The Buffalo Sabres have finally made a move for a goaltender. They’ve acquired Malcolm Subban from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for future considerations (meaning: nothing). The team has had goaltending problems for a while now and it’s hurt them more than imaginable.
We have acquired goaltender Malcolm Subban from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for future considerations.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) December 2, 2021
Sabres Bet on Malcolm Subban Trade To Help in Net
Last season their net was filled with injuries and backup goaltenders. Now, they’ve let Linus Ullmark walk away during free agency and brought in veterans Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell. At first sight, it wasn’t the best thing in the world but they started the season living a fairytale dream. Now, they’re living a goaltending nightmare.
While Dell was a complete disaster, Anderson worked perfectly. He has four wins in six games, a 2.50 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. However, what seemed to be a big win for Buffalo quickly turned into bad luck. The dream ended early when Anderson got a lower-body injury that’s kept him away since November 2. Once again, the Sabres had to rely on their backups to take the job.
Head coach Don Granato tried to work with what he had for as long as he could. Their general manager, Kevyn Adams, didn’t give him much with Dell and Dustin Tokarski being the backups. Tokarski was pretty decent but the injury bug has been taking the best out of an already beaten-up team. With Henri Jokharju, Victor Olofsson and Casey Mittelstadt out, things got too tricky. They’re out three of their (very few) best players and the goaltenders couldn’t pull off miracles. It was more than time to make a move for a new player – and a goalie was the most urgent need.
What Triggered the Malcolm Subban Trade
Trades happening at this point of the season is not very common but for Buffalo, it was imminent. The team did what they could to avoid calling prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen up from the Rochester Americans, even if that meant sacrificing a few games. Luukkonen was not having his best start when Anderson got hurt and they chose to give Tokarski a bigger role other than interrupting their prospect’s development time. It was definitely not the wrong move. Luukkonen needed more time and it was just the start of the season.
However, the team was forced to do so earlier than they planned to. Buffalo announced on Thursday afternoon, before the game against the Florida Panthers, that Tokarski was placed in the NHL’s COVID protocol and Luukkonen got the call-up. Their options now were the 22-year-old who has four games of NHL experience and the goalie that has no wins this season and a 5.56 goals-against average. Something needed to be done.
Thankfully, the Blackhawks were willing to give up Malcolm Subban for nothing. He’s played 82 NHL games, has a 36-32-8 record, a 3.02 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage. Is he the best goaltender in the world? No. Will he perform a miracle and send Buffalo to the playoffs? No answer is needed but just in case there was any doubt: that’s an obvious no. But he’s for sure an upgrade on Dell and can actually give the Sabres a shot at not being the worst team in the league again.
Why They Shouldn’t Worry Too Much
The truth is: the Sabres are not making the playoffs anytime soon. They’re going through another rebuild and just don’t have the team to do that. What they do have is a bunch of young players with a lot of talent and a good prospect pool that will make a difference in the future. In that prospect pool, Buffalo has two goaltenders in the NCAA and Luukkonen, who’ll be sent down again when Tokarski is back. Erik Portillo and Devon Levi will likely be in the AHL next year and Luukkonen will get the call up to the NHL. The first two are having amazing seasons in college and will have great futures if developed well. The Sabres don’t need to worry about goaltenders now.
Of course, it would be more than ideal to have a great duo of goalies now to help their young players develop and set a winning tone early in their careers. But signing a star goaltender now is not exactly their top priority. Goalies don’t make miracles happen when your team is not good enough to help them (yet). What they need now is what the Malcolm Subban trade, Tokarski and Anderson (if he returns) can give them: a little bit of consistency. That’s more than enough for a team that is developing and will change a lot in the next two to three years.
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