Zach Bogosian’s playing days in a Buffalo Sabres sweater appear to be over. After asking for a trade in December, he’s now been waived by the team.
Bogosian was a third overall pick in 2008 by the Winnipeg Jets. The blueliner was traded to the Sabres in a multi-player deal in 2015 orchestrated by former Sabres general manager Tim Murray. The Jets sent Bogosian, Evander Kane, goalie Jason Kasdorf to the Sabres in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a first-round pick.
This season, Bogosian has one goal and four assists in 19 games. He’s been a healthy scratch for eight of the last nine games and is averaging only 16:50 of ice time.
Bogosian has never quite lived up to his draft hype or his massive seven-year, $36 million contract initially signed by the Jets. Injuries have plagued him his entire career. But even when he’s been healthy, the gritty defenseman has lacked consistency.
He played parts of six seasons with the Sabres, with his best production during 2015-16, when he had seven goals and 17 assists in 64 games.
Bogosian Requested A Trade
The 29-year-old from Massena, New York requested a trade back in December, an hour before the Sabres were set to host the Nashville Predators. TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted the 6-foot-3, 221-pound defenseman wanted out.
“I’m going to let any conversation between myself, Jason [Botterill] and my agent stay among us,” said Bogosian the morning. “Me personally, I’m not going to say anything. I’m going to let everything stay in house.”
“Everyone wants to play,” added Bogosian. “So for me, I’m just focused on working hard and getting back in the lineup. I like where my game is going. For the first time in a lot of years, I’m healthy and 100 percent, so I like where I’m going.”
Now that the Sabres have waived Bogosian, there are three possible outcomes.
1. Bogosian could be claimed off waivers
In this situation, there’s a clean break, allowing the team and the player to divorce. This would be the ideal situation to play out for both parties. It gives Bogosian a new team to play for frees up a roster spot for the Sabres.
It’s possible, but highly doubtful he’s claimed. Why would any team jump at an injury-prone $5 million depth defenseman?
2. Bogosian clears waivers and is demoted to Rochester
If another team does not claim Bogosian, he could be sent to the Rochester Americans, the Sabres’ AHL farm team 90 miles east of Buffalo. He could also be loaned to another AHL team, similar to how the Sabres loaned Matt Moulson to the Ontario Reign, the Los Angeles King’s AHL affiliate.
This outcome saves the Sabres $1.075 million in salary cap space.
3. Bogosian clears waivers and stays in Buffalo
The last option is Bogosian clears waivers and stays in Buffalo. This is far from ideal.
Had Bogosian been placed on unconditional waivers, it’s possible he and the team could work out mutual contract termination to get his entire cap off the books. In this scenario, Bogosian would have to forfeit the remainder of his pay for the rest of the season.
Bogosian’s Bloated Contract
Bogosian, 29, has appeared in a scant 19 games for the Sabres this season and only 243 total for the franchise since being traded to Buffalo in 2015. He’s a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent in the final season of his contract.
Even if a team sees value in adding him to their roster, his $5.1 million cap hit is a roadblock, especially for a player who can’t stay healthy. Bogosian hasn’t played in more than 70 games in a season since 2010-11, his third season in the NHL.
The brittle blueliner has been through multiple hip surgeries and missed all of training camp this season.
Botterill Shares Blame
In the last three seasons, with general manager Jason Botterill at the helm, Bogosian has played 102 games and been paid $15.3 million. On one hand, it’s not a good look for the GM–another example of poor asset management.
The right-shot defenseman played 65 games last season–the most since he was 21 years old in the 2010-11 season. He had some marginal trade value. However, Botterill didn’t move him then and now he’s left with little leverage.
Botterill ultimately realized he’s selling low on a low-reward, high-risk player. Why would another GM give up a late round, even a seventh-round pick, to acquire Bogosian and his cap hit? There are far too many other cost-effective options.
No one should question Bogosian’s character. He played hard and gave his best effort every time he took the ice. He was a leader in the locker room. And he was a community ambassador. Blaming him for the team’s problems is simply misguided.
Bogosian is simply a victim of numbers. His massive contract taken on by Tim Murray and a bevy of players brought in by general manager Jason Botterill that have leapfrogged him in the lineup, further diminishing his value.
Sabres Prepping for More Moves
Bogosian (636 games) and teammate Jeff Skinner (709 games) hold the dubious honor of playing the most NHL games without every appearing in the playoffs.
As much as Bogosian wanted out, it’s clear that Botterill couldn’t move him. For anything. The GM’s only choice was to waive his disgruntled alternate captain. Bogosian is at best a bottom-pair or depth defender on a contending team that’s built for a deep playoff run.
The timing for the move is a little odd. That is, unless it’s a precursor to upcoming roster moves in advance of the NHL’s looming trade deadline on Monday, Feb. 24. The extra $1 million in cap space may come into play.
It’s time the Sabres start dressing their best players. Unfortunately, Bogosian is no longer one of them. It was time to move on.
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.”