Evan Rodrigues re-signed a two-year deal (first year two-way, second year one-way) with the Buffalo Sabres on July 27, 2017. Rodrigues had himself quite a memorable month of July. He signed his new contract with the Sabres, got married and celebrated his 23rd birthday all in the same week in July.
The speedy center may be headed to Buffalo in the very near future. Rodrigues missed the first 14 games of the season with an injury. He’s now healthy and producing the two things that the Buffalo Sabres need more of: scoring and blinding speed.
In 5 games played, the undrafted free agent from Boston University has 4 goals and 2 assists. He has taken 14 shots on goal.
Like his former BU Terriers linemate Jack Eichel, Rodrigues skates like the Lake Erie wind and creates plays for his line mates at a consistently high rate of speed. "ERod", 23, split time last season between the Sabres and Rochester Americans. While with the Sabres, Rodrigues scored six points (4G, 2A) in 30 games. With the Amerks, Rodrigues scored nine goals and added 21 assists (30 points) in 48 games played.
On Sunday, Jason Botterill waived center-winger Seth Griffith, who has scored just 2 goals and a 1 assist in his 18 games played in Buffalo this season. Griffith, a prolific AHL scorer, possesses NHL speed but cannot finish and create chances with needed consistency. If left unclaimed, Griffith will add immediate offense to the Rochester Amerks. This is the third time in 2017 Griffith has been waived. Griffith split time between the Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Toronto Marlies last season.
In the event that Botterill is demoting Griffith in an attempt to elevate Rodrigues, Phil Housley will have to make a decision on his center ice men.
Jack Eichel will continue to anchor the 1C and Ryan O’Reilly will remain the 2C.
However, there will be a shift in the bottom six group.
First year Sabres pivot Jacob Josefson played the first six games of the season but missed 15 games due to injury. Jacobsen returned to the 3C on Wednesday night. Housley’s new-look third line is suddenly a formidable two-way trio that has scored eight points in the last three games. Josefson has gathered a goal and an assist in his last three games playing alongside Jordan Nolan and Kyle Okposo. Nolan has 2 goals and an assist and Okposo has scored a goal and two assists in the past three games.
With Josefson healthy and producing points, he will remain the pivot on the third line.
Josefson played only 5:28 TOI in Montreal on Saturday night. Is he injured again? We will know more on Monday.
Assuming Josefson is healthy, Johan Larsson has now been relegated to fourth line center. Larsson has been playing between Zemgus Girgensons and Seth Griffith/Kyle Criscuolo
In 24 games played this season, Larsson has scored 1 and 3 assists. Larsson is -12. Larsson’s visible lack of foot speed is a concern. He’s a solid penalty killer but struggles at five on five.
What happens when/if Larsson Rodrigues is recalled to Buffalo?
Were I Housley, I would run Girgensons-Rodrigues-Larsson as a hybrid scoring-defensive trio.
Larsson’s lack of foot speed and pace often times prevents his line mates from making playoffs entries through the neutral zone.
By kicking out Larsson to the wing to play third man high, Girgensons and Rodrigues can use their speed to make plays for one another.
If Josefson is injured and cannot play Tuesday night versus Tampa, I’d recall Rodrigues and play him in Josefson’s place between Nolan and Okposo.
In a healthy world, Eichel-O’Reilly-Josefson-Rodrigues makes a lot of sense to me. Adding Josefson dramatically improves the speed-skill quotient in the bottom six.
Conspicuous by his absence from the Buffalo center ice discussion is Samson Reinhart.
The second overall pick in 2014 NHL Draft, hasn’t played center in weeks and has been branded a right winger in Housley’s offense. Reinhart presently finds himself on the second line with Ryan O’Reilly and Ben Pouliot. Reinhart has played on lines one through three and is looking for a place to happen. Try as he might, the former Kootenay Ice sniping center man cannot earn himself a full-time ride as a middle man in Housley’s offense.
Reinhart is a pending RFA and will be due a new contract on July 1, 2018.
