November 19, 2019
Media availability (6:45 p.m.)
Jason, you’re in a bit of an injury pickle here, you’ve got eight forwards in the organization injured right now. Are you to a point now where you’re looking other places, or what are you doing now with so many guys hurt? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)
Jason Botterill: Well I think we obviously just had our GM meetings here today. It’s certainly a situation where we’re actively looking to see if we can make our team a little better and find a forward out there to help our group. But we also are very happy with how our players have come up from Rochester and played so far. I think the one that’s probably the most [disappointing] is someone like Tage Thompson. I thought he spent a lot of time this summer working on his game. I thought he had a good training camp. We asked him to go down to Rochester to work on certain elements of his game. He created a lot of scoring chances but then worked on his wall play, his battle in front of the net and then came up and unfortunately had the injury there. So disappointment for him and his development, but it’s a situation where we think we have some players coming back this weekend both at the National Hockey League level and American Hockey League level and helps us out.
Are you in a situation now where it’s basically money in, money out? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)
JB: Yeah, because eventually we have to — we want to be cap compliant. We understand that these players are going to be coming back, they’re not year-end injuries, and we don’t want to be given a situation where we have to make a move. It’s how we set up our team throughout the entire year, we certainly want to be in a situation where we’re adding the best players possible, but we never wanted to be in a cap situation where we had to make a move.
Will [Zach] Bogosian be eligible, you think, to play on this road trip? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
JB: He’s seeing our doctors again this evening and, you know, you’ve seen him out in practice. Mike, I’d say that’s, you know, we’re optimistic that sometime on the road trip that he’s going to be able to play. For all of us, that will be a great moment. I think Zach has worked extremely hard coming back from this injury. I think he’ll be a big boost to our team.
What’s the concern level for Kyle [Okposo], the latest concussion? How serious do the discussions need to get with him at this point? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
JB: Well, there’s a lot of concern. And it’s just simply because it’s Kyle. You appreciate, you respect what he brings to our team, the leader that he is within our locker room, the man that he is. You don’t want to see anyone have a concussion. Right now the focus, is just making sure that Kyle is alright and to get him back to normal health. But I think with any one of our players who has a concussion, there’s certainly a lot of concern.
From a rules standpoint, what came out of the GMs meeting? (Paul Hamilton, WGR 550)
JB: I think you’re looking at a lot of different things and a lot of things that maybe some people think, such as offsides, that are fairly simple, but there’s always loopholes or things that maybe we don’t think about that quite often. Things were presented that I think that we’ll look at a lot more seriously in March and then throughout the rest of the meetings, a lot of conversations, a lot of updates across a lot of different departments.
Is there a plan for Ukko-Pekka [Luukkonen]? Is he going to move up from Cincinnati soon or do you want to keep him down there a little bit more? (Bill Hoppe – Olean Times Herald)
JB: Well, seeing as he didn’t have a training camp really, it’s important for us right now just for him to play. Obviously, he had an outstanding week. His interaction with Seamus Kotyk, our goalie development coach, has been excellent. For us right now the biggest thing is a young player just making [the] adjustment to pro is to get him in as many games as possible down there.
Jason, what’s your reaction to people who say this is last year all over again? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
JB: Well, I would just say that’s something that we have to prove that it’s not. I think the vibe that we have in our locker room, the confidence that we have in the locker room — I think especially at this start of this month, you look at the four games we had in a row, I believe against Washington, Islanders, Tampa Bay, those are teams that have been top in the league the last couple years. That’s where we want to get to. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. But I like the steps we’ve gone through. I think, as it was mentioned today at the GM meetings, the amount of one-goal games there are out there, the amount of games that go into overtime, that’s what you have to do. We have to find more of an opportunity to be more consistent throughout the year but also find a way to win these one-goal games.
Everybody knows you have to make a deal. How difficult a spot does that put you in and how tough is it to do it in the middle of November when teams don’t really know who they are yet to some degree?
JB: Well I think it’s always difficult. Certainly, we’re active talking to different teams out there. You look in the salary-cap world, other teams are having injuries. Just look within our division. So it is difficult. The other element of it, is yeah, we’re finally getting healthy on defense, but it’s imperative for us to keep our depth on defense. We’ve utilized it already this year and we’re in game 20, so we know over the course of 82 games, we’re going to need it again here.
When you have a cap crunch, as you said, there’s a lot of defensemen, but at the moment you’re scratching guys who are making four million towards the cap. Can they move down or is that tough? (John Vogl – The Athletic)
JB: It’s a situation right now but that we don’t want to be — we have, obviously, we have next week, we have five games in seven nights. We want to make sure we understand that we’re going to face some adversity on defense on here. We want to make sure we have that capability. But those are the things we continue to look at, to see if there’s a mix with another team that we can maybe add to our group at forward. We also really like the way we’ve tried to build up our defense over the last couple of years here. It’s something that if we are going to remove anyone from there, we’ve got to make sure it’s helping our team out.
You have nine NHL defensemen when Bogosian comes back. Down on the farm, you’ve got [Casey] Nelson, you’ve got [Lawrence] Pilut, you’ve got [Will] Borgen. If you were to trade one of your nine defensemen, don’t you feel one of those guys could come in if you would need it in [an] injury situation? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)
JB: Well we had a lot of those defensemen there too at the start of the year, and injuries, we weren’t planning on Brandon Montour to be injured at the start of training camp. I wasn’t planning on this many amount of forwards getting injured in the last week or two. It happens. So you can always have predictions that — the bottom line is we’re going to have more injuries on defense and it’s important that we have that depth.
With all these injuries at forward, was there any consideration to Dylan Cozens, No. 1? And No. 2, was [Jason] Pominville a thought or does the cap preclude you? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
JB: I think certainly from a free agent standpoint, we’ve certainly looked at different options from there. Right now, we feel very comfortable still with the players that we have and the players we still have in Rochester that can come up and play for us. From Dylan’s standpoint we’re ecstatic about him as a player and his development, but he is not on the radar for this situation. His goal right now is to help Lethbridge out and find a way onto the World Junior team.