Borgen & Mittelstadt signings = good news in a bad season. + @Leafs tonight
Officers at the Peace Bridge can rest a little easier today because the Buffalo Sabres announced the signings of college players Will Borgen and Casey Mittelstadt. Borgen a junior defenseman out of St. Cloud State was signed yesterday to an amateur tryout contract for Rochester and the Sabres signed him to his three-year entry deal that kicks in next season. Mittelstadt just finished his freshman season at the University of Minnesota and signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Sabres. He's expected to join the club this week, according to a tweet from TSN's Bob McKenzie.
The Sabres as a whole have been drafting and signing college players for a while most notably over the past couple years which includes the selection of Mittelstadt eighth-overall in the 2017 NHL Draft and the signings of two prominent college free agents-D, Casey Nelson (2016) and F, C.J. Smith (2017.) But fans in Buffalo were still anxious about Borgen and Mittelstadt as they'd seen a couple of college players walk away from the team.
Forward Jimmy Vesey wasn't a Buffalo draft pick, but former GM Tim Murray took a gamble and sent a third round pick to Nashville for the exclusive negotiating rights to Vesey. The Predators got their third round pick back and the Sabres ended up losing out on the deal when Vesey signed with the NY Rangers.
A bigger blow to the collective Sabreland psyche came when goalie Cal Petersen, a 2013 fifth round pick (129th overall,) played out his college career and signed with the LA Kings. Petersen, who looks like he could become a legitimate NHL starter, was a prospect whom the Sabres invested a draft pick in and development time on and in opting for the Kings, he sent a knife right through a fan-base where many were already dealing with an inferiority complex.
Fear of rejection permeated much of twitterland when it came to Mittelstadt and Borgen, but all those fears can be put to rest now that the two have put pen to Blue and Gold paper.
Borgen, who's probably ticketed for a year or so of development in Rochester next season will step into a situation where the Amerks are getting ready for the playoffs. It was a great signing for Rochester and the Sabres as well in that his entry-level deal won't kick in until next season.
As for Mittelstadt, he has the look of a player that could very well fit into the NHL right now, and he'll get his shot sometime through the final six games of the season, which will burn a year off his entry-level deal. He will not be eligible to play for the Amerks this season.
Somehow I feel that Sabres GM Jason Botterill won't lose sleep over that. It's been an atrocious season for the Sabres so it's nice to have both Borgen and Mittelstadt in the fold.
Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News was in Toronto yesterday while the Sabres had a day off and he tweeted this from Leafs coach Mike Babcock about the Sabres/Leafs game tonight, "there's not team they'd rather beat than us," said the coach.
Which is true, or at least it should be for every Sabres player. In a lost season there is very little to play for so going up against a rival should get the blood pumping. If it doesn't, there something seriously wrong.
This is the third meeting between Buffalo and Toronto this season. The Sabres won the first meeting on March 5 by a 5-3 score with goalie Chad Johnson in net then dropped the second one 10 days later, 5-2, with Robin Lehner in net. Both of those games were played in Buffalo.
The Leafs are one of the hottest teams in the league right now with only five regulation losses through February and March. They're on a club-record 13-game home winning streak and with 45 wins on the season, have tied the franchise record for most wins in a season.
Buffalo is coming off of a 5-1 blowout loss in NY against the Rangers on Saturday night, have lost four in a row and five of their last six.
According to reports from the rink, this looks to be the Sabres lineup tonight against Toronto:
Rookie goaltender Linus Ullmark looks to be getting the start for Buffalo.
Not to be forgotten in all the signings is 2012 seventh-round pick (204th) Judd Peterson, a teammate of Borgen's at St. Cloud State, who signed an ATO with Rochester and will be eligible for the playoffs. The 24 yr. old forward scored 65 points (37+28) in 151 college games.