Sabres trade bait powers team past Canucks

With precisely 20 games left on the schedule, the Sabres have worked their way deeper into the divide in the fanbase following a 6-3 triumph over the Vancouver Canucks.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice, Chris Stewart added a goal and an assist but most are left scratching their heads over where the tank stands and what to make of Buffalo’s recent string of hot play. neuvirth

The Sabres capitalized, once again, on substandard goaltending as Eddie Lack turned in a .783 SV% on a night in which he was only tested 23 times. Tonight’s win marked the third time this season the Sabres managed to shoot better than 20% in a game – the other two coming against San Jose and Calgary. Lack was strong early in the game, getting hung out on an early two-on-one and getting some unwanted assistance from Adam Clendening on Stewart’s breakaway. But he made a few impressive stops, including a dazzling glove save on Cody Hodgson in the second.

The wheels fell off for the Canucks in the third as Andrej Meszaros cleaned up a sloppy no-look pass from Nick Bonino and put the puck through a screen for Buffalo’s third, while Mitchell cleaned up some garbage in front to put the Sabres ahead for good. Brian Flynn’s security marker at 18:28 came after Lack misplayed a loose puck badly and Stewart found Flynn to cash on the empty net. Continue reading

Trade route might unearth the answer in net for Buffalo

With the lottery balls still left to be pulled, there are very few positions in the Sabres organization that have an immediate need to be addressed for both the short and long-term. In fact, you could argue that the Sabres’ pipeline is well stocked at nearly every position.

The one area that needs attention, particularly in the near future, is goaltender. While the Sabres have a number of quality goaltending prospects, including four who are at least a year away from their professional debuts, they’re short on NHL-ready talent between the pipes. The recent trade of Jhonas Enroth, while a good decision, demonstrates the shallow depth the Sabres have atop their goaltending pipeline.

While Linus Ullmark, Jonas Johansson and Cal Petersen provide a fair bit of long-term stability from a development standpoint, only Ullmark is under contract at this time. Further, Ullmark will be making his North American debut next year, meaning he is at least two years away from being truly prepared for significant NHL action while the others in the pipeline are still a year or longer away from getting an NHL contract, let along professional playing time.

There is a gap between where the team is expected to be in the coming years and the earliest point you can hope Ullmark makes a serious impact at the NHL level. That means one of two things for Tim Murray and the Sabres. They can either sign a veteran free agent to serve as a bridge for the organization or they can work to trade for another young, promising goaltender who’s further along the development track. The former option may be unavoidable as there is a very good chance that Murray needs to look past Michal Neuvirth as his answer in net regardless of his long-term plans.

Even with the prospect of Ullmark shaping into a star, using a portion of Buffalo’s impressive array of assets to acquire a goaltender who is ready to step into a significant NHL role isn’t just an option that should be considered, it’s the option they should take. Murray is likely going to be stuck signing a veteran this summer whether he likes it or not, but as an organization that is clearly serious about becoming a contender in short order, speeding up their presence in net should be a priority. Considering how weak the free agent class will be, pursuing a trade for a goaltender who is ready for a bigger role represents the best option for the Sabres to improve for both the short and long-term. Continue reading

An illustrated history of the Rick Martin and Don Edwards trade trees

Last season I put together a pair of trade trees after Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller were moved. The Vanek tree has already sprung a few branches and could grow larger if Torrey Mitchell is moved this season. Ryan Miller is actually tied into a much larger trade tree which I only thought traced back to Alexander Mogilny. As it turns out, it is part of a trade tree that goes all the way back to Don Edwards.

A member at the fan forum Sabresfans.com (Goatlord) took the time to trace out the Edwards and Rick Martin trade trees and his work went a long way towards helping me structure the image below. By using the framework that Goatlord set up with each tree, I put them together where they officially intersect (the Ryan Miller trade to St. Louis) for fans to see how deep some of Buffalo’s trade roots go. What is amazing is that this tree shows no signs of ending thanks to the picks and prospects acquired for Miller and Andrej Sekera. Once again, the framework of this is based off the work of Goatlord at Sabresfans.com along with research done on NHL Trade Tracker.com.

