The Buffalo Sabres have a ridiculously stocked prospect system.
When we ranked the prospect systems of the NHL's 30 teams after the trade deadline, Buffalo finished first overall, with a ridiculous array of both top-end talent and depth. Getting No. 2 overall pick Sam Reinhart at the 2014 draft just made that group better.
It's a positive that the following slideshow considers only Calder-eligible prospects, because the list balloons even further if players just over that line are included. This list of 10 is excellent even without including Rasmus Ristolainen, Mark Pysyk, Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Matt Hackett, Johan Larsson, Luke Adam and others.
Prospects are ranked based on their potential NHL ceiling and the amount of risk involved in reaching it, and a number of very good players didn't make the cut.
After a seemingly successful draft weekend, the Buffalo Sabres are now able to gather most of the prospects from one of the best pipelines in the NHL at their development camp. Prior to the 2014 NHL draft, Hockey's Future rated the Sabres' pool of prospects as the best in the league.
Practices began on Monday, but the big event will be Tuesday night's scrimmage at 7 p.m. ET. That is when the "veterans" will be able to show how far they have come and the new guys will provide glimpses of their upside.
Though development camp won't make or break a prospect, it can go a long way toward acclimating them to the team—be it the city, the facilities, the fans, etc.
So, while no one will look back to development camp as the thing that turned these prospects into stars, it certainly can be an important step in the process.
Here are the five players all Sabres fans should be following between this week and the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan, in mid-September.
After going on Team 1040 in Vancouver, via Illegal Curve, on Tuesday, Kane seemed to all but demand a trade from Manitoba. After being asked if he wanted to be a Winnipeg Jet, Kane acknowledged the constant speculation and said he would "carry on as if he were a Jet."
Not the answer pro-Kane Jet fans wanted to hear.
So, as one could expect, Kane's name has flooded the Twittersphere, and the rampant speculation has begun once again. So, the question is whether or not Tim Murray and the Buffalo Sabres are interested.
The answer is simple: yes.
This is not your run-of-the-mill aging superstar trade. This is a trade that will net you a 22-year old 30-goal scorer, who is locked up at a relatively cheap $5.25 million cap hit through the 2017-18 season, per CapGeek.
The price will be very high, as acknowledged by Craig Custance of ESPN, but there is some recent history that shows that a deal like this can happen.
Last year, Tyler Seguin was traded to the Dallas Stars from the Boston Bruins for a package that included veteran top-six winger Loui Eriksson and three prospects, namely Reilly Smith who scored 20 goals for the Bruins this season.
Like Kane, Seguin was not portrayed well in the media during the end of his time with the Bruins. He had his dedication put in to question numerous times, including by his general manager Peter Chiarelli, and some even questioned how much better he could get.
This past season Seguin excelled playing with Jamie Benn in Dallas, scoring 37 goals and 84 points in 80 games. He showed that a change of scenery was exactly what he needed.
Kane could be in a very similar position.
There was the lawsuit in Vancouver that claimed he assaulted a man. There were also the claims that he skipped out on bills at restaurants in Winnipeg. Don't forget the money phone picture in Vegas. Or how Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gary Lawless has essentially tried to trade Kane since 2012.
But the reality of the situation is Kane was under the legal drinking age for most of these incidents. As many said with Seguin, he is young and has a lot to learn. It's not an excuse for his behavior. It's more of a audible hope that he will grow out of it at some point.
Yet, despite his alleged off-ice issues, he is the exact type of player the Sabres could use to jump to the next level.
Putting him next to Sam Reinhart not only gives him the type of playmaker he's never been able to play with in Winnipeg, but it also gives the Sabres two-thirds of what could be one of the most potent lines in the NHL for years to come.
If one of the sizable wingers the Sabres have in the pipeline─see Joel Armia, Hudson Fasching, Justin Bailey or Nick Baptiste─hit their 30-goal potential, watch out.
Now, this is assuming Kane puts it all together and reaches the assumed potential being drafted fourth overall will create, but the thought should make any Sabres fan excited.
But no matter how you envision Kane slotting in among the Sabres' top line, you have to at least acknowledge the small fortune it will cost to land him.
Given the blockbuster nature of any trade involving Kane, the speculation is predictably rampant. You will likely see or hear many "how about X, Y and a first" proposals floating around, but one has to assume the starting point for Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is the Seguin haul Boston received.
What's a basic translation of what Boston received? A top-six winger (Loui Eriksson), a top-end prospect (Reilly Smith), a potential top-four two-way defenseman (Joe Morrow) and a bottom-six forward (Matt Fraser).
