While the 2018-19 edition of the Buffalo Sabres may have failed to qualify for the postseason for the eighth straight season – the longest current playoff drought in the NHL – many former Sabres are competing for the Stanley Cup.
Of the 16 teams to make the playoffs, nine of them have ex-Sabres on their roster. There are 14 players in total that donned the blue and gold. So if you’re looking for a team or a familiar face to root for, you’ll probably see a few on television nearly every night.
Former Sabres in the Eastern Conference in the Playoffs
New York Islanders Goaltender
On June 26, 2015, then-Sabres general manager Tim Murray acquired Lehner and David Legwand from the Isles for a 2015 first-round draft pick. (Ottawa eventually selected Colin White with that pick.)
In three seasons in Buffalo, Lehner appeared in 133 games, going 42-61-22 with a .916 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.77 goals against average (GAA).
Last spring, the Swede underwent treatment for bipolar disorder and a crippling battle with addiction. He was very public with his story in hopes of helping others and removing the stigma associated with mental health and seeking help for it. When current GM Jason Botterill chose not to qualify Lehner, the netminder became a free agent and inked a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Isles on July 3, 2018.
Related: Lehner’s Most Important Save
This season with the Barry Trotz-coached Isles, Lehner went 25-13-5 with a 2.13 GAA and a sparkling .930 SV%. He posted a .605 quality start percentage and a dazzling 26.24 goals-saved-above-average percentage. This marks the second postseason for Lehner, who appeared in two games for the Ottawa Senators in 2012-13.
Boston Bruins Goaltender
Halak has played 13 seasons in the NHL, starting his career with the Montreal Canadiens, moving to the St. Louis Blues, then briefly to the Sabres, then the Washington Capitals, New York Islanders and this season, the Bruins. This season, he appeared in 40 games, sharing the crease with Tuukka Rask. He went 22-11-4 and posted an impressive .922 SV% and 2.34 GAA.
Halak, a two-time All-Star, spent a few weeks in Buffalo but never appeared in a single game. He barely unpacked. On Feb. 28, 2014, the Sabres acquired the goaltender, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a conditional 2016 third-round pick.
Then, on March 5, 2014, the Sabres traded Halak and their 2015 third-round pick to the Capitals for Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla. It was the second time in less than a week he was traded.
Halak has made it to the postseason five times–three times with the Habs and once with the Blues and Isles. In 30 appearances, he has 13 wins and 15 losses with a .924 SV% and a 2.39 GAA.
Toronto Maple Leafs Center
Ennis was drafted by the Sabres with the 26th pick in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He played eight seasons in Buffalo before being traded to the Minnesota Wild on June 30, 2017. The multi-player deal sent Ennis, teammate Marcus Foligno and the Sabres’ third-round pick in 2018 for Jason Pominville, Marco Scandella and Minnesota’s fourth-round pick in 2018.
After being released by the Wild, Ennis was signed by the Maple Leafs as a free agent on July 6, 2018. He put up 12 goals and six assists in 51 games this season.
Heading into the postseason this year, Ennis had played 14 playoff games – 13 for the Sabres (three goals, five assists) and one for the Wild (no points).
Pittsburgh Penguins Defenseman
Ruhwedel started his career as an undrafted free agent out of UMass-Lowell, signing with the Sabres on April 13, 2013. He played 33 games across parts of four seasons with the organization, beginning in the 2012-13 season.
On July 1, 2016, as a free agent, the blueliner signed a three-year, league-minimum ($650,000/season) contract with the Penguins and has since played 96 games for the Pens and 33 games for their farm team, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.
In seven seasons, Ruhwedel has only appeared in 129 NHL games, averaging 16:23 minutes of ice time per game. He has played in 18 playoff games for the Pens and has yet to record a point, however, he played in six games during the Penguins Stanley Cup-winning team in 2016-17.
Former Sabres in the Western Conference in the Playoffs
Winnipeg Jets Defenseman
Myers was drafted 12th overall by the Sabres in 2008 and won the NHL’s Calder trophy as the League’s best rookie in the 2009-10 season with 11 goals, 37 assists and 48 points. He played 365 games in six seasons for Buffalo, chipping in 151 points while averaging 22:52 minutes of ice time per game.
On Feb. 11, 2015, Myers was traded to the Winnipeg Jets with Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and St. Louis’ 2015 first-round pick (previously acquired) for Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf. Sidelined with an injury, he was reduced to only 11 games in 2016-17, but bounced back in 2017-18 playing in all 82 games. In five seasons with the Jets, he has 29 goals and 85 assists while averaging 21:40 minutes of ice time per night.
This is Myers fifth trip to the postseason, with two for the Sabres and the rest with Winnipeg. Entering the playoffs this year, he has 33 games of playoff experience, pitching in seven goals and eight assists.
Winnipeg Jets Defenseman
On June 25, 2016, the Sabres GM Tim Murray acquired Kulikov from the Florida Panthers and the 33rd pick in the 2016 Draft (they selected Rasmus Asplund) for defenseman Mark Pysyk and picks Nos. 38 and 89.
After struggling through 47 games in blue and gold, with two goals, three assists and a minus-26 plus-minus rating to show for himself, the defenseman was not re-signed by the Sabres.
On July 1, 2017, the blueliner born in Lipetsk, USSR inked a three-year, $13 million deal with the Jets as a free agent. He’s played 119 games, scoring three goals and adding 14 assists to go with a plus-10 rating.
