Instigator Podcast Episode 42 – Brandon and the Sabres

After a short hiatus, Chris and Tyler are back to discuss Russ Brandon’s new position with the Sabres, a quick chat about the Bills entering camp and the NHL’s looming expansion conundrum.

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Development Camp stream would be an easy win for the Sabres

The Sabres are hosting their annual Development Camp this week, perhaps you’ve heard. The week’s festivities will be capped by Friday’s Blue-Gold scrimmage and Sunday’s three-on-three tournament.Development Camp stream would be and easy win for the Sabres

So far there have been all sorts of #fun and #engaging parts of the week as we’ve seen grainy videos shot at terrible angles of prospects doing hockey things. Friday’s scrimmage will provide fans their first chance to see Jack Eichel (and all the other prospects) in game action. It’s a quasi-debut of the franchise-altering prospect and the team is all but guaranteed to out-draw last year’s scrimmage which had fans seated in the upper deck of the arena.

The only way you can see the game, however, is to make your way to First Niagara Center. Tickets are $10 and proceeds are going to charity. All-in-all this is a good way to capitalize on an event that will come with plenty of fan frenzy while giving back to the community. Unlike last season, the Sabres will not be providing a stream for Friday’s scrimmage which has disappointed a fair segment of the fanbase. Particularly those who don’t live in Buffalo.

The reasons for the Sabres failing to stream Friday’s game haven’t been made public. I imagine the reasoning is close to the justification Lewis Black once gave for the lack of a national energy policy.

Because it’s hard. It’s really hard. Makes me want to go poopie. – Lewis Black

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Grading the Sabres: Murray at the Trade Table

There’s no doubt that Tim Murray has put a definitive stamp on the Buffalo Sabres roster in the year and a half that he’s been on the job. He’s managed to proceed with an aggressive pragmatism that has kept the Sabres active on the trade front while maintaining a strong foundation through the draft.

Murray has made 16 total trades by my count since taking over. They range from tent-pole blockbusters to minor-league transactions. But everything has rolled together to get the Sabres to where they are today; on the cusp of leaving the tank in the dust and returning to the ranks of contenders.

They aren’t there yet, however. If they managed to ascend to 10th this season it would be a minor miracle considering their lowly 2014-15 season. However, the last four months have been filled with exciting acquisitions that will affect Buffalo’s on-ice product both in the short and long term.

I’m expecting at least one more trade from Murray before training camp begins at the end of the summer as he’s still lacking a capable top-four defenseman and it appears as if the shallow UFA market is all but dried up. While we wait to see if Murray adds to his lengthy list of transactions, I’ll take a look back at his deals in an all too early ranking of his trades to date. I will rank the trades numerically and on a scale of zero-to-five scowls – since everyone likes to poke fun at Murray’s serious demeanor. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast Episode 41 – Waiting on the Frenzy

Ryan O’Reilly officially inks his deal with the Sabres and we discuss what direction Tim Murray may head when it comes to shoring up the Sabres blueline.

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Murray’s makeover moves forward with aggressive draft day moves

It was a whirlwind of a weekend for Tim Murray and the Buffalo Sabres as Buffalo’s GM maneuvered to acquire a new starting goaltender, a legitimate top-six forward and a potential franchise defining talent with the first three picks at his disposal.

Oh, yeah, NOW you smile. – Terry Pegula.

The selection of Jack Eichel was all but guaranteed the moment the Oilers card was pulled during the draft lottery. But trading for Robin Lehner, David Legwand, Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn was hardly an expectation. The new acquisitions, coupled with this week’s signings, set the stage to push Buffalo’s rebuild forward significantly.

In January I wrote about the arsenal of assets Murray had at his disposal. At that time Murray held five of the first 60 picks in the draft along with a boatload of prospects at various levels of development. Today his roster is drastically altered. O’Reilly, Kane and Eichel are set to redefine the team’s top-six while Zach Bogosian and Robin Lehner will be vital pieces on the backend. Murray’s moves at the draft table completed a vital step of the rebuild and should push the Sabres firmly on the path back to competitiveness. Continue reading

Instigator Podcast Episode 40 – Lehner Acquired Ahead of Draft

Tune in for a final run-through of where the Sabres will go in this weekend’s draft along with a breakdown of how the Robin Lehner trade could work out for the Sabres.

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Hitting the floor will remain a breeze for Murray

For the second-straight season the Buffalo Sabres sit below the salary cap floor ahead of the opening of free agency. This is something I touched on last summer prior to free agency opening and my stance this year remains the same as it did last year; getting to the salary cap floor is the least of Tim Murray’s problems.

Buffalo’s journey to the cap floor likely won’t be a challenge for Tim Murray as the Sabres’ rebuild progresses.

Buffalo will likely hit the draft floor with a hair over $10m in space ($10,714,645 per General Fanager). Should Cody Hodgson be bought out, the figure will move to $13,922,979. Buffalo was right around $12m to the floor last year and since I’m betting on Hodgson being bought out, I’m going to proceed with the higher figure as my goal for the cap floor.

The biggest differentiating factor this year is that there isn’t a large RFA deal on the horizon for the Sabres to help carve out their gap to the floor. Tyler Ennis alone took care of $4.6m in space when his new deal was inked last summer. The Sabres are ripe with restricted and unrestricted free agents, but no one who will be re-signed are expected to carry a significant hit. In fact, it’s unlikely that any of Buffalo’s RFAs see anything more than a qualifying offer.

Mark Pysyk and Johan Larsson are the two most prominent RFAs who could potentially ask for a bridge deal, but I’d still bet on qualifying offers for each. All this means is that the RFAs Tim Murray chooses to retain won’t eat up a major portion of the cap. In fact, I’d be surprised if more than two current RFAs are with the big club next year.

Working under the assumption that Sam Reinhart will start the year in Buffalo along with Tim Schaller, Pysyk and Larsson, I come up with an estimated figure right in the $3.5m neighborhood. That may be a little light but I’d rather aim low than set unrealistic expectations. For example, Mark Pysyk could get a bridge deal that pays him two or three million a year which would account for an even larger chunk of cap.

Those moves put the organization just $10.2m short of the floor without accounting for any trades or unrestricted free agent signings. I expect Murray to follow a nearly identical path as he did last year in free agency. Two forwards will likely be brought in to reinforce the top and bottom-six, a veteran defenseman will be acquired and a goalie will be needed this year as well. Continue reading