Reinhart, 22, has scored 5 goals and 5 assists in 24 games played which puts him on pace for the lowest point total of his three-year career. Reinhart scored his 100th career point in the 5-4 loss to Minnesota on Thanksgiving eve. In 191 career games with the Sabres, Reinhart has scored 45 goals and 55 assists. He is the fifth member of the 2015 Draft class to reach the 100-point club. Sabres GM Jason Botterill will soon have to make a critical decision on whether or not Reinhart is part of the long-term plan for the Sabres.
Trading Reinhart now to a contending team would fetch Botterill a legit first pair D-man.
Anaheim, Columbus, Vancouver, Pittsburgh and Calgary have been scouting the Sabres and the NHL in search of a center.
Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler have been sidelined with long term injuries. For the past three weeks, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle has been forced to skate career fourth liner Derek Grant at number one center. Veteran journeymen Chris Wagner and Antoine Vermette have also been asked to step up their respective games and play center. The troika of Grant-Wagner-Vermette haven't exactly lit the West on fire with by scoring 10 goals and 17 assists. Further complicating the matter in Anaheim is that Rickard Rakell, Patrick Eaves, and Ondrej Kase are also injured. Carlyle's team can't continue to doggy paddle while five of his top eight forwards are in the infirmary on a long term basis.
In Columbus, the three-headed center lineup features Brandon Dubinsky, Alex Wennberg and Boone Jenner. On paper, this looks like a power cluster of centers. It is. Only on the defensive side of the puck. Dubinsky-Wennberg-Jenner have only scored 6 goals and 20 assists through 23 games played. Second year center Pierre Luc-Dubois (1st round 2016) has chipped in 3 goals and 2 assists. And now you know why the Blue Jackets were so enamored with center Matt Duchene.
Vancouver has gotten full vallue from top line center Bo Horvat, who has 9 goals and 8 assists after 24 games played. However, offensive production from the center position falls off the cliff after Horvat. Jim Benning is tasked with having to find the evntaul replacements for teh Sedins. Hank Sedin has just 2 goals and 10 assists while veteran journeyman Sam Gagner has just 3 goals and 6 assists. Brandon Sutter has 2 goals and 4 assists.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are rock solid on their top two lines at center ice. Future Hall of Famers Sidney Crosby (9G,13A) and Geno Malkin (7G,14A) are doing their jobs. What about the third ine center position? Last month, Jim Rutherford made a trade for Detroit's Riley Shehan and it hasn't worked out yet. In 16 games with the Penguins, Sheahan has scored just one goal and five assists. In an efford to find more scoring at the center position, Mike Sullivan was forced to move Jake Guentzel, a natural center, away from Sidney Crosby's wing to kick start scoring on the third line. I'm sure Crosby isn't thrilled with the idea of losing Guentzel from his line. The Penguins are 12-10-3 and find themselves in 9th place in the Eastern standings. Their minus-17 (69 goals scored, 86 goals against) goal differential is a huge concern to Sullivan and Rutherford.
Edmonton and Arizona are also in desperate need of an upgrade at top six center.
On Sunday, the Oilers moved Leon Draisaitl to third line center. He had been playing top six forward this season. You'll recall last season when Draisaitl and Connor McDavid stoked the fire that fuel the Oilers' offense all the way to the second round of teh Western Conference playoffs. Right now, the 28th place Oilers are struggling mightily to score goals. Todd McLellan now is using a three-headed center attack featuring Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisitl. I can guarantee you that if/when McDavid struggles to score and create goals playing with human glaciers dressed as veteran forwards Milan Lucic and Mike Cammalleri, cLellan will move Draisaitl back to McDavid's wing. When that happens, who will play take over center duties in place of Draisaitl and RNH?
The Arizona Coyotes are looking to add experience and scoring to their center ranks that features rookie Clayton Keller and veteran Derek Stepan.
On Friday night, Botterill told MSG that he is looking for players who will improve his 30th place team.
“We’re always having dialogue, whether it’s my assistant general managers or with Phil [Housley, head coach] about what does the team need. I think you look around the league with the parity, there’s not a lot of trades just yet. Teams don’t know ’Are we going to be sellers or buyers?’ They don’t know that situation yet.”
