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.

Unranked:

6/28/2014 – Buffalo acquires Picks 44 and 74 from Washington in exchange for Pick 39 (from Winnipeg via Minnesota)

Murray traded back five picks and managed to snag an additional third round selection in his first draft as GM. The Sabres selected Eric Cornel (44) and Brycen Martin (74) with the picks while the Capitals drafted goaltender Vitek Vanecek. This sits unranked as we won’t know the outcome of the trade for at least one or two more seasons in addition to the benefit to both teams. The Sabres gained a bonus pick and likely picked the same player they would have at 39 while the Capitals moved up to get in on the run of goaltenders in the second round. Three Scowls

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  1. 3/5/2014 – Buffalo acquires Michal Neuvirth and Rusty Klesla from Washington in exchange for Jaroslav Halak and a 2015 3rd round pick (Robin Kovacs)

This lands at the bottom of my list mainly because Murray had to include the 3rd round pick (which Washington later traded to the Rangers) while also taking on salary in the form of Klesla. Klesla was never going to suit up for Buffalo, so his inclusion is somewhat irrelevant. But to have to include more value to dump a pending UFA goaltender was disappointing to me. It seems as if Halak’s expected value dipped and Murray was almost left holding the bag. Neuvirth’s lack of progress this past season didn’t help this trade’s final grade. 1 Scowl

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  1. 3/2/2015 – Buffalo acquires Jack Nevins and a 2016 7th round pick from Montreal in exchange for Torrey Mitchell

This is more or less a throwaway as Mitchell was excelling on an expiring deal and it could be argued that he posed a threat to the tank. It would appear that Murray wasn’t planning on signing him this summer and managed to net a return for the depth forward. Only getting a 7th and a minor league enforcer seemed like a pretty low return, even for a fourth line depth player. 1 Scowl

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  1. 3/2/2015 – Buffalo acquires a 2016 5th round pick from Montreal in exchange for Brian Flynn

Much like the Mitchell deal, it appears as if Murray wasn’t planning on offering Flynn a contract this summer. That being the case, getting return for him at all is a win. While Flynn was someone I thought could fill a role as a skilled fourth liner, I can understand Murray’s decision. Only grabbing a 5th round selection seems like a light return, even for someone Murray may not have been married to keeping. 1.5 Scowls

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  1. 7/9/2014 – Buffalo acquires Jordan Samuels-Thomas from Winnipeg in exchange for a Conditional Draft Pick

This trade is technically a clear win for Murray as the Sabres wound up retaining the pick involved in this trade. The 7th round selection was eventually used on Ivan Chukarov. Samuels-Thomas never panned out for the Sabres in his first professional season and he wasn’t tendered this summer. A very nondescript transaction in the end. 1.5 Scowls

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  1. 3/2/2015 – Buffalo acquires Chad Johnson and a 2016 3rd round pick from the New York Islanders in exchange for Michal Neuvirth

Murray did a better job dealing Neuvirth than he did acquiring him, however this gets bumped down for the unfortunate circumstances which required Buffalo to surrender the pick to the Penguins for hiring Byslma. The trade itself was needed and it ensures the Sabres have a backup goaltender for this season. Losing the 3rd is a bummer despite this being an otherwise okay deal. 2 Scowls

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  1. 3/2/2015 – Buffalo acquires a 2017 2nd round pick from Minnesota in exchange for Chris Stewart

A lower ranking for the deal as 2017 felt about 30 years away when this deal went down. Add in the rumors of deadline offers in 2014 plus another that included a pair of seconds and Ryan Spooner from the Bruins earlier this year. This pick could easily get moved before Buffalo even thinks about using it, but the overall return lacked value given what the original expectation for Stewart was. 2 Scowls

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  1. 2/11/2015 – Buffalo acquires Anders Lindback and a 2016 3rd round pick from Dallas in exchange for Jhonas Enroth

A great trade from two perspectives. At the time, Lindback was the league’s worst goaltender and was brought in as security for Buffalo’s tank. Murray offloaded a goalie who didn’t fit his preferred mold in terms of size while also snagging a 3rd round pick – which was about the going rate for Enroth on the open market. Lindback won’t be back, but that was never going to happen anyway. Grabbing a 3rd for Enroth is a win for Murray. 2.5 Scowls

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  1. 12/16/2014 – Buffalo acquires Jerry D’Amigo from Columbus in exchange for Luke Adam

A minor league swap that is relatively nondescript. Murray gets bonus points for tendering D’Amigo with plans for using him as a high-quality AHL veteran while the Blue Jackets let Adam walk. The deal itself got Adam to a new city which he probably needed while giving the Sabres some added AHL depth. 2.5 Scowls

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  1. 3/5/2014 – Buffalo acquires Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers from Los Angeles in exchange for Brayden McNabb, Jonathan Parker, a 2014 2nd round pick and a 2015 2nd round pick

