Grading Tim Murray’s Trade History

Tim Murray has been uncharacteristically quiet on the trade front during offseason, only making three deals of note. His wheeling and dealing was less than what fans have become accustomed to and, most surprisingly, came with a fair bit of criticism.

As Murray has dealt away analytical all-star Mark Pysyk and failed to bring old friend Jhonas Enroth back via free agency, some fans have begun to question Murray’s acumen, and a few have gone so far as to call for his job. Evander Kane’s off-ice activity has also draw ire for the deal which brought the winger to Buffalo along with Zach Bogosian.

I think those calling for his job are in the minority, but in order to see if they have a legitimate bone to pick I’ve decided to grade every deal Murray has made since he began calling the shots in 2014 (with the help of nhltradetracker.com). It’s tough to grade some trades simply because the pieces that were acquired or dealt away aren’t finished products yet, but this will still show whether Murray has been able to get the better of his fellow GM’s, or if they’ve been able to take advantage of his aggressiveness.

The Trade

Sabres trade Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis for Jaro Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, a 1st round pick in 2015 and a conditional 2016 3rd round pick

Grade: A

Murray arrived in Buffalo and was immediately tasked with tearing down an aging, losing roster. Moving Miller, who had made it known he was not going to re-sign after the season, was his chief goal. Being packaged Miller with Ott, a 3rd line player at best, to acquire a 1st round selection, as well as other movable bodies was a huge win for Murray. The Sabres used the 1st round pick to acquire Kane and Bogosian while the 3rd round pick was used to move on Dmitri Kulikov. William Carrier is now the only piece of this trade that is still in either Buffalo or St. Louis; he’s currently a top left wing prospect in the organization.

The Trade

Sabres trade Halak and a 2015 3rd round pick to Washington for Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla

Grade: C+

Klesla was a part of the deal in name only, as he never even stepped foot in Buffalo after the trade let alone played a game for the Sabres. There’s really no obvious winner in the trade, as no members of the trade remain with their clubs. The Caps dealt away the draft pick they acquired, so I give the Sabres a slight edge simply because Neuvirth provided steady play in net in his short time in Buffalo

The Trade

Sabres trade Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick to Minnesota for Torrey Mitchell, a 2014 2nd round pick (Vaclav Karabacek), and a 2016 2nd round pick

Grade: A+

Both McCormick and Moulson re-signed with the Sabres, so Murray basically acquired two top 60 picks for nothing. While the contract given to Moulson can be questioned (and rightly so), and McCormick’s health issues couldn’t have been foreseen, Murray was still able to add a solid prospect in Karabacek as a result, and use the other pieces in the deal to continue to shape his roster as the 2016 2nd was used to acquire Josh Gorges.

The Trade

Sabres trade Brayden McNabb, Jonathan Parker, and two 2nd round picks to Los Angeles for Nic Deslauriers and Hudson Fasching

Grade: C-

This trade has been the source of a lot of consternation amongst Sabres fans, and it’s hard to argue. Murray sacrificed a lot of the future in order to get the rights to Hudson Fasching. Losing McNabb may already be coming back to bite the Sabres, as he has developed into a solid 2nd pair defenseman for the Kings. Looking at the Sabres’ current situation on the blue line it’s not hard to find a place where a young, 6’ 5” defenseman on a team friendly contract could fit in. Deslauriers has carved out a role for himself in the league after playing defense early in his career, but is still a 4th line forward at best. As of now the Kings were unable to turn either of the picks acquired in the trade into a player either contributing at the NHL level or close to it, although it would be unfair to say both Erik Cernak and Alex Lintuniemi have missed their shot. Since his arrival, Tim Murray has drafted extremely well which makes you wonder what type of talent he could have brought into the organization with those picks. Hudson Fasching is the key man in this trade from a Sabres perspective. After signing last season he showed glimpses of what kind of potential he has; his first career goal was a prime example. If Fasching can continue to develop and become the power forward that many think he can become the Sabres may end up on the right side of the deal; but as of now Dean Lombardi looks to have come out ahead.

