The Buffalo Sabres knew they were going to lose an unprotected player to the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft Wednesday. They just weren’t quite sure who. That question was answered as Vegas plucked 22-year old forward William Carrier from the unprotected list. To ensure Buffalo didn’t lose goaltender Linus Ullmark, GM Jason Botterill traded a sixth-round pick for the Golden Knights to not select Ullmark.
Carrier was originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 2013 and came to Buffalo as part of the Ryan Miller trade. He played in 41 games with Buffalo as a rookie last season and showed glimpses of becoming a breakout player, but only managed five goals and eight points while playing anywhere from the top to the fourth line.
MY TAKE: I like Carrier and losing him to Vegas wasn’t ideal, but Botterill unequivocally did the right thing by dispensing a pick to ensure Ullmark was left alone. Carrier had the potential to be an attractive part of the Sabres going forward, but Ullmark is more solidly in their future plans right now. He’s likely to back up Robin Lehner in Buffalo this season plus the teams’ goaltending depth at the moment is—- not good.
Meanwhile, unless Buffalo deals away a couple of veteran forwards in the coming days, Carrier may’ve had a tough time cracking anything more than the third line.
The feeling here, which worked out for Buffalo is that Vegas didn’t value Ullmark in their organization as much as the Sabres did. Had they, I imagine it would’ve taken more than a sixth-rounder to leave him alone. I was expecting Buffalo to have to surrender a third-rounder as the price for keeping Ullmark.
In a fantasy world Vegas would’ve grabbed Zach Bogosian or Matt Moulson off Buffalo’s hands. The reality is doing so would’ve cost Botterrill a small ransom to entice Vegas to take one of those contracts and clear Buffalo cap space. The Islanders traded a first this year and second next year to get Vegas to Jake Bischoff instead of an unprotected player they desperately didn’t want to lose. How shit must you feel if you’re Jake Bischoff right now—knowing a team gave up high draft picks so they can make sure it was you they got rid of? Damn, that’s cold.
I like what Botts did by not overpaying to lose Bogo, Moulson or Josh Gorges instead of Carrier. A first or second round pick wasn’t worth the extra cap space to me, not when there’s buyout options coming soon. While they’re no longer as deep as a few years ago the Sabres still have pretty good young depth at forward.
Carrier is more easily replaceable than Ullmark, at least right now. I think Botts protected Tyler Ennis over Carrier—with the thinking Carrier was attractive enough to keep the cost for not touching Ullmark less. No one else interested Vegas and the price of poker for Ullmark would’ve been higher if not offering Carrier. That’s what it comes down to.