A big package which basically hinges on the long-term success of Fasching in Buffalo and McNabb in Los Angeles. Fasching received rave reviews after his draft year and has the ability to grow into a terrific power forward. Deslauriers has shown the ability to be a quality fourth line depth player who can do more than simply fight. Losing McNabb was tough, but acceptable given the organizational pipeline. Parker’s inclusion was nothing more than a contract dump while the pair of second round picks were originally acquired in the Robyn Regehr trade. Including those two picks – LA selected Alex Lintuniemi in 2014 and Eric Cernak in 2015 – was a tougher pill to swallow with McNabb included in the deal. I had thoughts of pushing this deal further down my rankings but Fasching’s long term outlook bumped it up. 2.5 Scowls

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  1. 7/1/2014 – Buffalo acquires Josh Gorges from Montreal in exchange for a 2016 2nd round pick (from MIN)

A good deal for the Sabres in which Gorges scorned Toronto and waived his no trade clause to come here over GTA. Gorges will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so we’ll see what his long-term effect winds up as. However, he brought a veteran presence to a young locker room and filled a role as a top-four defender last year and he likely will again this season. 3 Scowls

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  1. 6/26/2015 – Buffalo acquires Robin Lehner and David Legwand from Ottawa in exchange for the 21st overall pick

Much of the concern over this deal was over using a first round pick to get a goalie who still has some question marks surrounding his game. The later deal to move the 31st pick actually helped to soften the blow for me as both 21 and 31 were moved in deals to bring in a goaltender and Ryan O’Reilly. If you roll the two deals together, 21 and 31 become almost interchangeable. Additionally, Lehner is much young than most other goalies on the market, which gives me more confidence in the deal itself. Legwand’s inclusion doesn’t bother me much as the Sabres could use a little more leadership in the room. He’ll be a better addition than some think. 3.5 Scowls

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  1. 3/5/2014 – Buffalo acquires Torrey Mitchell, a 2014 2nd round pick and a 2016 2nd round pick from Minnesota in exchange for Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick

This wound up being one of Murray’s best deals simply because he didn’t wind up losing anything. McCormick and Moulson were each signed last summer and Torrey Mitchell wound up being turned into more assets (low in value as they may be). The 2016 2nd became Josh Gorges while Buffalo used the 2014 pick on Vaclav Karabacek. Overall a tremendous trade for Murray. 4 Scowls

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  1. 2/11/2015 – Buffalo acquires Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf from Winnipeg in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a Conditional 2015 1st round pick

Perhaps Murray’s biggest blockbuster, he swung for the fences to give a supremely talented finisher a much-needed change of scenery. The trade will likely be judged on whether Kane or Myers provides their respective teams with a stronger return, but the Sabres came out very well in this deal, despite the large package. Stafford was unrestricted, Armia appeared to have stalled in his development and Lemieux had told the organization he wasn’t ever going to sign. Murray turned that into a legitimate top-four defenseman and a lethal scoring winger along with a long-term project goaltending prospect. The only loss in this deal was not pushing for Eric Comrie instead of Kasdorf and having to fork over a first round pick (Winnipeg selected Jack Roslovic). Otherwise I see this as a win for Murray. 4 Scowls

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  1. 2/29/2014 – Buffalo acquires Chris Stewart, Jaroslav Halak, William Carrier, a 2015 1st round pick and a Conditional 2016 3rd round pick from St. Louis in exchange for Ryan Miller and Steve Ott

Murray’s first move was massive. He dealt the face of the franchise along with a valuable bottom-six leader as both deals were set to expire that coming summer. He received two pieces that were all but assured to move on along with a quality prospect, a first round pick and one additional draft pick for later use. This deal has unraveled a bit since it went down, however. Only Carrier and the 2016 3rd remain in Buffalo’s coffers and the return on Stewart and Halak was underwhelming and the 1st round pick wound up going to Winnipeg as part of the Kane trade. So not an overwhelming win, but still a great first impression for Buffalo’s GM. 4 Scowls

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  1. 6/26/2015 – Buffalo acquires Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn from Colorado in exchange for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, JT Compher and a 2015 2nd round pick

The trade that is freshest in our minds is also the most impressive in Murray’s short tenure for some of the same reasons the Kane trade should favor the Sabres. Grigorenko, like Lemieux, wasn’t going to sign the contract Buffalo offered to him, so he wasn’t going to impact the Sabres either way. Losing Compher has some concerned but adding O’Reilly to the already deep pool of centers the Sabres have made him expendable. Even as a RW his path to the NHL wouldn’t been a hard one due to the presence of Fasching, Bailey and Baptiste. Compher may have had value, but he won’t be missed as badly as some think. The added benefit of a quality veteran like McGinn and only dumping a 2nd round pick when the long assumed asking price was a first just gives this more value. Losing Zadorov will hurt, but eight years of Ryan O’Reilly ought to make that insignificant. 5 Scowls

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3 thoughts on “Grading the Sabres: Murray at the Trade Table

  1. Bill Johnson July 7, 2015 / 6:26 am

    You should marry him

    Like

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