Shaping the Sabres Part 2: Draft Day

Part two of the Shaping the Sabres series centers around the entry draft in Sunrise, FL.

Chris: With our predraft trades locked away, that brings us to the draft table in Sunrise. I’d love to manufacture a deal using Buffalo’s other high picks and a prospect or two to grab an NHL-ready right winger. However, I’m unsure that the 21st and 31st picks along with a combination of prospects could land the type of top-six talent the Sabres need.

For example, players like Nino Niederretier and Wayne Simmonds are highly valued assets who are vital pieces for their respective franchises. Even including a prospect like Hudson Fasching or Justin Bailey wouldn’t likely get such a deal done, and adding anything else would make the offer from the Buffalo end far too lopsided. But that would still be the first avenue I explore.

Assuming any wingers worth chasing are out of the question, there are two players in the draft not named McDavid or Eichel who I am very high on: Timo Meier and Zach Werenski.

Draft day trade
The proposal and players Chris would target at the Sabres’ draft table.

Meier was a late riser who posted 90 points with Halifax this year while Werenski was dynamic as a freshman at Michigan. Werenski will need to slip to at least ninth or tenth overall to be an option for the Sabres while Meier has been pegged anywhere from eight or nine to the mid-teens. I’d take the guess work out of the equation and ship a package including the 21st and 31st picks to Colorado to secure the 10th pick. I’d even include an additional pick – perhaps a 3rd in 2016 – to help grease the rails.

Picking between the two (specifically Meier and Werenski) would be a mighty challenge. The organizational need for defensemen is obvious and grabbing a swift skating, left handed puck mover like Werenski would see me drafting for need and talent.

However, Meier is lauded as one of the few players in the draft who are nearly pro ready. Even if he isn’t ready for game one, snagging someone who would be that much closer to an NHL role (on the right wing no less) would be a boon for the rebuild. Continue reading

Shaping the Sabres Part 1: Crease Crashing

This is the first part of a three-part project in which Tyler and Chris discuss the moves they make if they occupied the general manager’s role with the Buffalo Sabres.

The draft is two weeks away and the Sabres rebuild will truly be in full swing when Tim Murray walks to the podium and announces Jack Eichel as the second overall pick. With that in mind we thought it would be interesting to deviate from the typical GM for a day articles and offer up our own version. Tyler and Chris will be going back and forth with our own plans for how we’d go about building the roster as the draft approaches.

The rules are simple, free agency, trades (of players and picks) and buyouts are all on the table and nothing is assumed. So if either of us sees Dylan Strome as the preferred number two pick, so be it. The one thing we won’t be doing is mocking the entire Sabres draft. So short of noting which players we like at 2, 21, 31 and 51, don’t expect to see much more beyond that. Otherwise we have a blank slate and blank checks signed by Uncle Terry himself.

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Murray active in second deadline season

The 2014-15 trade deadline was much different for Tim Murray than the 2013-14 deadline when he was just a few months into his new job.

Entering last year’s deadline, Murray was tasked with finding a home for pending UFA goaltender Ryan Miller, pending UFA Steve Ott along with other pieces. Most notably, Matt Moulson, who was also set to enter free agency. deadline

Last year’s deadline saw Murray make four separate deals and acquire a total of six players and four draft picks. He also claimed Cory Conacher on waivers on deadline day. Murray was not facing the same steep challenge at this year’s deadline. He did not have a franchise talent like Miller to deal, while sporting three pending UFAs who held varying levels of average value. The deadline closed with the Sabres having made four trades (again) while acquiring a goaltender, a prospect and four picks.

You certainly can’t give Murray a strong grade for this year’s deadline alone. None of the four deals he made were blockbusters and he wasn’t dealing from a position of power like in 2014. However, looking at the big picture, Murray has positioned himself very well to take the next big step in the rebuild of the Sabres franchise. Continue reading

Trade route might unearth the answer in net for Buffalo

With the lottery balls still left to be pulled, there are very few positions in the Sabres organization that have an immediate need to be addressed for both the short and long-term. In fact, you could argue that the Sabres’ pipeline is well stocked at nearly every position.