Martin-Edwards tree

 

Murray made the wise choice in moving early on Enroth

Tim Murray sent a shockwave through the league in executing a seven-player deal to acquire Evander Kane earlier today and kept his phone hot later in the day as he capped his trading frenzy by sending Jhonas Enroth to Dallas.

Enroth has been far and away the best goaltender on the Buffalo roster this season, there is no debating that. He’s managed to post respectable numbers despite playing on a historically terrible puck possession and defensive club. He also is set to become a free agent this summer and represented one of the many tradable assets on Buffalo’s roster.

Despite Enroth’s strong play (at times) and the relatively weak play of Michal Neuvirth, it was hard to fathom trading one of the few players who had been performing well this season. However, Tim Murray did the right thing for the direction of the rebuild by moving Enroth for a third round pick and Anders Lindback.

For all intents and purposes, Lindback is simply a throw in for this deal. Trading him gets him out of Dallas and keeps their depth chart intact. He also allows the Sabres to maintain the status quo as it pertains to their goaltending depth chart in Buffalo and Rochester. I’m sure Lindback will see a few games in a Sabres sweater this year, but the majority of Buffalo’s 27 games will belong to Neuvirth.

The only real value in this deal is the 2016 third round pick the Sabres acquired. With the condition focused on Enroth winning at least four playoff games, it seems safe to assume that this will indeed remain a third round pick. Even with the condition included in this trade, I would have been very surprised to see Murray get anything more than a third for Enroth. Continue reading

Kane acquisition represents the next step in Buffalo’s rebuild

Tim Murray has had the arsenal of assets to make a major play for talent going back to his first trade deadline as the Buffalo Sabres general manager. He will enter his second trade deadline with his second major trade in his rear-view mirror.

Murray shipped an impressive package of Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a conditional first round draft pick to Winnipeg in exchange for Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf. It’s a trade the provides the Sabres with not one, but two significant pieces that fit in both the short, and long term plans of the organization.

There is some concern that Murray may have sacrificed too much in order to complete the trade but in a world where you have to pay a premium to obtain premium talent, it lines up as a balanced transaction for both teams. Continue reading

Double Minor: Discussing Buffalo’s trade deadline strategy

We’re nearly a month away from the trade deadline and the rumor mill is really beginning to heat up. The Sabres are expected to sell off a number of players on expiring deals as Drew Stafford, Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell and likely one of the team’s two goaltenders will be shipped out by March 2.

Tim Murray, however, is in a very interesting position. While Buffalo is firmly a seller this year, he also holds a bucket of picks and prospects that have helped make the Sabres system the envy of the league. Given the sheer number of players in the system, it’s very unlikely that all of the assets the Sabres have stockpiled wind up wearing blue and gold. In fact, Murray has admitted that not every player they’ve acquired or drafted will wind up as an NHL player and it’s up to the Sabres to determine who they need to hold on to. This tells me a few things.

First, Murray is very tapped into the assets he has and likely has a very good idea about who he sees as a fit in the near future. Second, he knows that he’s very close to the point of being over-saturated with futures and he needs to start dealing for NHL-ready talent in order to maximize the team’s elite talent and to speed up his rebuild.

As the deadline approaches, how do you think Murray will operate? Should his plan of attack be to continue acquiring picks and prospects or is it time to make some hockey trades? Continue reading

Despite record, in-season changes wouldn’t suit Murray

With the Super Bowl, and all its build up finally over the next major date on the sporting calendar, the start of Spring Training notwithstanding, is the trade NHL trade deadline. While Sabres GM Tim Murray will undoubtedly be tasked with getting the best return for his tradeable assets before the deadline, the Sabres’ current performance on the ice has led fans and media alike to criticize Murray for his perceived lack of action during the franchise worst 14 game losing streak.

While I’m going to steer clear of the tanking discussion at this particular time many people are of the viewpoint that if you’re not even changing anything in the middle of a 14 game losing streak you’re not trying to win. This is an opinion that is a difficult one to argue, but let’s take a look at the cards Tim Murray has to play. Continue reading