Botterill is answering phone calls with regularity from NHL general managers who want to trade for Reinhart and power forward extraordinaire Evander Kane. Why trade Reinhart? Because there are teams that want to play him as a first or second line center, his natural position. The Sabres have Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly as their top two centermen, which means Reinhart will not be playing top six center for Phil Houlsey.
Reinhart will be looking for a long-term contract extension when his entry level deal expires. My gut tells me the Sabres will be offering him a two-year “show me” bridge contract like the two-year, $3.9 million bridge deal Calgary gave to center-winger Sam Bennett in September. Bennett was the fourth overall pick at the 2014 NHL Draft, two positions behind Reinhart. Bennett, a natural center like Reinhart, is being played as a third and fourth line winger this season. Bennett would rather play center. The Flames would rather Bennett stay at wing. As a result, Bennett and Reinhart may be secretly seeking address changes.
From a salary cap standpoint, there is no way the Sabres will be able to keep Reinhart and Kane for multiple years. Kane is earning $6 million and is a $5.25M AAV this season. If/when he scores 30+ goals this season, Kane, 26, will be looking for a $7M AAV in his next contract. Staying long term in Buffalo will allow Kane the eighth year on a long-term deal. If he is traded, the max years he can achieve on a long-term deal is seven years. Will Kane want to stay in Buffalo for the long haul? Yes. Kane-Eichel has become a prolific scoring combo in the NHL the past two season.
The more Evander Kane continues to produce, the more reasons Botterill and Houlsey will have to want to re-sign him to stay in Buffalo long term.
After recording 11 points in 11 games during October for his first point-per-game month since January 2014, Kane has 11 points through 11 games in November.
Kane is healthy and has scored 12 goals in his first 24 games played this season, tying him for sixth in the NHL.
Of his 12 goals, eight have come at even strength, three were shorthanded goals, and one is a power play goal. Kane’s eight even-strength goals tie him for 11th in the NHL.
Since December 3, 2016-17 season, Kane has scored 40 goals in 94 games. Those 40 goals tie Kane for 21st in the NHL during that span. His 33 even-strength goals in the past 50 weeks tie him for seventh in the NHL.
Trading Reinhart now for a difference-making defenseman is a distinct possibility.
When Connor McDavid left Buffalo after a loss on Friday night, he was not in a great mood.
The sullen, crestfallen Oilers captain was at a loss for words to describe his team's recent spate of bad luck. Before the 2017-18 season began, Many experts had penciled in McDavid and the Oil for a Stanley Cup Finals appareance.
On Friday night, the Oilers left Buffalo in 30th place and in desperate need for a solution to their terrible play this season.
MCadvid and his boys spent the off day and night in Boston.
According to McDavid's older brother, #97 headed to an outdoor muni rink in search for a little bit of piece of mind and stress management.
Problem being, McDavid forget his custom-built blades in his equipment bag whicj was at the barn. What to do? Rather than wear his designer leather boots, plunked down his platinum Ammex charge plate and RENTED some butter knives! Are you freakin' kidding me?! The second best player in the world has to rent skates to take a few rips around the rink in Bahstun? Unreal. You mean to tell me McDavid couldn't thumb a text to his CCM rep to arrange for a local skate retailer to set him up with some skates? McDavid has a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with CCM to pimp their gear. Buffalo Sabres superstar Jack Eichel has a similar deal to promote Bauer gear. Hell, McDavid should have texted Eichel, a Boston native, to see if Jack's old man could go down to the basement to scrounged up some wheels for the McDavid bros to use for the night. For a nominal fee of course.
Pix or it didn't happen, right? Cam McDavid shared the hilarity of the moment on his Instagram account.
“Highlight of the weekend was when the skate lady corrected Connor about his skate size, explaining that his skate size should be one less than his shoe size.”
Gotta love the yellow wax laces in McJesus' skates. Ovechkin will be proud.
Oh, by the way, McDavid and the Oilers busted out of a nasty depression by beating the Bruins 4-2 on Sunday night. McDavid had two assists in the win over the Bruins after being held pointless by the Sabres on Friday night.
Keep your eyes peeled. You never know when McDavid will show up at your local muni rink looking to take a few twirls. Be sure to carry an extra pair of size 11 skates in the trunk of your car. You never know.