year deal, worth 11.9 million and an annual cap hit of 5.95 million per year.
Bishop, 31, has battled injuries (particularly in the post season) and didn’t play to his normal level last season, that could of been knowing that the inevitable trade was coming or that Andrei Vasilevskiy was slowly starting to eat into his starts. That being said he has won 35+ games for three straight seasons prior to last year.
The Sabres need a general manager and coach but there is something to be said for a big goalie and one who can hide holes and cover up mistakes for young forwards and defense men. There will be a hot market for Ben Bishop this summer especially with the expansion draft coming up and teams potentially losing one of their top net minders. If the new Buffalo regime is serious about making a push for the playoffs and maybe sneaking into the top 3 of the division or a wild card spot next year they should pursue Ben Bishop.