Buffalo Sabres Have A Tough Decision To Make Over Zach Bogosian

Mar 16, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian (47) during the game against the Montreal Canadiens at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian (47) during the game against the Montreal Canadiens at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports /

The rumor mill is churning over the future of the Buffalo Sabres’ second-unit RHD.

While everyone has been busy talking about the NHL’s decision to expand into Sin City, Buffalo Sabres have been wondering how the expansion will affect their beloved team.

We’ll discuss the expansion, and the draft that comes along with, in depth a bit later, but as the Sabres prepare for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and the free agency frenzy of the summer of 2016, fans should be expecting to hear Zach Bogosian’s name tossed around the rumor mill.

Like, a lot.

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I already discussed the possibility of Bogosian being included in a trade that brings Colorado Avalanche RHD Tyson Barrie into the 716, but that was just a case of throwing spitballs at the ceiling to see what sticks.  At the point I wrote that piece, I didn’t see a pressing need for the Sabres to move Bogosian.

The upcoming expansion draft has changed all of that, however, and here’s why.

Bogosian has a no-move clause (NMC) in his current contract, which will kick in at the end of the 2016-17 season.  Obviously, his NMC will make him very difficult to move, but that is not the biggest problem the Sabres face when it comes to Bogosian.

As per CBS Sports, according to the NHL “teams must protect players that have no-movement clauses that are active in the 2017-18 season.”  Translated, no matter whether the Sabres want to include Bogosian in their list of protected players, they will HAVE to include him in their protected list of players heading into the expansion draft.  If you remember, each team will have the option of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, or eight skaters and one goaltender, heading into the expansion draft.

I’m sure you folks are savvy enough to see how this could adversely affect the Sabres.  If Buffalo must protect Bogosian due to his NMC, that could expose one of Buffalo’s younger players who has not earned the right to put an NMC in his contract.  It also guarantees that Buffalo will not go the way of protecting eight skaters and a goaltender, as Buffalo will want to protect as many forwards as possible, and the pick-8 option will only allow them to protect six forwards at best, once they protect Bogosian and Rasmus Ristolainen.

Suddenly, the Buffalo Sabres have gone from having two top-4 RHD to being forced to ask some tough questions about Bogosian.  If they feel like he is a piece that can help this team succeed in the playoffs, then the expansion draft changes nothing: they were already planning on protecting him, so what’s the big deal?

However, having just watched a Stanley Cup Final in which the winner was decided by speed, not physical play, you have to wonder if GM Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma see Bogosian as the sort of player who can help this team lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.  Younger, faster, more offensive-minded defensemen such as Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen out in Anaheim, Aaron Ekblad down in Florida, and yes, Tyson Barrie, seem to be the sort of players Buffalo should want to fill out their top-4 at the blueline.

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Fowler and Ekblad may not be up for grabs, but both Vatanen and Barrie would be an upgrade over Bogosian, and both of these young players are on the trading block simply because their teams do not feel as if they can afford their talents.   Meanwhile, Bogo has never scored more than 10 goals in a season, and has never gone over 30 points.  He’s not a bad player, by any means, but is he good enough to protect a year from now?

And it doesn’t have to be a defenseman that the Buffalo Sabres trade Bogosian for – Taylor Hall’s name is being mentioned a whole lot more now that Edmonton appears to realize that he is their best bargaining chip – and don’t forget my crazy scheme that would allow the Sabres to move up in the draft to pick someone like Jesse Puljujarvi.  Remember: any player who has been a pro less than two seasons is exempt from the expansion draft, so if the Sabres were to move up in order to acquire a forward with top-6 potential, they would not have to worry about protecting that kid come 2017.

I went on the record as saying that I believe GMTM should go hard at the Columbus Blue Jackets for the third spot in the draft, and if that fails, he should immediately turn to the Oilers and start working on moving up to fourth.  Matthew Tkachuk, Jakob Chychrun, Olli Juolevi, Alexander Nylander – these are all players that will not need to be protected in an expansion draft and could become core pices of a championship team.

If the Buffalo Sabres feel like Zach Bogosian is worth holding onto for a long time, his NMC and the NHL’s decision to expand changes nothing.  However, if GMTM was ever considering using Bogosian as part of a trade, one that either brings a higher draft pick to the team or one that replaces Bogo with a more offensive-minded blueliner, the time to move him is now.  Waiting until the trade deadline next season will not yield as much in return as the Sabres can get now that teams are assembling what they hope are playoff-worthy rosters, so don’t be surprised to hear Bogosian’s name an awful lot in the next eight days.