The Buffalo Sabres have added yet another quality puck mover to their already impressive blue line. The Chicago Blackhawks are adding another skilled forward.
On Tuesday, Sabres GM Jason Botterill traded winger prospect Alex Nylander (8th overall, 2016) to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange right shot puck mover Henri Jokiharju (29th overall, 2017).
It's a good old fashion hockey trade. Nylander and Jokiharju are cost controlled and are on their entry-level contracts for two more seasons.
Botterill is all-in, and is fully committed to improving his blue line. Especially on the right side of the battalion.
In April 2018, the Sabres blue line was badly in need of an infusion of youth, skill, snarl and defensive dexterity.
The re-shaping of the Buffalo blue line began when Botterill drafted Rasmus Dahlin first overall in 2018. Dahlin is a future Norris Trophy winning defenseman. In 2018-19, as an 18 year old proved he is every bit a top pair NHL defenseman. Dahlin dominates at 5v5 and runs a power play unit. It didn't take long for Dahlin to establish himself as Buffalo's #1 blue liner.
At the 2019 NHL trade deadline, Botterill traded lefty defenseman Brendan Guhle to Anaheim in exchange for right shot puck mover Brandon Montour.
Two weeks ago, Colin Miller, Botterill BUF traded a second round pick in 2021 and fifth round pick in 2022 to Las Vegas for right shot defenceman Colin Miller.
On Tuesday, Jokiharju joined the Buffalo right side party.
Jokiharju made two appearances in international tournaments for Finland in 2018-19, winning a gold medal at both the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship and the 2019 IIHF World Championship. He scored 2G,3A and +6 rating in seven games both ranked third among World Juniors defensemen. He also played for Team Finland at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and won a gold medal with Finland at the 2016 IIHF World U18 Championship.
“Henri is a young, mobile defenseman who has shown he can compete at the NHL level,” Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill said. “His international success last season only furthered his development and we are excited to add him to our current group of defensemen.”
Ralph Krueger now has seven right handed defensemen. Six of the defenders are healthy. Zach Bogosian, 28, will miss some of his summer workouts at Da Beauty League (summer shinny in Minny), training camp and the first couple months of the regular season. Bogosian underwent a successful hip surgery in April. The timetable for a full recover is six months and perhaps longer.
The left side of the Buffalo D corps features Dahlin, Jake McCabe, Lawrence Pilut, Marco Scandella, and Matt Hunwick.
Only the dazzling Dahlin and Dallas Stars stud Miro Heiskanen (82 games each) played more NHL games last season as a teenager puck mover than Henri Jokiharju played (38). In fact, no other teenaged D-man played more than 7 games.
Per my friends @SabresStats Jokiharju had a 54.3% Corsi, a +5.4% Corsi Relative and averaged 18:59 of ice time per game.
Needless to say, Hawks fans are not digging this trade.
It’s just a matter of time until right shot veteran defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen is traded away for a secondd line center.
Ristolainen seemingly is trade bait now for Botterill to trade to acquire a legitimate second line centerman.
Ristolainen, 24, has played 424 NHL games.None in the playoffs. Risto has scored 36 goals and 158 assists. Ristolainen is cost-controlled at $5.4M AAV for the next theee seasons.
Botterill is now in a position of strength. He can trade Ristolainen away without trepidation knowing that he has the right side of his D corps locked and loaded with the battery of Dahlin-Montour-Miller.
Go ahead, Botterill. Take a healthy run at a quality top six forward in Taylor Hall, Sean Couturier, Clayton Keller, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tyson Jost, or Vincent Trocheck.
In 2018-19, Jokiharju played 38 games for the Chicago Blackhawks last season. He chipped in 12 points and owned strong possession numbers while averaging nearly 19:00 TOI per game
Former Sabres GM Tim Murray selected Nylander eighth overall in 2016. The slick Swede captivated NHL scouts with his impressive bundle of size, speed and skill. Nylander played just 19 games for the Sabres over the last three seasons, and 86 points in 165 games with the Rochester Amerks.
I am not ready to call Nylander a bust. What I will call him is a victim of circumstances.
He’s young. He was rushed to the AHL when he could have benefited from another season or two more in junior hockey. He was loaned to his Mississauga junior team from his Swedish club team which meant he could advance to the AHL as a teenager. Hindsight being 20/20, maybe the Sabres should have handled Nylander’s development at a more conservative, slower pace.
Nylander skated for Tre Kronor at three World Junior Hockey Championships , scoring 28 points in 21 tourney games. “Snipeshow” won the Canadian Hockey League Rookie of the Year award when he played for the Mississauga Steelheads (87 points in 63 games). His puck possession skills are excellent and he can create offense both for his linemates.
Perhaps the change of latitude and longitude will Nylander good.
Trade Advantage: Sabres
Bottle Cap Challenge Advantage: Blackhawks