The Instigator Podcast 7.11 – Streak Sleepers with Ben Mathewson

Ben Mathewson was kind enough to join the show this week to reflect on the tenth win of Buffalo’s win streak and some of the players who have been contributors to the streak but who haven’t received quite as much press as guys like Jeff Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin. We discuss the impressive depth the Sabres have enjoyed, particularly the fourth line and we even toss around some hypothetical trade targets should these winning ways turn the Sabres into buyers in the spring (yes, Brandon Montour is discussed).

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The Instigator Podcast 5.5 – Vesey and the Draft with Joe Yerdon of NHL.com

A special thanks to Joe Yerdon of NHL.com for joining Tyler and I for this week’s podcast. We discuss the Jimmy Vesey trade and the likelihood that the Sabres get the young prospect under contract. We also explore the options Tim Murray will have at the draft. This includes who the Sabres may pick at eight and potential trade targets. We end on a bang with a particularly interesting proposal for Sabres fans to mull over. You can listen to this week’s podcast here or via iTunes by following this link.

Which Defensemen Should Tim Murray Target This Offseason

By John Barrett

It’s a very interesting time to be a Buffalo Sabres fan. With the NHL Draft in spitting distance, and perhaps the most interesting free agency period in two decades, the Sabres have positioned themselves well for both regards eleven picks and loads of cap space.

The biggest hole on the Sabres roster is, as Tim Murray puts it “a power play quarterback,” defenseman that can be paired with budding star Rasmus Ristolainen and be a big-time point producer with the man advantage. There have been a few defensemen around the NHL whose names have been linked to the Sabres, via restricted free agency, unrestricted free agency and cap motivated trades.

I examined the stats of a handful of these potential targets, that focus on two major areas; puck possession and power play production. I focused on these two areas because they were two key focus points that came right from the horses mouth when Murray discussed his blueline. I plotted the two year averages for players on a matrix of 5v5 Corsi For % Relative to the team and points per 60 minutes on the power play.targets Continue reading

Murray Made the Right Gamble with Vesey, but There is Work to be Done

In case you had forgotten, Tim Murray isn’t afraid to go out and take what he wants. Look no further than yesterday’s acquisition of Jimmy Vesey’s negotiating rights.

Murray swapped the pick obtained from Anaheim in exchange for Jamie McGinn for an additional two months to negotiate with Vesey and his representatives on the Hobey Baker winner’s entry level contract. While Vesey’s agent came out shortly after the trade to claim his client would still exercise his right to explore free agency, you can’t be left without a slight inkling that Murray entered this deal with some idea of what direction Vesey was leaning.

Sacrificing a third round pick may seem like some as drastic overpayment. After all, Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski only fetched sixth and fifth round picks, respectively. The pick itself was basically free; acquired in exchange for a departing free agent. In addition, Vesey comes as not only a highly touted prospect but a player with a number of club controlled RFA years to come. Bear in mind that far more third round picks turn into very little or nothing at the NHL level whereas Vesey is a known quantity. So from a strict value perspective, the 23 year-old player entering his entry level deal will typically carry more value than an unrestricted defenseman who is beyond 30. Continue reading

Murray Should Focus on Value not Handedness in Defensive Pursuit

Tim Murray has made it no secret that he’s in the market for a defenseman this summer, specifically a puck moving, power play quarterback. It’s also been noted that acquiring a left handed defenseman to help balance Buffalo’s current left-right disparity is likely high on Murray’s shopping list as well.

In a perfect world Murray would find a defenseman that checked all of those boxes. For example, Cam Fowler checks nearly every single one of those boxes nicely. Not only does he meet many of Buffalo’s needs, but there’s an expectation that he will be on the block in Anaheim this summer. So there’s certainly a natural fit there.

There are also rumors swirling about Fowler’s Anaheim teammates Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. Tyson Barrie is thought by some to be a spare part in the eyes of Colorado management and even Kevin Shattenkirk’s name is making the rounds in the rumor mill. All five of these names are terrific defensemen who would drastically impact Buffalo’s blueline in the offensive end and when it comes to puck possession (Fowler’s fancy stats aren’t as impressive as the others, for what it’s worth).

The one issue is that three of the five defensemen mentioned above are right handed and the Sabres already have five righties on the roster. While maintaining a good balance between right and left handed blueliners is a key around the league, this may be a case where ignoring that stance suits the Sabres better. Continue reading

The Case Against Trading for Nash

After the Buffalo Sabres rebuild took a big step forward this season, the expectations placed on Tim Murray have grown this summer. The process of turning the Sabres back into a contender will need to advance yet again and Murray is expected to be active on the trade market as he was last year.

One name that has begun to pop up as a trade target around the league (and for the Sabres) is Rick Nash. Whether or not Nash is an ideal fit for the Sabres is up for debate as questions over Nash’s age, contract and asking price need to be asked.

Nash, just over a year removed from a 42-goal campaign, is a powerful star forward who would slot in perfectly on the left side of Buffalo’s top-six. In that sense he’s almost a no brainer acquisition for the Sabres. He, among other long time Rangers, has been tabbed for a potential exit this summer as the Rangers are expected to reshape their roster after a disappointing first round playoff exit.

The Rangers are fighting a cap crunch due to big deals handed out to underperforming players, namely Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. Big money has also been paid to Nash (via his contract signed in Columbus), Henrik Lundqvist and Derek Stepan. Combine those big deals with a barren cupboard of prospects and picks after a number of deadline deals and Jeff Gorton is left with quite a pickle on his hands. Continue reading

Honing in on Murray’s potential targets along the wing

Tim Murray will enter the offseason with a pair of pressing items on his to-do list. Get a left handed defender to fill in his top-four and grab a winger (or two) to fill out the top-six.

Somewhat like last summer when Murray was on the hunt for a goaltender, there are a host of options that will be available to him, but maybe not any one singular target fans may expect him to pursue. That’s excluding Steven Stamkos (who is a center) who will be on top of the wishlist for nearly every fan and general manager.

Looking beyond Stamkos, there are a number of players who I personally like as options for Murray to pursue via trade or free agency. Among the players I could see him considering is Jamie McGinn, who could certainly be re-signed after his trial with Anaheim this spring. While I’m unsure if McGinn’s salary demands will align with Murray’s expectation, you can count him as something of an honorable mention on this list.

While the trade route may be the most enticing route for Murray to pursue given Buffalo’s wealth of draft picks and the ability to pare down some of the clogged middle six bodies the team has, there are actually a couple of names who may hit unrestricted free agency I hope Murray considers. Continue reading