Published by hockeybuzz.com, 12-4-2017
It's news that many Sabres fans have been yearning to hear for a long time, but today the Sabres did something with the struggling Matt Moulson as the 34 yr. old winger from North York, Ontario was waived by Buffalo in a move that was surprising in that they finally did it.
Moulson was signed to a 5 yr./$25 million contract at the July 1, 2014 opening to free agency by former GM Tim Murray. The Sabres were in the midst of tearing down their roster and at the time he said that he found players "who wanted to be [in Buffalo]."
"We finished in 30th place," he continued, "and today shows that there are quality players that want to come here. And there were more than what we got done. There were other choices. There still are. These were the guys we thought that we should go forward quickly with for what we wanted to achieve."
Moulson was named an assistant captain for the 2014-15 season, part of a leadership trio that included captain Brian Gionta and assistant captain Josh Gorges, both of whom came to Buffalo on the same day, Gionta as a free agent and Gorges via a trade with Montreal. All three had hefty price tags on contracts that varied in length by one year. Last year was Gionta's last under contract, this is the last season for Gorges' contract and next year will be Moulson's last.
Of the three, Moulson had the biggest price-tag at an AAV of $5 million/season.
A former three-time 30-goal scorer on the NY Islanders while mostly riding shotgun with John Tavares, Moulson had managed to carve out a pretty solid career and even had a solid first season in Buffalo on a last place team. He lead the team in assists (28) his in 2014-15 and was second on the team in points (41) to Tyler Ennis.
Year-two with the Sabres, however, saw him in an accelerated rate of declining production with only eight goals and 21 points on the season. The powerplay saved him in 2016-17 as he lead the league's best powerplay with 11 tallies and he seemed to have a bit of a bounce-back season scoring 14 goals and 32 points.
But if Moulson, who was never fleet of foot to begin with, was getting left in the dust in 2015-16, last season it was even more apparent. However the powerplay success saved him. This season the league got even faster and there was nothing he could do to catch up, even on the powerplay, and after zero points and a minus-9 rating in 14 games, GM Jason Botterill and the Sabres waived him.
Head coach Phil Housley spoke to the gathered media today after the team practiced at KeyBank Center and had this to say about waiving Moulson (via John Vogl of The Buffalo News):
"We (he and Botterill) talked quite a bit throughout the last two weeks. Just the direction that our team's going, we have to make roster spots and try to push some other buttons and try to get some internal competition within our team.
"It's tough as a coach to make a decision like that, to let a good person go," Housley said. "But under the circumstances that we're in, I'm sure there's going to be a lot of guys affected with the decision, maybe emotionally, maybe it's motivationally."
Should nobody claim him and he accepts his demotion, Moulson will take his place with the Rochester Americans, who are on a five-day break between games.
From everything I've read and heard, Moulson's a great guy. Too bad he got left in the dust as the NHL sped past. I wish the best for him and if he can be a positive influence on the youngins, good for him and the organization. Kyle Okposo said of Moulson (via Vogl,) "You could go around and ask every single guy in this locker room, and they don't have one bad thing to say about Matt Moulson and the way he is as a person and the way that he carried himself at the rink every day through a really tough situation over the past few years.
"He's just a good man."
Moulson still has a year-and-a-half left on his current contract and although the odds are extremely long that a team would claim him, his actual salary is less than six million for his remaining term even though he'll have a cap-hit of $5 million. However, it looks as if he's a buyout candidate come June with CapFriendly saying that Buffalo will carry a cap-hit of $3.66 million next year and $667K the following year should they buy him out in June. Moulson has an actual salary for next season of $2 million which means the buyout cost will be $1.33 million (2/3 of his salary) spread out over two seasons.
Also of note, Moulson has a modified no-trade clause, according to CapFriendly, in which he can put up to 12 teams on his no-trade list.
In another roster move, the Sabres sent Kyle Criscuolo back to Rochester. Criscuolo played in eight games for the Sabres with zero points and a minus-4 rating. He'll be headed back to the Amerks looking to build on the 11 points (5+6) in 14 games he had earlier this year.
Bottterill also made the call to bring up Evan Rodrigues, who missed the first part of the season with a hand injury and was sent to Rochester to begin his season.
Rodrigues was Jack Eichel's wingman at Boston University in 2014-15 and signed with the Sabres as a free agent that April. He appeared in two games that year scoring his first NHL goal and adding his first NHL assist. The 5'11" 182 lb. Toronto, Ontario native spent most of last season getting up to speed with the pro game while also being recalled to Buffalo for a total of 30 games where he tallied four goals and added two assists.
An injury kept Rodrigues from making the Buffalo roster this season and after he returned he was sent to Rochester where he proceeded to score 10 points (5+5) in eight games before getting the call today.
Although he achieved great success as Eichel's wingman for the Terriers his senior season, Rodrigues has been carving out a niche on his own, which includes a move to center last season. By the looks of it, that's where he'll be tomorrow night for his first game of the season in a Buffalo uniform. According to reports from the rink, Rodrigues was centering a line between Jordan Nolan and Okposo.
The other lines at practice were:
Hudson Fasching was called up to Buffalo prior to Saturday's game in Pittsburgh and looked good. The big, 6'3" 2014 winger got up and down the ice surprisingly well, was strong on the puck while also doing what he was asked to do--be an anchor and a nuisance in front of the opposition net.
As with many young players, adrenaline is the driving force during the first game of a call-up but that play can tail off and very soon they're sent back down. It happened to Criscuolo, Justin Bailey and Nicolas Baptiste already this season.
The Sabres could really use Fasching's frame and net-front presence, but he'll needs to bring it every night, and produce, if he wants to stick with the club.
Reports from the rink also have the Sabres with these powerplay units:
Of note, the Sabres are 0 for 26 and haven't scored a powerplay goal in nine games.