The Buffalo Sabres’ rebuild has taken many twists and turns. The rebuild started under former Sabres’ GM Darcy Regier when he sent forward Paul Gaustad to the Nashville Predators. Since then, the leadership has been handed over to Tim Murray who continued to bring in a mix of veterans, prospects, and draft assets that have helped reshape the franchise.
Murray has another opportunity to bring more change to the Sabres’ organization between now and the March 2nd NHL Trade Deadline. The Sabres have several impending unrestricted free agents that Murray has said he does not want to leave the team for nothing. These players include goaltender Michal Neuvirth, forwards Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell, Pat Kaleta, as well as defensemen Andre Benoit, Andrej Meszaros, and Tyson Strachan.
The Sabres are in the home stretch of the season and the majority of fans would like to see the club maintain their last place position. The possibility of landing Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel has kept Sabres fans engaged despite another historically poor performance. The moves Murray makes prior to the NHL trade deadline will indeed have an impact on where his club finishes in the standings and the McEichel sweepstakes.
Let's be realistic here. #Sabres are going to trade Mitchell, Stewart, maybe Neuvirth. If Girgensons out long term, they're finishing 30th.
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) February 25, 2015
March 5th of last year marked Tim Murray’s first trade deadline as GM of the Buffalo Sabres. Murray made three trades last season on trade deadline day that furthered the rebuilding process. In advance of this year’s trade deadline coming up early next week, here is a review of GM Tim Murray’s 2014 trade deadline deals and a look at how his acquisitions are faring so far this season.
Sabres and Kings Complete Trade Deadline Multi-Player Deal
Murray’s first big move on March 5th of last year was a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. The Sabres acquired Nicolas Deslauriers and Hudson Fasching – two youngsters to add to the club’s mix of prospects. In exchange the Sabres sent defenseman Brayden McNabb, forward Jonathan Parker, a 2014 2nd round pick and a 2015 2nd round pick to the Kings.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 20, 2015
Since being acquired by Buffalo, Nicolas Deslauriers has become a regular with the Sabres playing mostly on the club’s third line. Deslauriers plays a very physical game where he’s amassed 196 hits on the season which is near the top of the NHL. He has had some growing pains this season but he continues to give an honest effort night after night despite his team’s struggles. Deslauriers has five goals and 13 points in 61 games with the Sabres so far this season.
Many Sabres fans were excited that this trade also included prospect Hudson Fasching. Fasching currently attends the University of Minnesota and is in his sophomore season with the Gophers. The forward has scored eight goals and 16 points in 29 games for the Gophers this season. He also scored one goal and three points in five games at the recent WJC-20 tournament for Team USA. Fasching is a promising youngster who will be given every opportunity to earn a role with the Sabres in the years ahead.
Murray Flips Halak for Neuvirth and Klesla At the Trade Deadline
After acquiring goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the St. Louis Blues as part of the deal for goaltender Ryan Miller and forward Steve Ott, Murray quickly moved the veteran to another club. Murray sent Jaroslav Halak along with a 2015 3rd round pick to the Washington Capitals in exchange for goaltender Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Rotislav Klesla.
Klesla did not report to the Sabres after he was acquired from the Washington Capitals. The Phoenix Coyotes (now the Arizona Coyotes) traded Klesla to Washington just a few days before he was dealt to the Sabres. Klesla decided not to continue his NHL career in Buffalo and he has spent this season playing in the Czech Republic.
Michal Neuvirth has had an up and down tenure with the Buffalo Sabres but has performed very well in recent games. The 26 year old has battled through injury and spent most of this season playing second fiddle to former Sabres netminder Jhonas Enroth. Since Enroth was dealt to the Dallas Stars, Neuvirth has been given the reigns and he has performed very well. On the season as a whole, Neuvirth has played in 24 games, has a 4-16-3 record, 2.99 GAA and a .917 save percentage. Neuvirth is a free agent at season’s end so he likely will be dealt by the deadline.
McCormick & Moulson to Minnesota
In his third and final trade at last year’s deadline, Murray sent forwards Cody McCormick and Matt Moulson to the Minnesota Wild. In return, the Sabres received forward Torrey Mitchell, a 2nd round pick in 2014 and a 2nd round pick in 2016. McCormick and Moulson were dealt to a playoff team while the Sabres brought in a veteran and some additional assets to help with the rebuild.
In retrospect, Murray’s trade with Minnesota was perhaps his most interesting trade of the day because both McCormick and Moulson ultimately returned to the Sabres. Moulson and McCormick were both on expiring contracts and the Wild essentially rented their services for their playoff run. Once they became free agents, McCormick and Moulson both signed new contracts with the Sabres and returned to the organization this season.
Mitchell: "We're not afraid to play anyone, we seem to play better against better teams" #Sabres
— Brian Koziol (@BrianWGR) February 6, 2015
Torrey Mitchell has tallied three goals and 10 points in 49 games with the Sabres so far this season. Mitchell hasn’t contributed a ton on offense but he plays with a lot of heart and he has been very supportive of his teammates. He has found a role playing alongside Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta. Mitchell is a serviceable player who can provide veteran leadership to a playoff contender. He also is a pending unrestricted free agent so he will likely be dealt to a new club prior to the trade deadline next week.
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW