Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Two players now in the fold. The Sabres at 34 pro contracts

The Buffalo Sabres got some contract work done over the holiday weekend inking two players to contracts.

On Monday the team announced that they had re-signed Nic Deslauriers to a 2-yr/$1.275m contract.

Deslauriers came from the LA Kings along with Hudson Fasching for D, Brayden McNabb, F Jonathan Parker and two 2nd round picks. The picks in 2014 and 2015 were originally acquired in the trade of D, Robyn Regehr to LA on April 2, 2013.

Deslauriers is a  big (6'2" 215 lb.) defenseman turned winger who appeared in 17 games for the Sabres scoring one goal and logging a minus-10 plus/minus. He joined the Rochester Americans for the playoffs scoring a goal and adding an assist in five games as the Amerks were bounced in the first round.

Buffalo then followed up with the signing of G Linus Ullmark to a three year entry-level contract on Tuesday. They needed to sign him by June 1 or they would have lost his rights.

Ullmark was a Sabres 6th round pick (#163) in 2012 and just finished his first full season with MODO of the Swedish Elite League. The rookie finished with a 2.08 GAA and a .931 sv. % while winning the league's Goalie of the Year honors.

According to Kris Baker of, he had previously opted to stick in Sweden for another year before planning to arrive in North America for the 2015-16 season.

With Ullmark's signing, the Sabres goaltending pipeline is full right now. It's expected that Jhonas Enroth and Mical Neuvirth will be in Buffalo this season.

Nathan Lieuwen will be entering the 3rd year of his entry-level contract and is expected to be the #1 goalie headed into Amerks camp.

Upstart Andrey Makarov had a strong performance for Rochester in the playoffs and it all but secured him a spot with the Amerks.

Big Connor Knapp is a restricted free agent and looks to be a casualty of his poor performance. It's unlikely the Sabres will re-sign Knapp to a pro contract and the team may end up tucking him away in Elmira with their ECHL affiliate, the Jackals.

Another RFA goalie for the Sabres is 24 year old Matt Hackett.

Hackett was a part of the return from Minnesota for Jason Pominville. He lost his starting AHL job to Lieuwen this past season, but performed well in Buffalo during his call-up.

Sabres GM Tim Murray may opt to keep Hackett in Buffalo with Enroth and Neuvirth creating a three-headed monster. If not, one of the three will probably be on the move.

Also in the pipeline is 2013 5th round pick (#129) Cal Peterson. The USHL product will be headed to Notre Dame this fall to begin his college career.

The signings of Deslauriers and Ullmark bring the number of pro contracts in the organization to 33 so far. The league max is 50 for a team.

reprinted by hockeybuzz, may 28,2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Murray and Co. should have a more successful rebuild than Scotty Bowman did.

This year the Buffalo Sabres will head into the 2014 Draft with the #2 overall selection. It's the first time they've had a pick in the top-5 since 2003 when they selected Thomas Vanek and it's their highest pick since 1987 when they drafted Pierre Turgeon #1 overall.

With the Sabres rebuild in full swing to the point where the "re" part of the equation is almost gone, the build portion could certainly begin with this year's selection as the team looks to place top-end skill on a methodically laid foundation.

Over the past two years Buffalo has amassed 19 total draft picks with eight of them coming in the first two rounds. To put it in perspective, with a pick no lower than #52 in those two drafts, they have selected eight of the top-96 players in the draft over the last two years.

It's not that hard to get excited, but before we start planning the parade, it should be pointed out that the Sabres organization had done the same thing before with one of the greatest hockey minds of all time at the helm.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Loading up for the "McDavid Sweepstakes" with the Isles 2015 first rounder a possibility for Buffalo

Word on the street is that the 2015 NHL Draft is looking to be a good one and as luck would have it, the Buffalo Sabres now own three first round picks in that draft.

Yesterday the NY Islanders made two very big announcements. The first was that they re-signed goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a 4 yr./$18M contract.

Isles GM Garth Snow sent a 2014 fourth round pick to Washington for Halak on May 1 to stabilize his goaltending situation.

