Targeting Cap Dumps Might Fetch the Sabres the Talent They Need

For a team hoping to reshape their identity this offseason, the Buffalo Sabres are seriously short on talent and assets which can be parlayed into the type of deals which would bring about any sort of marked improvement.

Outside of Ryan O’Reilly, who could fetch a king’s ransom should he be traded, the Sabres have scant few assets they can give up in trades. They’re short on picks and expendable prospects with value. O’Reilly is the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue and San Jose’s first round pick is another valuable option but there isn’t much beyond that.

One avenue available to Botterill is a path he’s ventured down once during his time as the Sabres GM. Taking on salary to land the player he’s seeking. Even with the added cap hit that Jason Pominville carried, the deal that brought Pominville and Marco Scandella to Buffalo was a coup for the Sabres. Botterill was able to acquire a solid defenseman for his top four for a pair of forwards who were quickly becoming spare parts in Buffalo. The Sabres took on about $3mm in cap when it was all said and done, a minor uptick to unload dead weight and seriously upgrade the blueline.

It’s a tactic Botterill is in position to take advantage of once again this summer. Continue reading

The Curious Case of the Third Round Picks Buffalo Shipped Away

The third round of the NHL Draft is hardly an electrifying portion of the event. The picks all hold fair value on the floor and in trade negotiations, but in either case you’re not referring to any blockbuster moves.

However, the Buffalo Sabres’ own involvement in the 2016 third round was actually somewhat interesting. Not so much for the picks they made, but for the ones which found their way to other teams.

At one point or another, the Sabres held five picks in this year’s third round. Buffalo would only wind up making a pair of selections in the round after entering the weekend with a trio of picks. Cliff Pu would be selected 69th (nice) and Casey Fitzgerald 86th while the other three selections previously held by the Sabres found their way to other cities. Continue reading

Sabres Deadline Live Blog

It’s been an interesting deadline season thus far. Plenty of deals have gone down in the weeks leading up to today’s deadline and the Sabres really led the way in that department, sending Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and Jhonas Enroth away in pre-deadline deals.

I’ll use this space to track the moves made by the Sabres along with offering up a few quick thoughts on each move.

Buffalo acquires a 2016 5th Round pick from Montreal for Brian FlynnFlynnFlynn is an RFA, so it’s plausible to assume that Tim Murray wasn’t planning on qualifying him this summer. He’s a very serviceable player and I saw him as a nice fourth line forward once the roster rounded out. He does a good job on the penalty kill and has begun to show some offensive upside in the right situation.

Ultimately, Flynn was signed by the previous regime as a college free agent and simply may not be a player Tim Murray saw as a long-term part of his plans. If that’s the case, then by all means try to get as much return for him as possible. It’s still a questionable decision since they’re only getting a 2016 5th, but as a depth player who will be restricted this summer, there’s not much more to ask for.

Buffalo acquires Chad Johnson and a conditional 2016 3rd round pick for Michal Neuvirth

NeuvyThe prayers of the most ardent tank fans have been answered with this deal. Tim Murray saw the goaltender he acquired at last year’s deadline enjoy a fair resurgence over the past few weeks and leveraged his play for an additional asset in the 2016 draft. The Sabres already own the Islanders first and second round picks in the 2015 draft and now own four total picks in the third round of next year’s draft. This was solid return for a goaltender who about a month ago looked as if he was unmovable thanks, in large part, to a lengthy losing streak. This was very much a move for the Sabres’ tank as the Sabres have seen the Coyotes sell off nearly every asset they had in an attempt to nosedive to the league basement.

Johnson hasn’t been great this year as Jaro Halak’s backup and now joins Anders Lindback in what is easily the most unstable goaltending duo in the league. Johnson comes in with a 3.08 GAA to complement Lindback’s 3.71. Tank on.

Buffalo acquires 2017 2nd round pick from Minnesota for Chris Stewart

StewartCertainly not the return originally expected for Stewart as there were rumors that Tim Murray was requesting as much as a top prospect in exchange for Stewart. In the long run it will probably look like Murray waited a little too long to deal Stewart but landing a second round pick, as far in the future as it may be, is better than taking less than the original asking price. Further, the Sabres already owned Minnesota’s 2016 2nd (which they used to acquire Josh Gorges), so Murray did a good job getting a more valuable pick.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Murray’s thought process on acquiring this pick is to provide himself more ammunition for next year’s deadline and future trade offers. As the Sabres sit in a position to really hit the gas on their rebuild, having additional picks to swap is a very good position to be in.

Buffalo acquires Jack Nevins and a 2016 7th round pick from Montreal for Torrey Mitchell

Mitchell

This has been a top secret deal (for some reason) since it was announced. Turns out the Sabres grabbed a prospect who has done nothing of substance at the professional and a very late pick in 2016 for Mitchell. This was simply maximizing return for an expiring deal while also pushing another veteran out the door and Murray certainly did that. If Nevins actually plays for the Sabres, I’d be shocked. But, they got an actual body for a player who would typically be pretty worthless in any other scenario.

I’ll have a full recap up on today’s happenings soon.

Between the pipes: Pominville strikes in return to Buffalo

Yet another loss befell the Buffalo Sabres last night as they continue to trudge through the opening weeks of the 2013-14 season.

With an 0-6-1 record, the Sabres are firmly entrenched as the league’s worst club at the moment and it doesn’t appear they’ll be climbing out of the cellar anytime soon. The Sabres did, however, make some strides last night in stymying their opponents chances and generally playing quality defensive hockey. Not only did the Sabres manage to keep their opponent under 30 shots, but the Sabres actually led in the shots on goal department when the clock hit zero.

It didn’t matter much as former Sabres captain Jason Pominville registered the game winning goal on a pretty passing play late in the second period, giving the Wild their second lead of the game after Brian Flynn had knotted the score.

The game itself was something of a dud. Buffalo managed to keep the Wild quiet, despite losing the possession battle for long stretches. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s 23 shots weren’t littered with chances, leaving 60 minutes of relatively quiet hockey between the two teams.

Postgame criticism fell more on the organization as opposed to the players themselves as Pominville wasn’t honored or acknowledged during the game and many fans and media members alike felt that he should’ve been given some sort of recognition. As someone who isn’t prone to swoon over lost or departed players, I’m very much on the fence as to if this is a big deal or not. After all, the guy no longer plays for your team and was sent away in an effort to rebuild the roster. However, I think that they probably should have done something for Pominville. Continue reading

Regier manuvers for the future with deadline deals

Darcy Regier wouldn’t say it outright in his press conference, but he maneuvered the trade deadline like a general manager leading a rebuild.

Regier’s moves netted the Sabres eleven total picks over the first two rounds of the next three drafts. Eleven picks. That includes two first round and two second round picks this year, a first and three seconds next year and a first and two seconds in 2015. In addition, Regier acquired a pair of prospects in his haul from the Jason Pominville trade.

Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr probably weren’t going to be part of the team’s plans for 2013-14 as the season began to spiral out of control. Regier got the maximum return that he could for each player and pulled the trigger. Given that second round picks are valuable commodities, he did a good job in netting a trio of the picks for his two pending free agents.

While the Pominville trade was somewhat expected, the magnitude of the deal may not have been. Two picks (first in 2013, second in 2014) and two NHL-ready prospects for the former captain is a solid haul and specifically the type of trade that is relatively foreign when you look at the moves typically made by Regier.

While the Sabres haven’t been in full sell mode for some time, Regier has also never had to deal with shipping out such a valuable commodity. The closest you could come would be getting Steve Bernier and a first for Brian Campbell, but even that pales in comparison.

Regier had to go into sell mode, there is no denying the position that he was in. There is a good chance that a majority of Sabres fans want Regier gone and they aren’t off base in that desire. He probably isn’t the man to complete the process of the rebuild but that doesn’t mean he didn’t take the right step forward with the moves he made.  Of course, there is no guarantee that he will survive long enough to take the next step in this process. Continue reading

Double Minors: Scrappy win sets up Tuesday’s showdown

Things are falling into place in a very similar fashion in which they did last season. The Sabres have charged hard to the brink of a playoff spot and will face a Southeast Division foe, on the road, to basically determine who will steal the final playoff spot in the East.

Buffalo’s showdown in DC on Tuesday may just seal up the playoff bid for the two teams competing. The Sabres are in this boat after another hard-fought win. Last night’s 3-1 win over Minnesota was particularly impressive considering the Sabres had to travel (only from NYC) after playing the night before to face a team with a day of rest.