The one area that needs attention, particularly in the near future, is goaltender. While the Sabres have a number of quality goaltending prospects, including four who are at least a year away from their professional debuts, they’re short on NHL-ready talent between the pipes. The recent trade of Jhonas Enroth, while a good decision, demonstrates the shallow depth the Sabres have atop their goaltending pipeline.

While Linus Ullmark, Jonas Johansson and Cal Petersen provide a fair bit of long-term stability from a development standpoint, only Ullmark is under contract at this time. Further, Ullmark will be making his North American debut next year, meaning he is at least two years away from being truly prepared for significant NHL action while the others in the pipeline are still a year or longer away from getting an NHL contract, let along professional playing time.

There is a gap between where the team is expected to be in the coming years and the earliest point you can hope Ullmark makes a serious impact at the NHL level. That means one of two things for Tim Murray and the Sabres. They can either sign a veteran free agent to serve as a bridge for the organization or they can work to trade for another young, promising goaltender who’s further along the development track. The former option may be unavoidable as there is a very good chance that Murray needs to look past Michal Neuvirth as his answer in net regardless of his long-term plans.

Even with the prospect of Ullmark shaping into a star, using a portion of Buffalo’s impressive array of assets to acquire a goaltender who is ready to step into a significant NHL role isn’t just an option that should be considered, it’s the option they should take. Murray is likely going to be stuck signing a veteran this summer whether he likes it or not, but as an organization that is clearly serious about becoming a contender in short order, speeding up their presence in net should be a priority. Considering how weak the free agent class will be, pursuing a trade for a goaltender who is ready for a bigger role represents the best option for the Sabres to improve for both the short and long-term. Continue reading

An illustrated history of the Rick Martin and Don Edwards trade trees

Last season I put together a pair of trade trees after Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller were moved. The Vanek tree has already sprung a few branches and could grow larger if Torrey Mitchell is moved this season. Ryan Miller is actually tied into a much larger trade tree which I only thought traced back to Alexander Mogilny. As it turns out, it is part of a trade tree that goes all the way back to Don Edwards. Continue reading

The Deck is Stacked in Murray’s Favor

Nearly a full month removed from their last victory, plenty is being said of the Sabres express trip to the NHL’s basement. The ethics and direction of Buffalo’s season bring about accusations and arguments over tanking, the skillset of the head coach and the ability of Tim Murray to move the Sabres from cellar dweller to contender.

At this point of the season the Sabres are nothing short of a roaring dumpster fire. The scalding hot play of Jhonas Enroth, Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson – the quartet that helped power their late November surge – has all but disappeared while the rest of the roster has been battered by injuries. With the roster limping around, the tactically feeble head coach has been unable to find a way to turn around Buffalo’s month-long slump and the team’s slow starts and weak finishes should bring about question surrounding his famous motivational skills.

The result of Buffalo’s 11-straight regulation losses is a spot in 30th place and an increasing probability that they’ll be the proud owners of the highest or second highest chance of drafting first overall. As is widely known, finishing 30th guarantees the Sabres the opportunity to draft Jack Eichel as a consolation if their 20% chance at winning the lottery doesn’t pan out.

While a grand debate has raged all year over the ethics and logic surrounding the push or hope for the first overall selection, it would seem that far too many individuals who follow the Sabres have ignored the arsenal that Tim Murray has at his disposal. While getting McDavid or Eichel remains up in the air, there is little doubt that the 2015 Draft will represent the point in which Murray puts the pedal to the floor on this rebuild. Continue reading

Where are the Sabres picks?

Tim Murray was awfully busy in the past week starting on Friday when he moved Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis. That started the ball rolling for Murray’s first trade deadline as a general manager and when the dust settled the Sabres had made four moves involving 15 players and prospects and seven draft picks.

