Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
For those on the sidelines yesterday, a group of NHL teams put on an impressive display of fireworks with some stunning moves:
--Steven Stamkos agrees on a contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning
--the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators pull off a trade of top-notch defensemen
--the Columbus Blue Jacket extend defenseman Seth Jones
--and Peter Chiarelli drops a huge bomb trading Taylor Hall to New Jersey
For the Buffalo Sabres, the Steven Stamkos deal had the most significance as Buffalo GM Tim Murray and the Brinks truck were said to be rollin' hard and fast to Toronto to try and land the prized free agent. Stamkos did the right thing in staying with the Lightning as they have everything he said he wanted including an eighth year on his contract. The $68M total value of the deal was a final offer by GM Steve Yzerman and Stamkos took it.
With the Lightning coming of back-to-back deep playoff runs--one of which brought them to within two wins of the Stanley Cup--that part of Stamkos' equation seems to have taken a front seat to finances in the matter. The $68M was significantly less than what he could have gotten on the open market considering that the Sabres were rumored to be headed into the $12M/year area which would be $84M on a seven-year deal. A $68M payday is nothing to sneeze at, and it goes a little farther in a state tax-free state like Florida, Stamkos left a lot of money on the table.
Although it's not good news for the Sabres either short-term or long-term, good for him. Quality move by a quality individual.
The Columbus Blue Jackets and Seth Jones came to an agreement on a 6yr./$32M contract extension yesterday. Although not a bombshell like the others, it does have a significant impact on the Sabres and their discussions with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.
Jones was drafted fourth-overall in the 2013 NHL Draft in a year where he was considered a top-two pick. The Predators nabbed him at No. 4 and added him to an already stocked defense. Back in January he was traded to the Blue Jackets for top-line center Ryan Johansen which filled a position of need for both clubs. It's a solid contract extension for both Jones and the Jackets as he's considered top-pairing material at the young age of 21.
Buffalo's Ristolainen was drafted with the eighth pick that year and sits atop a defense that's still in it's formative state. The Sabres and Ristolainen were said to be in the process of working out a contract extension and the Jones deal comes at a good time.
At this point in time, the two defensemen are comparable with Ristolainen being ahead of Jones in his development. If the team and player wish to go long-term, a contract in the $5.5-6M AAV for Ristolainen seems very reasonable when you take into consideration the Jones contract.
Get 'er done.
Habs and Preds deal
I guess the rumors of PK Subban being on the block at the draft were true after all. Why Montreal wanted to trade him is the real question here. Getting the offensive-defenseman out of the Atlantic Division is good for Buffalo, but having a gritty, top-notch defenseman who can score replacing him isn't very nice. Shea Weber hits, defends and scores. He's a presence in all three zones and he'll be every bit the leader in Montreal as he was in Nashville. Sure he's a little older, but he still has skill and he's still a beast to play against.
Taylor Hall to New Jersey
The only thing to say about this trade that already hasn't been said is that I wish Sabres GM Tim Murray could've convinced Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli that Cody Franson was as good a top-pairing d-man as Adam Larsson.
Can you say, Larssony?
Stamkos was big fish that they couldn't land (through no fault of their own,) so the Sabres will turn their attention to what's left in free agency, which begins tomorrow. Once again, it should also be mentioned that there will be an expansion draft next year and a frenzy of signings by one team means that they'll be exposing someone of quality next June.
I've said for a while that I would like to see the Blues' David Backes in the Blue and Gold anchoring the third line for Buffalo and nothing has changed. With Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel anchoring the top-six, Backes would slot in nicely behind them with Johan Larsson centering the fourth line.
All the attention seems to be on wingers for Buffalo but having four centers who can make their linemates better would be huge for the team in lieu of not landing a premier winger. Rumor has it that the Sabres are in on Kyle Okposo but there's been no word that they're hot after Loui Eriksson, a player whom I believe would fit even better in Buffalo. Those are the top-two wingers that might be available tomorrow.
A big in-house move for Buffalo would be to get LW, Jimmy Vesey under contract. With him in the fold and the probable graduation of Justin Bailey from Rochester the forward ranks look like this:
Evander Kane, O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart
Vesey, Eichel, Tyler Ennis
Zemgus Girgensons, David Backes, Justin Bailey
Marcus Foligno, Larsson, Brian Gionta
Yes, there's no Matt Moulson and should Vesey not sign in Buffalo, he'll be in the top-nine on the left side.
That said, it's not a bad group of forwards for Buffalo with the addition of Backes. Is it playoff caliber? Strength down the middle usually equals success.
Get 'er done.