This is Kulikov’s fourth trip to the playoffs–he’s had two with the Panthers and two with the Jets. He’s played in a total of 15 games, chipping in one goal and four assists.
Winnipeg Jets Defenseman
The Sabres traded for Beaulieu, a former 2011 17th overall pick on June 17, 2017, sending Montreal its 2017 third-round pick. He suited up for all of 89 games for the Sabres–only 30 games this past season–before requesting to be traded at the Trade Deadline. Sabres GM Jason Botterill shipped him to the Jets in exchange for their sixth-round pick in 2019.
Since the trade, Beaulieu played 18 for the Jets, pitching in five assists and averaging 16:51 per game. This is his fourth trip to the playoffs, having played 17 games across three different seasons with the Habs.
St. Louis Blues Center
O’Reilly was originally drafted in the second round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche. In 427 games spanning six seasons, he put up 90 goals and 156 assists.
On June 26, 2015, O’Reilly was traded to the Sabres with Jamie McGinn for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and Buffalo’s 2015 second-round pick (later traded to San Jose who selected Jeremy Roy). He played three seasons in Buffalo, registering 65 goals and 111 assists in 224 games. As losses piled up in Buffalo, his frustrations grew and he spoke of them candidly in his locker cleanout day following the 2017-18 season.
On July 1, 2018, O’Reilly was traded to the Blues for Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson and their 2019 first round pick and 1021 second-round pick.
O’Reilly has had a terrific season with the Blues, tying his career best in goals (28) and setting career bests for assists (49) and points (77).
This is O’Reilly’s third trip to the playoffs. He went with the Avs in 2009-10 and 2013-14, playing a total of 13 postseason games.
St. Louis Blues Defenseman
The Sabres drafted Butler in the fourth round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft (96th overall). He played 155 NHL games for Buffalo, putting up five goals, 31 assists. On June 25, 2011, he was traded to the Calgary Flames with Paul Byron for Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik and Calgary’s 2012 second round pick (which turned out to be Jake McCabe).
Butler signed with the Blues as a free agent on July 16, 2014. In five seasons in St. Louis, he’s been used sparingly, only playing a total of 58 NHL games; 13 of them this season. He’s toiled in the minors for the Chicago Wolves and San Antonio Rampage.
The St. Louis-born defenseman’s only Stanley Cup playoff experience thus far is seven games in 2010-11 with the Sabres.
Nikita Zadorov and J.T. Compher
Colorado Avalanche Defenseman & Forward
Zadorov and Compher were part of a multi-player deal with the Avs on June 26, 2015. They were packaged with Mikhail Grigorenko and the Sabres 2015 second round pick for Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn.
While Compher never appeared in a game for the Sabres or the Amerks, he was drafted by the organization with the 35th pick in 2013. He’s played a total of in 156 NHL games for the Avs (32 goals, 28 assists). This is Compher’s second season appearing in the playoffs–he played in six games in 2017-18 for the Avs.
Zadorov was taken by the Sabres with the 16th pick in 2013. The left-shot defenseman from Moscow suited up for 67 games for the Sabres. He played in six playoff games for the Avs last season (one goal, two assists).
San Jose Sharks Winger
Kane was drafted fourth overall in 2009 by the Atlanta Thrashers. He began his NHL career that year and moved when the franchise relocated to Winnipeg. All told, he played six seasons for the organization, putting up 76 goals and 77 assists in 222 games.
On Feb. 11, 2015, Kane was traded to the Sabres with Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux and the Blues’ first-round 2015 pick.
With no plans to work out a deal to stay with the Sabres, Botterill dealt Kane at the 2018 Trade Deadline to San Jose for Daniel O’Regan and the Sharks conditional first-round pick in 2019 and conditional fourth-round pick in 2020.
Kane got his first taste of the playoffs last season. In nine games, he scored four goals and added one assist. This is his second helping of postseason play.
Vega Golden Knights Winger
The Blues drafted Carrier in the second round with the 57th pick in 2013. The Quebec native was traded to the Sabres with Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart and St. Louis’ 2015 first round pick and 2016 third-round pick for goaltender Ryan Miller and forward Steve Ott.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound winger made his NHL debut with the Sabres in the 2016-17 season, playing 41 games and putting up eight points.
On June 21, 2017, Carrier was plucked from the Sabres by the Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft. He appeared in 37 games for the Knights in 2017-18, chipping in a meager three points. This season, he played in 54 games, contributing eight goals and one assist.
This is Carrier’s second time in the postseason. He played ten games for the Knights in their miraculous playoff run last season, failing to record a point while averaging only 7:55 minutes of ice time.
Vega Golden Knights Defenseman
McNabb was taken by the Sabres with the 66th pick in 2009. He appeared in only 37 games for the Sabres from 2011-14. On March 5, 2014, the Sabres sent McNabb, forward Jonathan Parker and two second-round draft picks to the Los Angeles Kings for forwards Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers.
The left shot defenseman from Saskatchewan played in 201 games spanning three seasons for the Kings, pitching in six goals an 36 assists.
On June 21, 2017, McNabb was selected by the Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft. He averaged a career high 20:09 minutes of ice time per game in 79 contests last season. This season, he played in 81 games, contributing 16 points.
This is McNabb’s third time in the postseason. He played in five games for the Kings in 2015-16, and 20 games for the Knights in their Cinderella inaugural season.
Jeff has been covering the NHL for over a decade for various sites. He’s been with The Hockey Writers as a lead Sabres writer three years, while also writing a satire column called “Off the Crossbar.”