The season's final episode of "Sports Talk Sunday" featured WGRZ sports director Adam Benigni alongside The News' Mike Harrington and Jerry Sullivan in a hockey-focused half hour.
The chatter homed in on a busy weekend in Buffalo, which hosted the NHL Draft and acquitted itself well. What did the analysts think about Alexander Nylander? What about the Mark Pysyk for Dmitry Kulikov deal? Do the Sabres have a chance to reel in the coveted Steven Stamkos?
Here are five talking points from the show, which aired originally at 5 p.m. June 26 on WGRZ-TV:
1) What does Kulikov bring to the table? The hosts led off with the trade that brought Florida Panthers' defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to Buffalo, primarily in exchange for Mark Pysyk, although picks were involved.
Harrington likes the edge that Kulikov will bring to Buffalo's defense -- the defender is the one who knocked Derek Roy out for the season in 2011 -- and Sully likes that the addition makes the Sabres tougher to play against a quality the hockey team has largely lacked in his 27 years in the Buffalo media.
Harrington adds that one of the most underrated qualities that Kulikov brings is his first pass out of the defensive zone, which should put the Sabres' young, talented attackers in good positions.
2) What is the outlook regarding Nylander? The drafting of Alexander Nylander adds intrigue to the Sabres-Leafs rivalry, as his brother, William Nylander, is one of Toronto's top prospects. The analysts agree that Buffalo's Nylander, just 18 years old, is headed back to Sweden for a year of seasoning. Unlike last year, where Jack Eichel was drafted to help right away, the Sabres' selection at No. 8 holds more long-term than immediate impact.
Both GM Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma agreed that the Sabres added speed and skill through the draft, and Harrington says that Buffalo is trying to model its roster after the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins; the "NHL is a copycat league," the Sabres reporter says. The Pens excelled because they could roll out four balanced lines and boasted six puck-moving defensemen.
3) Where do the Sabres fall in the Stamkos sweepstakes? The discussion window with free agent Steven Stamkos is open, but the Sabres have stiff competition, with Toronto, Detroit, Vancouver and Tampa Bay. Harrington believes it's unlikely that the prized free agent comes to Buffalo, as Toronto (Stamkos' hometown team) and Detroit (a chance to win soon) have strong bids, while The News columnist says not to rule out a return to Tampa.
Benigni mentions the Sabres' cap future, especially in terms of Stamkos' likely seven-year deal that would make him the highest-paid player in NHL history. With the need to re-sign Rasmus Ristolainen and then shell out money soon after to keep Reinhart and Eichel, a big-money move for Stamkos isn't the most financially savvy idea.
While Sully is leery about Stamkos as a "vanity buy" like the Bills' addition of LeSean McCoy, Harrington is encouraged by the fact that the Sabres are willing to aggressively pursue big-name free agents.
4) Analysis on trade for Jimmy Vesey's rights, Evander Kane situation: The analysts touch on Jimmy Vesey, Eichel's World Juniors teammate whose rights Buffalo bought at the cost of a third-round pick.
Sully really like the Sabres' gamble on the 23-year-old Hobey Baker winner -- the price wasn't exorbitant, significantly cheaper than the pursuit of Stamkos. Harrington does not sound especially confident that Vesey will wind up in Buffalo, though.
[Read: Sully's Power Take that Sabres were smart to move on Vesey]
Benigni raises the Evander Kane legal situation; the Sabres forward has not been arrested or charged yet, as police are in preliminary stages of exploring the accusations involving a fight at a Chippewa nightclub.
Benigni bemoans Kane's habit of putting himself in negative situations, while Sully compares Evander to LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch, two Bills whose names were often in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
5) Extra points:
Sully: With Sabres fans thrilled about the results of the draft, and Rex Ryan exclaiming that the Bills have "won the offseason," Sully pours cold water on the excitement.
Spotlighting the Cavs' NBA title win, which ended a 52-year drought, Sully says that the Bills, who haven't made the playoffs since 1999, and the Sabres, who've never won a Stanley Cup, are now in the cross-hairs as the most cursed sports city.
Harrington: He lauds First Niagara Center and the Sabres organization for doing an impeccable job hosting the NHL Draft, and the success will likely result in more major events slated for Buffalo in the future (the NCAA Tournament, the NHL Scouting Combine and the World Juniors are already planned).
Harrington makes a strong call for Uber to come to Buffalo, as many visitors complained about the taxi service.
Benigni: In light of Bills and Sabres owner Terry Pegula's appearance on WGR, the flagship station of both teams, Benigni laments that WGRZ's repeated requests to speak to Pegula have been denied.
He's aggravated by the growing trend of pro teams controlling the message and limiting access to the outside media; the WGRZ sports director reinforces that "Sports Talk Sunday" prides itself in unfiltered opinions stemming from objective reporting.
Expect "Sports Talk Sunday" to return this fall, with a specific date still to come.