He followed the Halak extension with an announcement that the team would send their 2015 first round pick to Buffalo to complete the Thomas Vanek trade.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It's hard to argue against former Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano buying the Buffalo Bills

"I'd consider buying the Buffalo Bills if the team was in danger of moving."--B. Thomas Golisano

On February 3, 2011, Sabres owner Tom Golisano was saying farewell to the Buffalo Sabres after selling the team to Terry Pegula. At his presser, he was asked about a possible ownership bid for the Buffalo Bills and offered up the above quote.

He had mentioned more than once that the Ralph Wilson still owned the team and that it was not for sale. Obviously the thought of owning the Bills had crossed his mind at one point or another.

Although Golisano resides in Florida, he still has very strong ties to the Buffalo/Rochester area having started Paychex out of his garage over 40 years ago.

Those ties were evident during his tenure as owner of the Buffalo Sabres.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sabres should bring Brooks Orpik aboard

Every year aging vets with a wealth of experience who are declining physically will be headed to the scrap heap as teams re-load with youth, athleticism and/or potential.

And every year some of those vets will get picked up by teams.

The Buffalo Sabres will be doing just that as they head into the 2014-15 season.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

"Gus" shows some frustration at the Worlds

Zemgus Girgensons just completed his first NHL season last month as a 20 yr. old rookie for the Buffalo Sabres.

The Riga, Latvia native may not have a stat-line (or advanced stat-line) that jumps out at you, but the coaching staff and management in Buffalo have taken notice of his progress throughout the season.

Girgensons looks to be a cornerstone of the Sabres moving forward because of toughness, competitive nature and skill. Although not much emotion was shown by "Gus" in his first NHL season with Buffalo, he was a pretty tough competitor.

The Latvian national team coached by Sabres bench boss Ted Nolan had tasted some success at the Olympics this year and they've been having a real good run at the Worlds this month. They have three wins under their belts including a 6-5 win over the USA three days ago.

They're tasting even more success right now in Minsk, Belarus and have a heightened expectations because of it.

Conversely, when things aren't going well, those heightened expectations can turn sour, as it did in the 2nd period of last nights game vs. the Russians.

With the Russians up 4-1, Girgensons lost a faceoff in the offensive zone to Alexander Burmistrov and let his frustrations be known via a Milan Lucic-type spear to the Russian's groin:

(video from HockeyWebCaster)

The former Atlanta Thrashers first round pick (2010, #8 overall) and KHL player lay sprawled on the ice in obvious pain.

Gus, for his part, seems ticked he got caught and looks as if he's ready to take on any Ruskie willing to drop the gloves.

The IIHF didn't take kindly to the penalty and suspended Girgensons for one game.

For fans in Buffalo who've been watching "the core" for a number of years, this is exactly the type of attitude that's been missing.

Whether or not you consider this dirty (*shrugs*, maybe just at tad,) Girgensons looks like a player who hates to lose.

Unfortunately for Latvia, Gus is on the bench for a crucial game that could determine a place in the top-four and a spot in the quarter finals. But in Sabreland, that kind of fire might be just what the doctor ordered for a rebuilding Buffalo Sabres franchise.

reprinted by hockeybuzz

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sabres should retain their focus on the future this off season

With a boatload of cap-space and a owner with an open wallet, it would be easy for the Buffalo Sabres to don a drunken sailor cap this off season.

Throw $6-7M at Ryan Callahan for 6-7 years, and I'm pretty sure the Rochester, NY native will think long and hard about coming back to Western New York.

Former Sabres winger Matt Moulson has the wind at his back and a one-time shot to cash in come July 1. The sniper has paid his dues. He and his wife have said that they liked the Buffalo area. Set them up with $42M over seven years and they might like it even more.

The Sabres could throw $30M at former Sabers Captain Steve Ott and that might lure him back to Buffalo, a place he's said he really loved.

They could bring back all three at those salaries and still have money left over to fill out the roster, especially when they clear Ville Leino's (*shivers*) $4.5M off the books.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Buffalo's 50 pro contract total about to go through some significant changes.

With 32 players under contract for next season, 18 free agents to consider and four prospects on the clock the Buffalo Sabres organization could find themselves looking at a major player-overhaul this off season. But before they get to the June Draft and the July 1 start to free agency they'll need to decide whether or not to retain the rights of a handful of players before next month.

According to Kris Baker of, "the clock is ticking" for the Buffalo Sabres to sign goalie Linus Ullmark to an entry level contract.