One important factor to consider though is Dallas also received Rich Peverley, a solid third-line center, and Ryan Button, a defensive prospect who split time between the AHL and ECHL last year.
Looking at the whole of that trade, it seems the price for Kane alone would be something like a top-six forward, a top-end prospect and a mid-level prospect or draft pick.
There has been a lot of unsubstantiated chatter that the Jets would be keen on Tyler Myers, and adding him to any potential deal would essentially eliminate the need to add any more prized pieces.
Looking at the Jets' roster, that just doesn't seem to meld with reality.
The Jets have a solid young core on defense, led by Jacob Trouba and Zach Bogosian. Josh Morrissey should be arriving soon as well, so the premium many believe some teams place on Myers likely doesn't exist in the Winnipeg organization.
This is not to say that the Jets would not accept Myers as a piece, but a straight-up trade is highly unlikely.
But high price or not, Kane's potential on the wing with Reinhart would be worth it. As Murray has said multiple times, every prospect in the Sabres system will not stay a Sabre forever. Some will be moved for guys like Kane, and that's a wonderful way to use the assets you have amassed.
Tim Murray has shown that he is willing to make the splashy move by shipping guys out, but can he swing the deal to bring a guy like Kane in?
Expect to hear the Sabres mentioned in Kane talks until the time he is traded, or the Jets and Kane commit to each other. But Sabres fans should welcome this speculation because Kane would be a huge step forward for the club and a huge piece in Sam Reinhart's development.
Realistically, the Sabres will be mentioned in most situations where a young player with talent may be moved because of their prospect pool and stockpile of picks, but Kane, and the possibly available Ryan O'Reilly according to Adrian Dater of the Denver Post, should be on the top of their list.
Unless you want Connor McDavid instead.
Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all offseason: @SwordPlay18.
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Last Tuesday was a pretty busy day for Tim Murray and the Buffalo Sabres.
Coming into the day over $20 million below the salary cap floor, Murray went on a mission to inject the youthful Sabres with veteran leaders. Starting with the trade for Josh Gorges and ending with the signing of Andrej Meszaros, the team already has a drastically different feel from last year.
So where do the moves leave the Sabres?
The first move was likely the most shocking with Murray landing veteran blueliner Josh Gorges from the Montreal Canadiens for a second-round pick in the 2016 draft (via Sabres.com). Gorges had initially refused a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but apparently he felt the Sabres were a better landing spot.
Gorges will likely fill the shoes of the recently departed Christian Ehrhoff, but he is by no means the same player. A defense-first guy, Gorges will likely step into the top pairing with Tyler Myers to be the steadying force Myers has needed since Henrik Tallinder left in 2010. Gorges will also see time on the penalty kill, which was an area the Sabres were at least halfway decent at last year, finishing the year with the 20th-ranked penalty kill.
Next came the signing of Gorges' teammate in Montreal and Rochester-native Brian Gionta, who signed a three-year deal (via Sabres.com). Gionta, the Canadiens' captain last season, is getting up there in years but can certainly add a ton of leadership to the Sabres' room along with the occasional goal.
Gionta scored 18 goals last season, good for fourth on the Habs, and he played in 81 games. The Sabres obviously don't expect him to replicate his 48-goal season in 2005-06, but 15-20 goals and a presence on the power play, as well as in the locker room, will make the team happy. A cap hit of $4.25 million per season is also pretty reasonable on a three-year deal (via CapGeek).
The next two Sabres moves brought back Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick from Minnesota.
Moulson brings a very simple attribute back to the Sabres: goal scoring. Moulson's 23 goals last season may have been his lowest full-season total since he entered the league, but he still has 30-goal potential. He will start on the Sabres' first line this year, and I'm sure Murray's hope is that he remains at least a second-liner by the time his deal ends.
McCormick, who signed a three-year deal (via WIVB), will step back into his fourth-line role.
Still keeping busy, Murray re-signed restricted free agent Marcus Foligno to a two-year deal (via Sabres.com). Foligno will likely get top-six looks this year and will be given the chance to show he can find something resembling a scoring touch.
Finally, Murray added veteran defenseman Andrej Meszaros on a one-year deal (via Sabres.com). The $4.125 million deal (via CapGeek) also put the Sabres above the dreaded salary cap floor of $51 million, ending all the unnecessary speculation as to whether or not Murray was going to be able to reach it.
