Monday, October 12, 2015

Rumors aplenty that the Sabres are in the market for a goalie

Reprinted with permission from

With Buffalo starting goalie Robin Lehner out for as many as 2 months and the Sabres in an 0-2 hole to start the season, rumors are running rampant that Buffalo GM Tim Murray is in the market for a goalie.

Thanks to our own Sabres 89, here's a compilation of what's out there:

--Allan Muir speculates we could see our first trade of the season perhaps before this weekend is over. If Buffalo Sabres starting goalie Robin Lehner (right-ankle injury) is sidelined for an extended period, they could be in the market for help between the pipes. Muir believes the Calgary Flames, who are carrying three netminders, could be a trade partner for the Sabres, claiming they’re willing to part with Karri Ramo or Jonas Hiller. The latter is more experienced and also more expensive ($4.5 million) that Ramo, but the Sabres have the depth in cap space and draft picks to swing a deal.

 --THE HOCKEY NEWS’ Brian Costello tweets “Flames could get more in return for Hiller than Ramo, but would Cgy settle for a Ramo-Ortio duo if Hiller goes to Buffalo?

 --EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jonathan Willis recently noted the Oilers also have depth to move a goalie, having recently demoted Ben Scrivens.

 --SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Sabres won’t have much choice but to acquire a goaltender if Lehner is on the shelf for a lengthy period. For them, this season is about being competitive and improving. To do that, they need decent goaltending. Hiller has more experience but he’s also struggled with his consistency. Sabres GM Tim Murray will certainly shop around and it wouldn’t be surprising if he calls the Oilers about Scrivens, who might benefit from a trade at this point.

The best line of the compilation is the one from Spector's Note, "The Sabres won't have much choice but to acquire a goaltender." He goes on to say that the season is about "being competitive and improving" but had these guys been watching these first two games, they'll find that the man between the pipes now for the Sabres, Chad Johnson, has really done a good job even though the numbers are weak.

Going back to the opener vs. the Ottawa Senators, Johnson literally had no chance on the only goal he allowed in relief of Lehner. During yesterday afternoon's game against the defending Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning he shut down them down for a half game before a series of mistakes on the part of the Buffalo skaters in front of him did the team in.

On the first goal against, miscommunication between defenseman Mike Weber and forward David Legwand caused an icing. Buffalo's Sam Reinhart lost the draw then unwittingly helped provide a screen in front of Johnson as Eric Condra's seeing-eye shot went top-shelf without Johnson seeing it.

Goal No. 2 came courtesy of Ryan O'Reilly failing to get the puck deep on a neutral zone pass while on the penalty kill. With :15 left on the Tampa powerplay the Lightning entered the zone, working the puck against a tired Buffalo group and with :02 left on the power play, Nikita Kucherov rifled a wrister top-shelf and Tampa took the lead.

Buffalo rookie Jack Eichel got schooled by superstar Steven Stamkos on Tampa's third goal. Eichel couldn't tie up Stamkos' stick in the slot and the former 60-goal scorer slid one past Johnson. Then on the final goal, Tampa's J.T. Brown deflected a point shot that Johnson had no chance on.

Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma liked the way Johnson played yesterday. He said that he played "pretty strong" and "gave [the Sabres] a chance to win," going as far to say, "I don't worry so much about the ones that go in net. [Today] against a good team, we gave them essentially three goals."

If Murray wants to burn one of his three, third-rounders in the 2016 NHL Draft for a probable stop-gap goalie like Hiller, fine. He's a proven goalie who was reared in a quality organization. As for the rest, the cost will be either to high (if available) or why bother?

There's so much overreaction going on right now after Buffalo opened up a season of high expectations going 0-2, especially in front of the home crowd for both games. But maybe those who are panicking should re-think their original expectations.

This is a young team with nine players making their Sabres debut on opening night. That huge roster turnover was put in the hands of a brand new coaching staff with a whole new system. Anyone who expected anything but growing pains this early in the season may have set the bar a little high. And for those who thought this was a playoff-bubble team might have put the cart ahead of the horse.

That said, the players on the roster now should be given a fair shake in a transitional season like this and that includes Johnson. He's looked poised in net always in position and almost always square to the shooter. Johnson has shown that he can play extremely well as proven by his stellar 2013-14 season in Boston as back-up to Tuuka Rask.

And as of right now with Johnson as the starter and Nathan Lieuwen as his back-up, the Sabres organization has their four goalies in place with Andrey Makarov and Linus Ullmark in Rochester getting their opportunity.

The Sabres know about Makarov as the 22 yr. old is in his third season with the club. But Ullmark, on the other hand, has just stepped foot in North America for this season and just came off of double hip surgery that sidelined him until last night. He then proceeded to pulled off a remarkable performance in Rochester's 2-1 win over the Utica Comets in AHL action.

"You can go on and on about what [Ullmark] did tonight," said Amerks head coach Randy Cunneyworth post-game. "[His] positioning, quickness, reading [the play], finding the puck. Just textbook. [He's] a big reason we managed to get the win."

Originally slated for a November return, Cunneyworth said Ullmark was ahead of schedule, looked strong and could handle the workload. "You could see he was enjoying himself at practice, getting stronger and more confident and it showed in his play.

At 6'4" 212 lbs. Ullmark has the size that Murray and most NHL teams covet from a netminder and has always possessed the attributes Cunneyworth pointed out in last night's game. Unfortunately he's been stuck on a pretty bad MODO team over in the Swedish Elite League and his numbers, and possibly his confidence, suffered.

It was a great start for Ullmark, but like with the negatives in Buffalo, it's best to keep in mind that it's real early in a season that will be full of ups and downs with plenty of growing pains.

Somebody please tell the pundits that the Sabres might very well hang on to their pick and/or prospect while things settle down a little. But until then they should feel free to use those rumors for column inches and hits.

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