3. Can Hutton & Ullmark get it done?
There is no doubt that the biggest area of concern on this Buffalo Sabres roster is goaltending, and it will continue to draw worrying glances throughout the 2020-21 season.
Sabres GM Kevyn Adams has already made it clear that he will ride with a tandem of Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton, but that could change quickly if things get off to a slow start this season and goaltending is to blame for that.
Ullmark and Hutton are a combined 62-67-17 with a 2.99 Goals Against Average and a .907 Save Percentage over the past two seasons, and both have been part of the problem for the Sabres.
For instance, Hutton has enjoyed a couple of hot stretches with the Sabres but has never been able to maintain it, which has led to his team collapsing at crucial points in the season too.
He went 12-14-4 in 2019-20 with a poor .898 Save Percentage and a 3.18 Goals Against Average, while Ullmark was better with a 17-14-3 record to go along with a 2.69 GAA and a .915 SV%.
However, for a franchise that needs to start winning now in order to keep their Captain and cornerstone piece in Jack Eichel happy, they will need more than solid goaltending in order to get the job done in 2020-21.
Teams are permitted to carry three goaltenders on the roster at all times this season so Jonas Johansson, Buffalo’s 61st overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, is waiting in the wings but this team probably needs a major upgrade in goal.
If Ullmark doesn’t develop into the bona fide No. 1 starter that Adams feels he can morph into, then expect the Sabres to be active at the Trade Deadline and maybe someone in the ilk of future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury could be an intriguing option given that he has been actively shopped by the Vegas Golden Knights.
He would automatically be a serious upgrade between the pipes for Buffalo and would give them a real shot at making the postseason and then being competitive in the Playoffs, while the Sabres are projected to have over $11 million in cap space at the Trade Deadline, per CapFriendly, so they would be able to take on Fleury’s $7 million cap hit without having to do anything to make room for that salary.
Goaltending is certainly a huge question for the Buffalo Sabres heading into 2020-21 though, and a bad start for either Linus Ullmark or Carter Hutton could mean a big change in goal come the Trade Deadline.