The road weary Sabres ended up throwing 37 shots on goal and played 40 minutes of hockey that looked pretty impressive. Perhaps the second and third periods looked good because the Sabres didn’t allow 16 shots like they did in the first.

Ryan Miller finished with 24 saves and was excellent when his team needed him in the first. He also made a pretty huge stop on a funky play by Christian Ehrhoff in the second. I’m not sure when Ryan Miller will get another game off. You have to think Friday’s game against Pittsburgh or Saturday vs. Toronto would give Jhonas Enroth a look, but points have become so valuable that he may not get another game.

Last night’s victory was a strong showing from a team that could have easily suffered a letdown. The Sabres again got great contributions from the Vanek, Hodgson, Tropp and Foligno, Ennis, Stafford lines on their way to three goals (really just two). Now they just need to outscore Washington on Tuesday.

  • Travis Turnbull has really acquitted himself quite well in his brief NHL debut. I’m not sure when he will be sent back to Rochester, I suppose it all hinges on the health of Pat Kaleta and Nathan Gerbe.
  • Considering the injured players on the Buffalo roster, I wonder where Lindy Ruff has Kaleta and Gerbe penciled in? Moving one of Buffalo’s fourth line players to the press box seems like a pretty easy decision to make. Cody McCormick or even Brad Boyes could find themselves sitting once Gerbe and Kaleta are back in the lineup. If Jochen Hecht was able to fully recover it would make things even more interesting.
  • Cody Hodgson has settled in nicely. I said this the other day, but I’ll say it again. He looks as if some practice time and additional rest to adjust to all the travel he had to deal with has gotten him back to form. I love seeing him skate with Vanek, it is a damn good line.
  • Let’s give Marcus Foligno number 71 next season, okay? I understand that Derek Whitmore is the current owner of that number, but obviously Foligno isn’t going anywhere. Time to let him pick his permanent number.
  • I’m beginning to think the off-ice officials in Buffalo don’t give out hits very often. Only 11 for the Sabres last night.
  • Two more powerplay goals for the Sabres, even though one was actually an ENG. That unit has been better lately, maybe not good, but better. If the powerplay was a little more potent the Sabres could be a very dangerous team to deal with.

Game Summary/Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Visit from Wild is another chance to advance

Tonight’s game is one of those that really makes me wish the NHL would switch back to white jerseys at home. The Sabres whites and the Minnesota Red uniforms are two of the best looking jerseys in the league, if only we got to see them this evening. A good consolation is that the Wild have a nice set of white unis as well.

The Sabres will need two points once again in order to keep pace with the Capitals in eighth place. The Capitals are idle until they meet this Minnesota team tomorrow. The Senators face Pittsburgh which is an interesting predicament because the Sens have been regressing but the Pens are not a team you would want to see in the first round.

This weekend schedule is tough for the Sabres playoff hopes. The Wild needed to travel but had a day off yesterday. They will play tonight against Buffalo with a day of rest against a Sabres team that played and traveled last night. They face Washington the very next day. Ideally you would want that schedule to be reversed.

Buffalo will need to play a responsible game against this Wild team. They are a methodical squad that can be dangerous. Dany Heatley has had a pretty solid year and always plays well against the Sabres. Also, Niklas Backstrom is one of those goalies that can absolutely lock a game down. He is also prone to rough outings if you get to him early. A hot start for the Sabres will be important.

The one edge I will give the Sabres is the fact that their three-pronged attack. If Lindy Ruff can leverage a mismatch, there will be a good chance to capitalize. I also think this could be a game to re-insert Mike Weber just for a set of fresh legs. Probably not the course of action I would take – Alex Sulzer has been too good – but I would understand the logic.

Highlighted Matchup

Lindy Ruff vs. Mike Yeo. Ruff needs to find the right matchups, shut down the few big guns at Yeo’s disposal and find the right lines to roll his scorers out against. His decision on goaltenders and his choice regarding the scratches could be important as well. Yeo’s choice in goalie will likely mean the man sitting tonight will play in Washington. Keep your fingers crossed that the Wild use Backstrom tomorrow.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller

MIN: Niklas Backstrom

Last Meeting

Sabres 3 – Wild 2 OT, Xcel Energy Center, 3/6/2011