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Inside the NHL

Botterill toes the line, but latest trade means Ristolainen will be dealt

The suspicion you had Friday night when the Sabres acquired defenseman Colin Miller from Vegas was that the move would hasten Rasmus Ristolainen's departure. Without remotely confirming that Saturday, it sure seemed like General Manager Jason Botterill confirmed exactly that.

Botterill was using plenty of buzzwords to describe the trade. It give the Sabres "options" on their blueline. They now have "flexibility with the lineup."

Botterill said last week at the draft in Vancouver that he was happy with the discussions Ristolainen had with new coach Ralph Krueger. He reiterated that point again Saturday during the final day of development camp.

"There's going to be rumors because he's a player that teams want to go after and teams want to have," Botterill said. "It's part of the reason we wanted to bring in Colin Miller to our group: Right-shot defensemen under good contracts. I think there's always a demand for that."

There was plenty of chatter in Vancouver the Sabres were shopping Ristolainen hard and the reason, in fact, was that he indicated it was time to go after six mostly disappointing seasons.

Did Botterill classify Ristolainen asking for a trade as an untrue rumor?

The GM kind of smiled. He stammered an answer and stopped. And then he answered. In a very politically correct way.

"I'm not going to get into conversations that I have with my players," Botterill said. "And I know however I answer that question is going to have speculation all over it. But my conversation with my players — I'm going to keep that between myself and the player."

Fair enough. Botterill wouldn't come out and admit that's the case because it would hurt his leverage for a potential trade. He wouldn't deny it, either, because it would be a bad look to outright lie to the media.

Still, the Sabres need offense. Perhaps their only chance for a trade for a top-6 forward is to have Ristolainen be part of the package. With Miller, Ristolainen and Brandon Montour, the Sabres are heavy on the right side of their defense.

"As I coach, I'm never afraid of depth or competition," said Sabres coach Ralph Krueger. "Internal competition is the best you can have. It means you've got a good lineup. Let's let the players decide. First of all, we have a long way to go throughout the summer. Jason has got the lead on that."

Krueger talked about playing the names and numbers in his head today and not be distracted by potential changes. It's pretty clear he knows more are coming.

One thing you have to like is that the acquisitions of Miller and Brandon Montour give the Sabres some badly needed postseason experience. That duo has combined to play 51 Stanley Cup playoff games and 31 Calder Cup games.

Still, it seems inconceivable the Sabres would deal Ristolainen for prospects and draft picks. Any trade has to yield a top-6 forward. Period. If it can't be done, don't make the deal. Revisit it at the trade deadline in February again.

It's widely known the Sabres have been talking trade with Ristolainen for a while but haven't really heard much that they've liked. Miller gives them the depth they need to withstand a deal. The Ristolainen trade clock is ticking.

Colin Miller has 'mixed feelings' following trade from Vegas to Sabres

Mogilny snub is mystifying

The continued snub of Alexander Mogilny by the Hockey Hall of Fame makes zero sense. It reached its nadir last week when Mogilny was rejected for the 11th straight year while former Montreal center Guy Carbonneau was elected.

Did you ever watch Carbonneau and think you were seeing a Hall of Fame player? Sure, he won three Stanley Cups and three Selke Trophies. But in his last eight seasons, he managed a mere 25 points just one time. In Carbonneau's last nine seasons, he totaled 75 goals — or one fewer than Mogilny's 76-goal season of 1992-93.

The only way Carbonneau should get into the Hall of Fame is by buying a ticket.

Mogilny scored 473 career goals and had 1,032 points, or 71 more goals and 43 more points than 2017 inductee Paul Kariya. Mogilny won a Cup (New Jersey, 2000) and Kariya did not. Mogilny has gold medals from the Olympics, World Championships and World Juniors.

It's another example of how the 18-member Hall committee is too small. One or two strong voices can influence the group. What gives here? Mogilny, who snubbed the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame when he was elected in 2016, is a bit of a recluse. Multiple sources say there is concern he will not be keen on many of the induction weekend activities and could opt to not participate at all. Bad reasons for the committee to keep voting this way, but it might be the only plausible explanation.

Schedule snippets

Some quick thoughts on the NHL schedule release:

• On first glance, the Sabres didn't get too much of their season thrown askew by their November trip to Sweden. There's no road trip longer than four games the entire year, and a stretch of nine home games in 10 starts after the All-Star break really gives Buffalo a chance to pile up points.

• A dangerous part of the Buffalo schedule is the post-Sweden stretch. The Sabres return Nov. 10 and play five games in eight days starting Nov. 14, including trips to Chicago and Boston.

• Love the Sabres at home Dec. 2 for what the team is dubbing "Founders Night." It's the 50th anniversary of the awarding of the franchise Dec. 2, 1969. It's an example of the team using its anniversary to educate its fan base on the franchise's history. More, please.

• Love the idea of a Washington at St. Louis opener. Pit the last two Stanley Cup champs on the night the Blues get to raise their banner. Great opening game for NBC.

• Scheduling is tough at the Staples Center in Los Angeles when trying to arrange hockey with two NBA teams and concerts. But how in the world did the Kings get a stretch from Feb. 20 to March 22 with 14 home games and just one road game, and that one being a quick jaunt to Vegas? The converse is 11 of 15 games on the road in December and a five-game Eastern trip in January.

Around development camp

• This corner's favorite newcomer was Finnish free agent signee Arttu Ruotsalainen. Not big at 5-foot-8, but he was hard on the puck and had great hands. Nice pickup by Botterill, much like Lawrence Pilut. Will be fun to see where the 21-year-old lands come September.

• Players are annually impressed by the way the Sabres have the facilities of Harborcenter at their disposal, including the coaches from the Academy of Hockey. Former Amerks captain and Sabres forward Matt Ellis led the prospects one day, and one of his assistants was South Buffalo native and former Sabre Tim Kennedy, who wrapped up a 10-year pro career in 2018 with Binghamton of the AHL.

• Defenseman Ryan Johnson looks like a nice pickup at No. 31 of the draft, but he's still certainly two to three years away from the NHL. Botterill said the Sabres had some talks in Vancouver about trading the pick, and it's disappointing there wasn't an NHL deal to be had for the spot. The Sabres need players now.

• It was a big few days for Tage Thompson, who won the Craig Ramsay Leadership Award at camp and saw his brother, Tyce, taken in the fourth round of the draft by the New Jersey Devils. Tyce Thompson, a Providence sophomore, played in the Frozen Four in KeyBank Center in April.

"I couldn't be happier for him. He's probably the hardest working kid you'll ever meet," Tage Thompson said. "He's gotten passed over the last couple of years. It's nice to see him get rewarded for how hard he works. He's a great player, really starting to develop. My family and all my friends that know are extremely happy and proud of him."

Tage Thompson dealing with circumstance in wake of Blues' Stanley Cup run

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