Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Like it or not, Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray will always have the Robin Lehner trade hanging over him for the foreseeable future. In a move that screamed nepotism and overpayment, and has been universally panned by many, especially the Buffalo media and Sabres fans, Murray sent a 2015 first round pick (21st-overall) to his uncle Bryan Murray, GM of the Ottawa Senators for Lehner and veteran forward, David Legwand.
Despite howls from Sabreland that a first-rounder for a goalie was somehow deemed unprecedented, and that the move rated high on a scale of deplorable moves (ranking it just shy of grounds for being fired) it was a calculated risk for Murray. The price was steep, and it left many pundits and experts scratching their heads, but Murray had the need for a goalie, he knew what type of player he wanted and he had the assets to get it done. So he jumped on it.
As for it being an unprecedented move, the Vancouver Canucks traded goalie Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils at the June, 2013 draft for the ninth-overall pick. Schneider, 27 yrs. old at the time, had been in a weird situation in Vancouver as he, as a back-up to Roberto Luongo were in a 1A/1B situation in net. Then GM Mike Gillis found himself in a tough spot and traded away Schneider who was ready to stake his claim to a starters role after playing in 98 games for the Canucks. He left for the Garden State with a 2.20 GAA and a .927 SV%.
The Canucks selected C, Bo Horvat with the ninth-overall pick. Horvat, now 20 yrs. old, has appeared in 112 games for Vancouver registering 43 points (19+24) and a minus-30 plus/minus rating. He also appeared in the 2014 playoffs last season. In six games had a goal and three assists and was a plus-one as the 'Nucks dropped a six-game series to the Calgary Flames.
It's pretty clear right now as to who has the bragging rights on this trade.
As for the Lehner trade, Murray had been shopping for a goalie and he was said to have spoken to five teams. Here's what he said at the time (via buffalohockeybeat.com,) “We would love to trade for a goalie. We would love to trade for a youngish goalie. If that doesn’t work, we would trade for a real good short-term goalie who’s older. If we could sign the best or second-best free agent goalie, we’d be happy with that, too.
“So you’re working it every day and you’re trying to figure out, first of all, the goalies that are available via trade, what the price is, can you afford that price, and if at the end of the day you can’t, then you have to move on to plan B.”
There were no Plan-B's necessary as he got the jump on the goalie carousel and landed his probable first choice.
There ended up being a pretty big run on goalies at last year's 2015 NHL Draft as plenty of teams were in the market. Here's a breakdown form a piece by NHL.com's Dan Rosen:
--NY Rangers trade Cam Talbot to the Edmonton Oilers for three draft picks--Nos. 57, 79 and 184
--Chicago traded Antti Raanta to the Rangers for forward prospect Ryan Haggerty
--The Vancouver Canucks trade Eddie Lack to the Carolina Hurricanes for the 66th pick in 2015 and a seventh-rounder in 2016
--Carolina traded Anton Khudobin to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman James Wisniewski and his $5.5M cap-hit.
An in another case of a first-rounder being used to acquire a goalie, when the Boston Bruins sent 25 yr. old goalie Martin Jones to the San Jose' Sharks for a first-round pick in 2016 plus prospect Sean Kuraly.
Rosen quoted Sens GM Bryan Murray as saying of the Lehner trade, "I did it at the right time, there's no doubt. I thought I had the best goaltender available, and I guess it proved out to be that." He also wrote that Oilers new GM Peter Chiarelli "was willing to pay a similar price to acquire Lehner, but he was outbid by Buffalo." The Oilers had the 16th and 33rd picks in the draft and one could assume that if the word "outbid" was used, the latter pick was the offer from Chiarelli.
The thing about Lehner, and it's a big one, is that Murray drafted him (2009, 46th-overall) when he was AGM in Ottawa, and had followed his progress up-close until he took the Buffalo GM position in January, 2014. He watched Lehner as he lead the Binghamton Senators the AHL's Calder Cup in 2011 and watched him in his 86 NHL games with the Senators. Despite Lehner's rather pedestrian 30-36-13 record, 2.88 GAA and .914 SV%, Murray wound up with "the devil he knew."
Murray was also playing with house money at the time as the Sabres had just finished their third year of purging vets for picks. He started out the 2015 calendar year with three first rounders and went into draft-day with two after dealing the 25th pick to the Winnipeg Jets in the Evander Kane deal. Murray had acquired that pick in the Ryan Miller to St. Louis Blues trade in 2014. Winnipeg selected C, Jack Roslovic.
With Jack Eichel set to be selected second-overall and the Sabres overloaded with picks from the previous three drafts (28 selections in all,) plus even more picks on the horizon at the 2015 draft, Murray really didn't need more picks. What he needed was a goaltender to place at the top of the depth-chart. Even though there was talent to be had in that draft area.
With the pick, the Ottawa Senators drafted highly-skilled, 5'11" 170 lb. center in Colin White.
Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com in one of his Baker's Dozen pieces wrote that the Sabres were giving up the chance at "a tantalizing prospect" at No. 21, "The thing is," he continued, "I'm not sure how many knew just how quickly those prospects would develop into difference makers at their respective levels."
Of White Baker wrote, "White [is] a highly skilled forward who has emerged as one of the most dangerous players in all of college hockey as a true freshman with Boston College. A clutch leader with the U.S. Under-18 squad in his draft year, White has made a consistent three-zone impact while cranking out a team-leading 23 points (8+15) in his first 16 collegiate tilts."
He also mentioned a couple of prospects in that 21st area that the Sabres could've picked including G, Ilya Samsonov (picked 22nd) and Brock Boeser (23rd.)
Baker qualified the possible lost potential by saying "every good trade hurts a little" and that there are "no guarantees those three will pan out."
Lehner, like Kane, Zach Bogosian and Ryan O'Reilly are all in their mid-20's with plenty of NHL experience and players like that are what Murray was looking for when he decided to speed up the rebuild. They were available, Murray had the assets to land them all and he went for it.
Will all pan out?
I don't know, but at least he didn't sit on his hands and went for what he believed in.