Trading Linus Ullmark would not be a smart play by the Buffalo Sabres.
With the Buffalo Sabres’ well-documented struggles this season, rookie General Manager Kevyn Adams is doing what he can to sell pieces of his team in order to help build for the future, but trading goaltender Linus Ullmark shouldn’t be on his to-do list.
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Given the COVID-19 Pandemic, trades are even more difficult than normal to make. He was able to make a transaction recently however, sending veteran forward Eric Staal to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a Third and Fifth-Round Draft pick in 2021. From the sounds of things, Adams isn’t expected to be done there.
Most of the chatter now has surrounded Taylor Hall, who is arguably the biggest name on the trade list headed into the deadline on April 12, and he will sit out tonight’s game as a matter of precaution.
Hall isn’t the only Sabre being discussed however, as goaltender Linus Ullmark has reportedly been garnering interest. You can certainly understand why Adams would take calls on any of his players at this point, but trading Ullmark doesn’t make sense like it does for the other two players mentioned.
Buffalo Sabres should not deal Linus Ullmark at Trade Deadline
While the Buffalo Sabres as a whole have been bad in recent years, the same cannot be said about Linus Ullmark, despite playing behind a consistently bad blueline unit. This season in particular is very telling, as despite his team having a horrendous 8-23-6 record, he personally sits at 7-5-3. In fact, had he not missed an extended period of time with a lower-body injury, the recent 18 game winless streak his team went on may not have happened at all.
While he was out of the lineup, Carter Hutton was forced to take on most of the work and struggled immensely. Through 13 games played this season, his record sits at a shocking 1-10-1, while his Goals Against Average is 3.47 and his Save Percentage is just .886. His play can certainly in part be blamed on a bad team in front of him, which makes Ullmark’s 2.44 GAA and his .921 SV% all the more impressive.
This season isn’t an outlier either, as the 2019-20 season also saw him post decent numbers with a 2.69 GAA along with a .915 SV% and a 17-14-3 record. Again, these numbers were far superior to Hutton’s, who in 31 contests had a 3.18 GAA along with a .898 SV% and a 12-14-4 record. Clearly, the Sabres poor play over the last two seasons is not Ullmark’s fault. When he is in the net, they are actually a somewhat competitive team.
History Repeating Itself
Not to long ago, the Sabres had another goaltender in Robin Lehner who posted fairly solid numbers during his three seasons with the team. The reason that I say ‘fairly solid’ is due to the fact that in his last season he had a Goals Against of 3.01, but still managed to post a .908 SV%.
However, with the team continuing to lose games during his tenure, management chose to part ways with him and he signed a new deal with the New York Islanders. In his first and only season on Long Island, he was simply outstanding, and was voted as one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy. He has since played for the Chicago Blackhawks and now the Vegas Golden Knights, and is regarded by many as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
Of course, it is worth mentioning that Lehner was going through some personal struggles in terms of both mental health and addiction while with the Sabres that may have played a role in the team choosing to let him walk, however with how good he has played since it is fair to say that decision was a mistake. Now they are back in nearly the same situation with another good goaltender on a bad team. With Linus Ullmark still being just 27-years-old, he still has plenty of good years ahead of him. If the Buffalo Sabres do in fact choose to trade him at the Trade Deadline, it would be a major mistake.