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

Expansion Rules will Create Crisis for some GMs

With news breaking this week that the NHL and NHLPA have agreed on the structure for  a future expansion draft, the maneuvering and preparations across the league can begin in earnest.

Reaching an agreement on no movement and no trade clauses was among the most important unanswered questions surrounding the way teams will form their protected lists. With the potential for an expansion draft taking place as early as next summer, the need for that determination was obviously important.

One position that will get plenty of focus will be between the pipes. As there is only one option for protecting goaltenders, there is a near guarantee that a pair of solid goaltenders are headed to Vegas should a draft take place next summer.

The requirement that no movement clauses must be protected could put pressure on a number of general managers to make a move this summer – or prior to next year’s deadline – to ensure they aren’t losing a goaltending asset for nothing. Continue reading

Sabres have trade chips on the wings

It’s a time of turnover in Hockey Purgatory Heaven with Lindy Ruff getting his walking papers while Jordan Leopold, Jason Pominville and Robyn Regehr each were shipped out of town before the deadline. It appears as if this summer will bring about more change via the trade market for the Sabres as they continue their rebuild.

One key for the Sabres will be finding partners as they search for options to swap out certain players. There have been specific mentions of the need to find more offense from media members in Vancouver, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Nashville. These came from either interviews or game broadcasts on the NHL Network station on XM Radio. Obviously these aren’t confirmed rumors, but the need for more established offensive weapons on certain teams isn’t a difficult conclusion to draw.

Vancouver’s second-straight first round exit have some asking if they need offensive help.

Vancouver’s sweep at the hands of the Sharks has many asking if Alain Vigneault will be back for the 2013-14 season after his team again struggled to score in a first round series defeat. The Canucks aren’t short on elite talent. The Sedins’ production has begun to tail off lately but I’d say their struggles to find talent beyond their top line has been a major issue for them. Identifying more scoring help would immediately improve the overall depth of their forward ranks.

A similar situation has been illustrated with the Kings despite the acquisition of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last season. The Kings top six is very impressive, yet they were tied to a number of scoring forwards during the year. While the roster is deep, they continue to win close, low-scoring games on the strength of their goaltender and defense. While I don’t see where they would place a top-six forward, I can certainly understand the connection drawn to improve their offensive potency.

The Blues and the Predators immediately spring to mind for me when I think of offensively challenged Western Conference teams. However, the Blues roster would indicate anything but that. Oshie, Schwartz, Berglund, Tarasenko. This list goes on for a while and forms a youthful, talented core which has the potential to be lethal. The Blues just happen to play a measured, defensive style and don’t allow too many shots. Perhaps they need a certain $6m goaltender. But probably not.

The Preds are actually a curious case. They have two big money players (Rinne and Weber) and made moves at the 2012 deadline to find more offense. However the second Kostitsyn and Alex Radulov didn’t do the trick and now they have retooled a bit with the acquisition of Filip Forsberg. Finding another piece to add to their top six would be extremely helpful towards finding more offense for the Preds; especially after missing the playoffs.

There is a market out west for scoring forwards, there is no denying it. Perhaps the e4s and #CONFIRMEDD tweets and blog posts aren’t flying yet, but media members are looking at the teams they cover and are saying they’re in need of offense. Continue reading

Trading Ryan Miller: Who will be looking to buy?

This will serve as the second portion to a post that I put up last week on the prospects of trading Ryan Miller

After exploring which teams may or may not make Ryan Miller’s no-trade list, I wanted to take things a step further and determine which teams may serve as suitors for the netminder. By doing so I wanted to determine which teams would have little interest in him as well.

As is well-known, Miller’s no-trade clause allows him to veto a trade to eight different teams. This may end up being a list that significantly handcuffs Darcy Regier but it could also serve as a list that does indeed limit options, but doesn’t prevent Regeir from effectively doing his job.

I decided to include the 11 different teams which Miller may veto a trade to on this list. I wanted to provide a comprehensive collection of the direction I’d assume each NHL club to take if approached about Ryan Miller.

Count the Rangers (Lundqvist) and Penguins (MAF) in a group of teams who would not provide themselves with a significant upgrade in acquiring Miller. Boston (Rask), Nashville (Rinne), Los Angeles (Quick), Vancouver (Schneider), Montreal (Price) and Detroit (Howard) are also on this list. Each of those seven teams have determined their goaltender of the future (and present) and wouldn’t provide their team with any sort of significant upgrade by bringing Miller into the fold.

There is another large group of teams who have a solid netminder and fall in the middle of the road when I consider potential suitors. They probably all lean closer to a no than a yes and here’s why: 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: Effort comes up short in 12th-straight road loss

If yesterday’s 4-2 loss in St. Louis came during any other season, if would have been just a road loss. Buffalo had scored the first goal, yielded three to their opponent before cutting the lead to one before having the game iced with an empty net goal. However, because this came as the Sabres’ 12th-straight road loss, it has much more meaning.

Considering the Sabres were playing one of the league’s hottest teams and facing the hottest goaltender of the past few weeks, the outcome could have been much worse. Compared to the dismal effort shown in the previous three games, this was an improvement. Yet, there were still plenty of shortcomings.

The Sabres received goals from two defensemen. However, the forwards were shutout and only two (Ville Leino and Jason Pominville) registered points. Buffalo only had 21 shots on goal (three in the third) and seven were taken by defensemen. No player on the Buffalo roster had more than two shots.

Ryan Miller had a strong game, stopping 23 of 26 on the night. He made numerous big saves while the game was still in doubt. Two St. Louis goals, including the game winner, came with two players right on Miller a top the paint. Yet again, it was a night that Miller didn’t get much support from the players in front of him. Continue reading

The Morning Skate: Skidding Sabres face red-hot Blues in St. Louis

In late October a road trip would have been welcomed for the Sabres. They were struggling to win on home ice but were beastly on the road, my how the tables have turned.

The current seven-game trip the Sabres have embarked on couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Sabres have lost 11-straight on the road and are in the thick of a tortuous road journey. Buffalo’s road woes have been magnified on this trip through some of the NHL’s toughest home arenas. The Islanders, Detroit, Chicago and Winnipeg dispatched the Sabres by a 19-5 margin over the first four games of the trip. The final three take Buffalo to St. Louis (tonight), Montreal and New Jersey.

Just to rub a little salt in the wounds, the Blues have been playing some of the league’s best hockey of late. Jaroslav Halak is rolling, posting a pair of shutouts in his last two games. Just what a team with scoring woes needs to see.

The Sabres are still thin with injuries and may even have to play Joe Finley as a forward this evening depending on the status of Patrick Kaleta. All things considered, the potential line combinations may force Lindy Ruff to play his scoring lines more. Getting his top players premium ice time is something Ruff has shied away from at times this season. The potential for Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek to see upwards of 20 minutes could be a very good thing. Continue reading