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.
It’s been well advertised that Bogosian and Myers are all but the same player. Their possession and performance metrics are nearly identical and the lone differentiating factor is Myers offensive prowess compared to the steady defensive presence provided by Bogosian.
As a player I’ve been high on for quite some time (despite his struggles), I feel extremely comfortable moving forward with Bogosian as a strong, second-pairing presence for the club. Putting him in a mix with Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov and Mark Pysyk makes for a superb top four for the foreseeable future.
The Stafford and Kasdorf inclusion reads as little more than throw in pieces, for the most part once everything shakes out. Stafford could have turned into a third round pick closer to the deadline, but I doubt he would have brought in much more. He addresses a need for the Jets while featuring as a piece of the puzzle in acquiring Kane for the Sabres. At this point it would appear that Kasdorf is simply another body in Buffalo’s goaltending cupboard. He has solid measurables and put up a very impressive freshman campaign at RPI before breaking his collarbone last season. He has upside and will be worth keeping an eye on down the road.
The other half of the deal lines up Armia, Lemieux and a late first round pick changing hands for Kane while Stafford and Kasdrof fit in as extras, for the most part. Considering the going rate for young, talented forwards like Kane, I see no problem sending two quality prospects and a first round pick for him. If nothing else, Murray paid the exact market price for a player of Kane’s ilk.
While it’s unfortunate that Kane won’t feature for the Sabres this season – an important note for those who have dreams of Connor McDavid in blue and gold – the Sabres made an aggressive move to acquire a true top-six talent.
Kane’s numbers have regressed to a certain extent over the past few seasons but he’s maintained a scoring pace commensurate with players like Patrick Kane and John Tavares on a 60-minute average since 2011(h/t to TJ Luckman). For an even better comparison, Matthew Coller notes that Kane’s goals per 60 minutes is just .03 percentage points shy of Patrick Kane. For a team desperate for goal scoring talent at the NHL level, Kane represents a near immediate fix for a problem that has been broken for well over a year.
A great deal of the narrative surrounding Kane and his slight scoring regression has come due to the lack of quality linemates over the past few seasons. Many, if not most, Jets writers identify Kane as a legitimate top-six forward who would likely produce at a much higher rate if he is given the minutes and linemates commensurate with his talent level. Plugging him into an organization that boasts Mikhail Grigorenko, Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons and a ticket to the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes, puts him in an incredible position to not only succeed but to flourish in Buffalo.
To sacrifice Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux (and a late 1st) for a player like Kane is little more than a carefully calculated decision. The Sabres boast the most impressive prospect cupboard in the league and rather than attempt to project what Armia would do entering his first NHL season or what Lemieux will do once he reaches the professional level – two years away if he is to start in Rochester – Murray took the initiative to acquire a player with the skill to fill a significant top-six role tomorrow.
Lemieux appears to be the player the most fans are concerned about losing. He’s shown the ability to play the game with edge while still showcasing impressive offensive output. He’s the type of player any organization would love to have. But with reports that he wasn’t keen on signing in Buffalo and no guarantee that he becomes a top-six talent, there’s no reason not to accept his departure as part of the game when it comes to acquiring big time talent.
Further, the conversation surrounding the Sabres for quite some time has revolved around the prospects, draft picks and building for the future; it was about time the general manager took the steps towards getting better today. Murray not only capitalized on his organizational strength, he went out and landed the best player in the deal and he wasn’t afraid to pay a premium in order to do so.
Kane may not be a player that factors into any sort of overnight success, but he represents a tangible effort to make major strides in the 2015-16 season. Many have been talking about Buffalo’s bright future and this is the first move of many that should help the Sabres reach their goals.