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Hamilton Take2: Sabres expansion, protection strategy

WGRZ/WGR550 Sabres insider Paul Hamilton shares his thoughts on who Buffalo should protect leading into next week's NHL expansion draft.
Credit: AP
Buffalo Sabres' Rasmus Ristolainen in action during an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Sabres must have their expansion list into the NHL by 5 p.m. on Saturday. I think they’ll use the format that protects seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie.

Since Jeff Skinner waived his no-movement clause for this draft, he doesn’t have to be protected. I think most of us can agree that the seven forwards that will be protected are, Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Casey Mittelstadt, Victor Olofsson, Tage Thompson, Rasmus Asplund and Anders Bjork.

I’m sure some of you would make a case for Zemgus Girgensons, but he missed all of last season with hamstring surgery and is grossly overpaid.

If Seattle wants a forward, I know they’ve shown some interest in Kyle Okposo. Girgensons could also be the guy.

On defense we know Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju will be protected, but I don’t see why there’s all this hand wringing about Rasmus Ristolainen. If Will Borgen is not protected in my mind he’s gone and that would be a huge mistake.

Kevyn Adams is overvaluing Ristolainen and teams aren’t biting. The Sabres GM wants a young defenseman and a high pick. I never say never, but I would nominate Adams for GM of the year if he pulled that off.

TSN Insider Darren Dreger said on The Instigators on Friday that talks for Ristolainen are ramping up and he thinks the defenseman could be the first Sabre traded.

Ristolainen has one more year on his contract and he becomes an unrestricted free agent. I just don’t think it’s worth losing Borgen to preserve whatever trade value you think No. 55 has. If the value is there, make the trade before Saturday’s 3 p.m. NHL trade freeze begins. That stays into effect until July 22 at 1 p.m. During that time the only team you can trade with is the Seattle Kraken.

Seattle general manager Ron Francis is asking a big price from teams to stay away from certain players. I don’t know if it would be worth the price to keep them away from Ristolainen. When the Vegas Golden Knights came into the league, Buffalo traded a sixth-round pick to keep them from taking Linus Ullmark. They selected Will Carrier instead.