Meszaros, who spent time with the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins last season, has been hampered by injuries the last two seasons, and when he has played he has not been the same player he was at the beginning of his career. However, he still moves the puck well and will likely be considered for a power-play role.
The Sabres also signed defenseman Tyson Strachan to a one-year deal on Thursday (via NHL.com). Strachan will likely play most of the year in Rochester.
Most of the team's unrestricted free agents, which include Tallinder, Zenon Konopka, Matt D'Agostini and Jamie McBain have not been extended contract offers, and it doesn't seem like there are any plans to. John Scott signed a one-year deal with the San Jose Sharks (via CBSSports.com).
Now while all of these moves do make the Sabres better and certainly increase the team's leadership quotient, how much better are they?
As it stands, probably not good enough to challenge for a playoff spot, something Tim Murray acknowledged in his post-frenzy press conference. Murray said the team still "has a long way to go," and that much is clear.
Barring anything miraculous, the Sabres are going to struggle again. They're certainly going to be more competitive, but wins will still be hard to come by. The roster looks a lot different from opening night last season mainly due to the veterans that have been added, but those who think it makes them a contender are mistaken.
There is one important thing to keep in mind during all of this: Just because the team is likely going to be near the bottom, that does not mean this free-agency period shouldn't be seen as a positive.
These signings are geared toward the short-term, but they have set up the Sabres for the long-term as well. The Gorges trade and Moulson's deal seem to have the most apparent long-term impact, but most of these deals will be felt in how these players help those who will be in the room in a few seasons, or, in other words, very indirectly.
Overall, Tim Murray made a middling team a little less middling last week, while still allowing the Sabres to remain fully in the "Mission For McDavid" or "Sack For Jack" campaign all expected them to lead.
Well done, Timmy.
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Winger Matt Moulson bounced around plenty this past season, but he will be a member of the Buffalo Sabres for the foreseeable future as they signed him to a reported five-year deal according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN:
Moulson started the 2013-14 campaign with the New York Islanders before a pair of trades landed him with the Buffalo Sabres and then the Minnesota Wild. Although he enjoyed some good moments as he ultimately posted 23 goals and 51 points overall, he was unable to enjoy the same success in Buffalo and Minnesota that he did on Long Island.
Over parts of five seasons with the Isles, Moulson developed into a legitimate top-line player alongside John Tavares. From 2009-10 through 2011-12, he reached the 30-goal mark all three seasons, which is an impressive feat for a player who was a ninth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003.
Moulson had just six games of NHL playoff experience entering his postseason run with the Wild, so it was unclear how he would react. Despite seemingly possessing a game that is tailor made for the playoffs, he simply didn't rise to the occasion.
According to Daniel Friedman of WFAN, Moulson was lackluster to say the least during Minnesota's two-round run:
His penchant for going to the dirty areas and scoring tough goals simply didn't pay off in the postseason, but his health may have had something to do with it. Per Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a pair of injuries hindered Moulson down the stretch:
Although Moulson's tenure with the Wild wasn't a total loss, he clearly wasn't the same player that Minnesota hoped it was getting when it struck a deal with Buffalo.
Because of Moulson's subpar showing in the playoffs, Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal felt it was clear that Moulson would be a rental and nothing more:
Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher was essentially mum regarding Moulson's standing with the team after the season, and he didn't give any indication that he intended to bring Moulson back into the fold.
Fletcher seemed confident in the pieces already in place and suggested that the Wild wouldn't be particularly active in free agency, according to John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
I will say this is the first (offseason) I don't feel compelled to go out and do something. That's not to say we're completely satisfied with status quo, but I think we do have the right to be patient. We've earned that right with how we've played, and with some of the depth we've now acquired.
Moulson's inability to click with the Wild allowed him to test free agency, which was ultimately the best possible scenario for him. After getting tossed around from team to team throughout the 2013-14 season without having any say, the 30-year-old forward finally got the chance to determine his own future.
He also came to realize that players like him are at a premium in free agency. It is quite rare in the current landscape of the NHL that superstar players hit the free-agent market, so a consistent 30-goal guy like Moulson unsurprisingly garnered a ton of interest.
Now that he has a nice contract and some security in tow, it will be interesting to see how Moulson fares in his new surroundings. Many credited Tavares for the success that Moulson had with the Islanders, but Moulson has an opportunity to prove that he can create his own chances and be productive as an individual.
Moulson isn't the fastest or even the biggest player, but he has made the most out of his skill set as an NHL player. He most definitely earned the contract he received and everything he has done over the course of his career suggests that he will live up to it as well.
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