Buffalo Sabres: On Kane, Enroth and Going All-in on the Tank


On Wednesday, general manager Tim Murray and the Buffalo Sabres sent waves through the hockey world by completing a blockbuster trade with the Winnipeg Jets.

Headed to the Great White North from Buffalo are Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, and the latest of the three first-round picks the Sabres hold in June’s draft. Heading to Buffalo are Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf (via ESPN). 

Not missing a beat, Murray then sent de facto starting netminder Jhonas Enroth to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Anders Lindback and a conditional third-round pick (via NHL.com). 

These two trades did two things simultaneously. First, they likely ensured the Sabres will be sitting in 30th place come April 11. Second, they immediately made them a team to keep an eye on next season.

But back to that later.

The initial reactions to the moves have been both emotional and predictable. The caller lines on WGR 550, a sports radio station in Buffalo, were full of elation, anger, sadness and perspective. Their thoughts ranged from “tough to see Myers, Stafford and Enroth go,” to, “I can’t believe we got Evander Kane.” 

But one theme has run strong since the first trade was made yesterday afternoon: This is all according to the plan.

Now, it’s presently impossible to say whether or not Murray has diabolically sabotaged a professional sports franchise in order to ensure he gets someone named Connor or Jack in June’s draft. In fact, it seems that he tried to ensure that didn’t happen based on the various moves he made this offseason. 

But none of that truly matters anymore because barring a miracle from on high, the Sabres are going to finish in 30th place again this season. In fact, SportsClubStats.com has their chances of staying in 30th from here on out at a confident 93-percent. 

Gone is Stafford, the last face of the post-Drury/Briere core, who ranked third on the team’s scoring list.

Gone is Myers, potentially the most frustrating Sabres player of the last four years and the team’s leader in ice time. 

Gone is Enroth, the Sabres’ leader in wins and goals against average and a bewilderingly inconsistent goalie who could save 40 shots one night and four the next. 

Following the eventual departure of Chris Stewart, the Sabres, much like last year, will be a shell of their former selves, and that, ladies and gentleman, is a scary thought.

After the Ryan Miller-Steve Ott trade to St. Louis last season, the Sabres went 4-17-2 in the next 23 games, a stretch that allowed them to clinch 30th in the NHL by a whopping 14 points.

The sad part is that last year’s team was markedly better in pretty much every aspect, especially at even strength.

The Sabres currently sport a minus-49 goal differential at even strength and had a minus-69 differential all of last year. Their Corsi-for at even strength is also almost 6 percent below where they were last year, and there are still 27 games left to play. 

Even worse, the Sabres’ shooting percentage is actually higher than it was last year. The Sabres are as bad, if not worse, than they were a year ago, and in essence they’re luckier on the offensive end. 

To put it simply, if Vegas had the over/under for the number of games the Sabres would win the rest of the season at three, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a lot of people take the under.

So with 30th place and one of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel locked up, at least on paper, where do the Sabres go from here?

While it’s a bit premature to think about potential line combinations, given the all but certain turnover on the roster, one given is Kane’s spot as the first-line left wing come October. There are a number of possibilities as to who will play with him, but the likelihood that there will be a young, talented center is very high.

Bogosian adds a defense-first minute-cruncher that will benefit from a transition game. He’ll essentially slot in wherever Myers would have been, likely as a second-pairing guy once Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov get a little more seasoning. Bogosian has five years remaining on the seven-year, $36 million deal he signed prior to the 2013-14 season.

Enroth’s departure leaves a hole at goaltender, but that may have been the case come July 1 anyway as he would have been an unrestricted free agent. The focus now turns to Michal Neuvirth, who needs to show he can be the guy moving forward. Matt Hackett may get some more time, but the addition of Lindback may dampen that thought a bit. 

So despite the apparent commitment to 30th, Murray has, at least on paper, created a team that Sabres fans can get excited about next season.

Is there a guarantee they make the playoffs? Of course not. That depends on the play of Kane, Bogosian and whichever young stud the Sabres pick high in the draft.

What Sabres fans do know is they have a GM that isn’t afraid to make the big move behind the wheel, and there’s nothing that can shake up a franchise in a losing rut quite like an identity-changing trade.

If nothing else, Murray is going to keep on swinging until someone takes the bat out of his hands.

All advanced stats courtesy of war-on-ice.com.

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season long: @SwordPlay18



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