The Trade

Sabres Trade a 2016 2nd round pick to Montreal for Josh Gorges

Grade: B-

The pick moved to the Habs originally belonged to the Wild, but Montreal shipped it on to Chicago as part of the Andrew Shaw trade. Gorges filled a large need when he arrived, and it helps that he spurned a move to Toronto in favor of the Sabres. He provided leadership on a very young team, and played heavy minutes when healthy. It became evident last season that Gorges is no longer a top pair defenseman, and might not be a second pair defenseman either. If his contract only had one year left on in instead of two he would be a nice bottom pair defenseman who could be moved at the deadline (see: Roman Polak), but that extra year really hurts his value.

The Trade

Sabres trade a conditional 2015 7th round pick to Winnipeg for Jordan Samuels-Thomas

Grade: C+

Murray took a flyer on Samuels-Thomas and, like most 7th round selections, it didn’t come to fruition. Samuels-Thomas played one season in Rochester, and spent last season in the Kings’ system with Ontario. The conditional pick in the trade remained with the Sabres, so the deal didn’t cost Murray any assets.

The Trade

Sabres trade Luke Adam to Columbus for Jerry D’Amigo

Grade: C

Adam no longer figured in the Sabres’ plans, and D’Amigo was is an AHL player. D’Amigo saw time in nine games for the Sabres in 2014-15, but is no longer a realistic call-up option.

The Trade

Sabres trade Jhonas Enroth to Dallas for Anders Lindback and a conditional 2016 3rd round pick (Casey Fitzgerald)

Grade: B-

Enroth was providing goaltending that was too good for the march to last place, so he was shipped out. Lindback was statistically one of the worst goaltenders in the league at the time of the trade, but he also put up very solid numbers in Buffalo. Knowing what we know now about Murray’s preference for bigger goaltenders this trade is not surprising, regardless of Enroth’s play. The Sabres used the conditional pick on Boston College defenseman Casey Fitzgerald, a player who has had a very impressive summer with Team USA.

The Trade

Sabres trade Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Brendan Lemieux, Joel Armia, and a 2015 1st round pick to Winnipeg for Zach Bogosian, Evander Kane, and Jason Kasdorf.

Grade: C

This deal was Murray’s first blockbuster, and with the pieces involved in it having just completed their first full season with their new teams it’s still fairly early when it comes to evaluating the deal. Drew Stafford’s tenure in Buffalo was coming to an end regardless of the trade, as he wasn’t going to be re-signed. He put up 38 points in 78 games last season, and still has not put up a 50 point season since 2011-12. Brendan Lemieux is a high end prospect that the Sabres drafted with the first pick of the second round but he had made it clear he wasn’t going to sign with the club, so utilizing an asset who’s future didn’t lie with the organization was a move I don’t think Murray can be blamed for. Joel Armia was seen as the top wing prospect in the organization prior to the deal.  The jury is obviously still out on Armia’s very young NHL career, but the performance to date has done nothing to suggest the Sabres will regret moving out the talented Finn. The big piece gong to Winnipeg was Tyler Myers, who hadn’t quite lived up to the lofty expectations set by his Calder winning rookie season. His game is rather similar to the defenseman going to Buffalo in the trade, Zach Bogosian; both players have undeniable talent, but also have flaws in their game that so far has prevented them from taking the next step in their performance.

The best player in the trade is clearly Evander Kane, despite his off-ice transgressions. Many will point to Kane’s legal issues as a reason why Murray should have never made the deal, but it’s important to note that Kane had no legal missteps during his time with the Jets/Thrashers. Yes, there were criticisms levied against him (money phone, money pushups, the track suit incident), but main factor in Kevin Cheveldayoff’s decision to trade him was the issues he was having in the dressing room. Of all the issues Kane has run into during his Sabres career none have been due to him being a bad teammate. If Kane can square away his current legal situation and learn from it, which I hope he does as a hockey player and person, then the Sabres will still have a potential 30 goal scorer that’s still only 25 years old.

The Trade

Buffalo trades Chris Stewart to Minnesota for a 2017 second round pick

Grade:

B+

Stewart started his career off strong, but has yet to fulfill the potential he showed as a young NHL player. Teams are obviously still intrigued by his size and skillset, but Stewart is likely no longer worth what Murray was able to get for him.

The Trade

Sabres trade Torrey Mitchell to Montreal for Jack Nevins and a 2016 7th round pick (Vasily Glotov)

Grade: C+

This was a deal made with the tank in mind, as Mitchell is still a valuable bottom six contributor today. Nevins will likely never make an impact at the NHL level and wasn’t re-signed by the Sabres this year. Glotov, however, is an interesting case. There’s still not a lot of tape on him and he’s undersized, but he has talent. He’s already a fan favorite, and a good showing in his first North American season in the QMJHL will only help his cause.

