A rugged, minute-hogging, right-shot NHL defenseman can command a steep price as teams gear up for a playoff push. Problem is, that’s not exactly the proper description for Buffalo Sabres’ blueliner Zach Bogosian.
Coming off his second hip surgery in 15 months, the 29-year-old from Massena, New York has requested a trade. An hour before the Sabres were set to host the Nashville Predators Thursday night, TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted the 6-foot-3, 221-pound defenseman wants out.
A little later, Bogosian was announced as a healthy scratch.
Bogosian’s Brittle Body
Drafted third overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2008, Bogosian was traded with Evander Kane from the Winnipeg Jets to the Sabres in Feb. 2015.
Bogosian has spent parts of six seasons with the Sabres, lacing his skates for a total of 234 games. Of the 443 regular-season games since the start of the 2014-15 season, he’s been in the lineup roughly 60 percent of the time. Only twice in his 11-season career has he appeared in more than 66 games in a single season (roughly 80 percent of a season). Put another way, he hasn’t played more than 65 games in a season since the Thrashers were still a franchise.
The oft-injured defenseman missed the first 22 games of the Sabres 2019-20 season rehabbing from surgery. Since his return to the lineup on Nov. 24, Bogosian has averaged almost 19 minutes of ice time per game, twice eclipsing 22 minutes.
Bloated Blue Line
The Sabres’ blue line is as bloated as Bogosian’s seven-year, $36-million contract originally signed by the Jets. He’s in the final year of the deal which carries a cap hit of $5.14 million.
The Sabres have an abundance of defensemen on their team and in the pipeline. With Rasmus Dahlin returning from a concussion, the Sabres once again had eight healthy defensemen. Down the I-90 in Rochester, they also have 26-year-old John Gilmour, 23-year-old Lawrence Pilut, and 22-year-old Will Borgen suiting up for the Amerks.
Head coach Ralph Krueger has been fielding a lineup with seven defensemen and 11 forwards pretty regularly. He’s rotated defensemen and struggled to find pairings that work well together.
Coaches’ Comments and Rumors
With word leaking that Bogosian wants out of Buffalo, whatever leverage general manager Jason Botterill could have had has been diminished. The GM declined comment.
After the game, Krueger played dumb. “The NHL is a place full of news that spreads around. Sometimes right and sometimes wrong. It doesn’t interest me at all… the noise.”
“We’ll wake up tomorrow, we’ll look at who’s on the roster and make our best possible push against the Islanders,” continued Krueger. When pressed for whether there was truth to the report of Bogosian asking for a trade, Kruger said he had no idea if there was any truth to it or not.
Bogosian’s Trade Value
It’s common knowledge that Botterill has been shopping for some offense to upgrade the middle six of his lineup. With such a high price tag, Bogosian likely won’t fetch much. In the salary-cap crunched world of the NHL, there are only 10 teams that could possibly take Bogosian’s cap hit without sending salary back. That’s if they could convince a team to bite on their asset whose health issues seem to crop up every year.
The pending unrestricted free agent will be hard to move. In 234 regular-season games with the Sabres, he’s scored 12 goals and added 53 assists for 65 points with a rough minus-47 rating. He has the dubious distinction of playing the second-most games (627) among active players without a playoff appearance, trailing only teammate Jeff Skinner. Bogosian is also the only Sabres player not to wear a shield on his helmet.
Bogosian is well respected in the locker and is good for the community. That said, if the Sabres can honor his request to move him out and get something–anything–of value back, it’s a win for the franchise.
Related: Bogosian’s Tweet Launches Challenge
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported this week that Botterill kicked the tires on the availability of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Alex Galchenyuk. The pending unrestricted free agent, who was drafted third overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2012, has a $4.9 million cap hit. He has only two goals in 22 games this season. Marco Scandella’s name has also been in trade rumors. He’s the only other pending UFA Sabres defenseman.
Jeff has been covering the NHL for over a decade for various sites. He’s been with The Hockey Writers as a lead Sabres writer three years, while also writing a satire column called “Off the Crossbar.”