CHICAGO – The Buffalo Sabres were probably not going to be able to sign goaltender Cal Petersen no matter what scenario played out. When they fired Tim Murray in April, they likely had no chance.
A grim Jason Botterill made it clear to the media Friday morning that the team had reached the end of the road with Petersen. The Notre Dame goalie who looks like he will be important to USA Hockey and could have been a franchise man in the net in a couple of years isn't coming to Buffalo.
That's not Botterill's fault. He had little hope to make a deal. But it still makes things dicey for the Sabres in goal.
Petersen is pulling a Jimmy Vesey-like move, exercising his CBA rights to go to free agency. The bet here is the Iowa kid is signing with the Blackhawks, the team he loves and the team that holds its training camp each year at Notre Dame. Petersen's USHL team? The Waterloo Black Hawks. What a coincidence.
And Petersen loves Chicago, as it was plain to see in his piece with the Players Tribune earlier this year.
It's clear now the fact Petersen was leaving made the Sabres desperate to keep Linus Ullmark in the expansion draft. And it caused the franchise to lose a young asset they didn't want to.
In speaking to Botterill both Thursday and again today, he was very disappointed to lose William Carrier. Young players with speed and jam are hard to find and Carrier has that, even if he didn't seem to have much finish around the net.
(And an aside here: Carrier was the main piece in the Ryan Miller-Steve Ott trade in 2014, shortly after Murray was hired. The second-round pick tonight from Minnesota for Chris Stewart is also part of that deal. Not a lot of return so far for the man who was clearly the second-best goalie in franchise history).
So the Sabres have unsigned Robin Lehner and Ullmark in goal at the NHL level, and you would think Lehner's leverage in contract talks just went up quite a bit. They have untested Jonas Johansson in Rochester and now have to dip into the free agent pool. They need a veteran goalie for the AHL and they need to undoubtedly draft a goalie high here this weekend.
Botterill loves college players, saying today that he "loved the college model." But as teams are finding out in the cases of Vesey and Petersen, you better get your guys signed quick. It's not good for college hockey. It's a loophole in the CBA that needs to be closed. But it's how the game is played for now.
The Sabres traded for Vesey's rights last year and couldn't sign him. They drafted Petersen in 2013, he's attended multiple summer development camps and they couldn't sign him either.
Hockey Heaven it is not. Botterill's already-tough job just got a little tougher.