The 2014 Swedish Elite League Goalie of the Year was drafted by the Sabres in the 6th round (#163) of the 2012 Draft and recently signed with MODO for the 2014-15 season with his sights set on coming to North America for the following season.

Baker notes that the Sabres have until June 1 to sign Ullmark to retain his rights.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The NFL Draft is finally over. What grade should the Bills get?

The extra two weeks the NFL tacked on as they headed towards their annual draft simply meant that the league was now relevant in every month of the calendar year.

Normally late April is when you'll find the behemoth that is the NFL Draft. May is usually the month to catch plenty of NHL and NBA playoff action while football readies itself for the June practices, OTA's, and various other team activities. But this year the NFL gave it's sports fans two extra weeks of wild speculation and a hype machine in overdrive before the spectacle known as the NFL Draft found itself under the bright lights of Radio City Music Hall.

Unfortunately for the NHL, some incredible ice-hockey ended up off of the front page.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Rochester goes down in Chicago, a trying season comes to an end, and a glimpse at where some prospects might end up next season

It didn't seem right that a phantom penalty on Amerks forward Mikhail Grigorenko would lead to a Chicago Wolves go-ahead goal and ultimately bring Rochester's season to a close. With the "hooking" call very late in the second period the Amerks still would have another full stanza to try and knot the score.

Unfortunately they would be up against the AHL's best goalie in the Wolves' Jake Allen and Chicago would close the door on the Amerks season.

Allen, who was pulled after five goals against in a Game 4 loss, was rather pedestrian in the first two periods allowing 2 goals on 16 shots (.875 sv%) in Game 5. Even though the Amerks buzzed the zone throughout the third period they only managed seven shots, with none getting by Allen.

Rochester went down swinging, but ultimately didn't have the horses to run with a Chicago team that finished second overall in the league during the regular season.

That the Amerks could not only make the playoffs, but take the Wolves to Game 5 is a tribute to Rochester GM Kevin Devine and his coaching staff lead by Chadd Cassidy.

At one point with the Sabres going through a rash of injuries, Devine was plugging holes in Rochester with ECHL'ers or anyone else he could get his hands on to ice a full roster.

For instance, goalie Andrey Makarov, who was struggling in the ECHL with the Fort Wayne Comets, got the call to Rochester as Buffalo was in the process setting a record for most goalies used in one season (9.) Both Amerks goalies were eventually called up to be replaced by ECHL'ers Connor Knapp and Makarov. Knapp would eventually get called up to Buffalo because of injury opening the door for Makarov in Rochester.

Which was a good thing for him.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Amerks can use a "pissed off" Joel Armia

Sabres prospect and Rochester Americans RW Joel Armia seems to be liking the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs.

Through six games he has three goals and six points, tied for the league lead in both categories amongst rookies.

Within those leaders, though, he has one thing they do not, a fighting major.

Although it wasn't duel of players throwing haymakers until exhausted (as evidenced by the lack of a video on,) the fact that he showed some quantifiable emotion in Game-3 vs. the Chicago Wolves 36 yr. old Joe Corvo is worth noting.

Or should it?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What Sabres fans can take away from the first round of the 2014 playoffs

The St. Louis Blues were like Sabres

The St. Louis Blues were ousted by the defending Stanley Cup Champs in six games. In addition to former Sabre Ryan Miller, who was a 2014 trade deadline acquisition by St. Louis, three other former Sabres were on that team:  Steve Ott, Jordan Leopold and Derek Roy.

There's a possibility that none will there next season. Miller, Ott and Roy are all UFA's while Leopold has one more year remaining on his contract that pays him $2.5M.

Although Leopold probably will be back, at least until the trade deadline, he really didn't do much of anything in his bottom-pairing role. He's an average player with average size and average skating ability that doesn't add a specific quality to the team. Vanilla, just like in Buffalo.

As for the others, Roy was a healthy scratch for two games and invisible for the four he played in. In typical fashion, when the heat was turned up, Roy folded. Which was exactly what he did for the Sabres.

Ott was the player that he is--a third line pest--which was fine until the final game when he got smoked by the highly skilled Hawks. Too many penalties and the injury to David Backes had him on the ice way too often throughout the series. It shows just how little talent Buffalo had when they were using Ott in a top-six role.

Although he could be back, Ott might better serve himself with a third-line role on a better team at a discount to his $3.2M salary or in a larger role on a lesser team for more money.