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

The Instigator Podcast 4.16 – Deadline Primer

Chris and Tyler look ahead to Monday’s deadline and the players the Sabres will likely move on from. We also visit a few potential targets Tim Murray might consider as he continues to re-shape the roster.

The Instigator Podcast 4.12 – Targeting Trades

There’s still time before Tim Murray really starts talking trade but not too early to discuss what steps the Sabres should take moving forward. Chris and Tyler discuss whether Murray should be looking at options at forward or along the blueline.

Double Minor: Discussing Buffalo’s trade deadline strategy

We’re nearly a month away from the trade deadline and the rumor mill is really beginning to heat up. The Sabres are expected to sell off a number of players on expiring deals as Drew Stafford, Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell and likely one of the team’s two goaltenders will be shipped out by March 2.

Tim Murray, however, is in a very interesting position. While Buffalo is firmly a seller this year, he also holds a bucket of picks and prospects that have helped make the Sabres system the envy of the league. Given the sheer number of players in the system, it’s very unlikely that all of the assets the Sabres have stockpiled wind up wearing blue and gold. In fact, Murray has admitted that not every player they’ve acquired or drafted will wind up as an NHL player and it’s up to the Sabres to determine who they need to hold on to. This tells me a few things.

First, Murray is very tapped into the assets he has and likely has a very good idea about who he sees as a fit in the near future. Second, he knows that he’s very close to the point of being over-saturated with futures and he needs to start dealing for NHL-ready talent in order to maximize the team’s elite talent and to speed up his rebuild.

As the deadline approaches, how do you think Murray will operate? Should his plan of attack be to continue acquiring picks and prospects or is it time to make some hockey trades? Continue reading