The Trade

Sabres trade Michal Neuvirth to the Islanders for Chad Johnson and a 2016 3rd round pick.

Grade: C+

Murray went out and acquired the two worst goalies in the NHL at the 14-15 trade deadline to ensure a last place finish, and that mission was accomplished. Neuvirth is a very good NHL goaltender as evidenced by his performance in the playoffs for Philadelphia, but Murray has made it clear he likes bigger goaltenders, so his future likely didn’t lie with the Sabres anyway. Johnson’s play this season gave Murray far more value than one may have originally thought while the 3rd round pick was awarded to Pittsburgh after the Dan Bylsma hiring.

The Trade

Sabres trade Brian Flynn to Montreal for a 2016 5th round pick (Vojtech Budik)

The Grade: C

Flynn is still a bottom six forward with the Canadiens, and Budik’s professional career has yet to begin.

The Trade

Sabres trade a 2015 first round pick (Colin White) to Ottawa for Robin Lehner and David Legwand

Grade: B-

Murray has taken heat for giving up a 1st round pick for a goaltender, and given the recent goalie market it’s probably merited. Murray was very familiar with Lehner from their time in Ottawa together, and is clearly very high on the 25 year old goaltender. He checks off all the boxes in terms of size and ability, but health is a concern. When Lehner was healthy last season he was very solid, the trick will be to keep him healthy for 60 games this season. Legwand shook off a very slow start to put in a nice season in his only with the Sabres, giving the team exactly what you can expect from a fourth line center. It’s still very early in the proceedings to say who won or lost the deal, but if Lehner can stay on the ice I don’t think Murray will be left with buyer’s remorse.

The Trade

Buffalo trades Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, JT Compher, and a 2015 2nd round pick to Colorado for Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn

Grade: A

Murray should be tried for larceny in this case. Even if one or two of the players given up for O’Reilly have solid NHL careers it is unlikely they get to the level of O’Reilly; his impact at both ends of the ice can only be matched by a handful of players in the league. McGinn was a nice fit in Buffalo before being moved on at the deadline, but Murray comes up aces regardless.

The Trade

Buffalo Trades Mike Weber to Washington for a 2017 3rd round pick.

Grade: A+

No explanation needed. Murray might practice witchcraft.

The Trade

Buffalo trades Jason Akeson, Phil Varone, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, and a conditional pick to Ottawa for Michael Sdao, Alex Guptil, Cole Schneider, and Eric O’Dell

Grade: B

An AHL trade that the Sabres got the better of. The players dealt had no future in the organization and were not contributing at the AHL level. The Amerks played much better after the trade, and Schneider will fight for a spot on the 4th line in Buffalo.

The Trade

Buffalo trades Jamie McGinn to Anaheim for a conditional 3rd in 2016

Grade: B

Murray had a price point in regards to McGinn, and when he became evident he couldn’t be brought back at the price he was traded. Even though the pick acquired was later dealt it’s still good business to not let a player go for nothing.

The Trade

Buffalo trades a 2016 3rd round pick to Nashville for the rights to Jimmy Vesey

Grade: B+

This is where the pick acquired from Anaheim ended up, and this grade becomes an A+ if Vesey signs next week. Credit to Murray for being aggressive with one of his four third round picks. Even if it only increased the odds of Vesey signing by 10% it’s still worth it.

The Trade

Sabres trade Mark Pysyk, a 2016 2nd round pick, and 2016 3rd round pick for Dmitry Kulikov and a 2016 2nd round pick.

Grade: B

This trade has been widely discussed due to Pysyk’s analytical dominance, but it was clear this year that Jake McCabe passed Pysyk on the depth chart and Kulikov was needed as an upgrade over Josh Gorges on the left side of defense. Add the fact that Rasmus Asplund (who I had a 1st round grade on) has looked extremely good since the draft and this deal probably isn’t as bad as first thought.

The Trade

Buffalo trades a 2017 4th round pick to St. Louis for Anders Nilsson

Grade: C

Murray loves his tall goalies, ad Nilsson is certainly tall. Nilsson’s numbers paired with who was available via free agency leave me a little concerned with the value given up, but I’ll wait to see how everything turns out.

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