Things may have gotten particularly cloudy with the draft picks as the Sabres not only shipped out three on Wednesday, but have also acquired quite a few over the next few seasons in trades dating back to last year’s swap with Minnesota. A number of these picks are also controlled by various trade conditions that could drastically change the landscape of what the Sabres own in the 2014 draft and beyond.

For example, should the Islanders choose to keep their first round selection in this year’s draft – a condition that stipulates the pick must be in the top-10 – the pick will transfer to the 2015 draft. Should that occur the Sabres will own three first round selections (barring any trades) in what is expected to be a deep first round.

The Sabres could also score an extra pick in this year’s first round if the Blues reach the conference finals or choose to re-sign Ryan Miller prior to the draft. Given that the Blues were knocked out in the second round last year, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to think that is a possibility. However, if the Sabres are to receive that pick, the Blues will get Buffalo’s third round selection in 2014 along with the second round pick Buffalo obtained in the Jason Pominville trade last year. If the Blues miss the conference finals and happen to re-sign Miller after the draft, Buffalo winds up with St. Louis’ 2016 second round pick.

Confused yet? In order to provide some clarity on the situation, here’s a graphic on what picks the Sabres own and what picks have been moved.

Feel free to point out any errors.
Feel free to point out any errors.

The Instigator Podcast 3.2 – Deadline Day Live

Listen back to Eric and I as we discuss the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline, the moves the Sabres made and where they’re headed after today’s moves.

Trading Ehrhoff will be a risk-reward venture

If things weren’t frantic enough in the land of Sabres trade rumors, Christian Ehrhoff is now said to be on the block in what’s shaping up to be the biggest fire sale this side of the Florida Miami Marlins.

Ehrhoff has been a steady contributor on the blueline since he first signed and is easily Buffalo’s number one defenseman. While his contract goes forever, it’s at a very friendly cap hit that allows for quite a bit of maneuverability. Adding his on-ice exploits to such a friendly cap hit makes for an attractive trade chip for a number of competitors.

The issue, however, is the Cap Recapture Clause that was included in the new CBA after last year’s lockout. It was built to penalize teams who signed massive, cap circumventing contracts under the previous CBA. It’s a very complicated rule that is difficult to explain but if you read this thread from HF Boards (h/t Scott Michalak @scottyMCSS) on how Ehrhoff’s recapture penalty works you’ll know all you need on how hard the Sabres will be hit if he’s traded.

As you may notice, Buffalo gets hammered if they trade Ehrhoff and he retires prior to the end of his deal. This is particularly true if Ehrhoff chooses to retire after the 2018-19 season ($5M cap penalty) or 2019-20 season ($10M cap penalty). That’s a lot of scratch to sacrifice. It also makes trading him nearly prohibitive. Continue reading

Leveraging assets may be the key to Sabres deadline deals

The Olympic trade freeze will lift in two weeks and the ten days to follow will be filled with a flurry of rumor mongering and transactions as the NHL trade deadline nears.

Tim Murray is going to be more than a little busy both during and after the Olympics as he maneuvers to swap some of the talent on his roster as he continues to steer the Sabres rebuild. It’s no secret that his primary focus will be on his trio of pending UFAs with Ryan Miller’s status being of the utmost interest to observers.

The end game with those three is all but decided. They’ll be sold off to the highest bidder with Murray attempting to net at least two assets in return for each. In the case of Miller, the asking price will likely begin with four pieces and could end up at three or two depending on what the market bears.

I feel that the Sabres are nearing a stage in which picks will not benefit them as much as prospects or players who are nearly NHL regulars. While first round picks are obviously valuable currency, the stockpile the Sabres have been going through should allow Murray to be creative with some of his non-first round picks.

Additionally, I’d be in full support of Murray extending some of Buffalo’s younger talents to the trade market in order to make a hockey trade or two in the coming months. This particular strategy being available as an option to him both between now and the deadline and leading up to the draft and summertime.

Continue reading