The Post-Trade Deadline Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres were very active during the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline. With the club in the NHL’s basement, GM Tim Murray sold off parts to contenders in exchange for future assets to fuel the on-going rebuild. The completed trades have increased Buffalo’s draft currency and they give the club some flexibility to further reshape the roster during the offseason.

Forwards Chris Stewart, Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchell, and goaltender Michal Neuvirth were traded away at the deadline in four separate deals. Through these trades Buffalo received a nice haul of draft picks including a 2nd round pick, a conditional 3rd, a fifth and a seventh, along with goaltender Chad Johnson and AHL forward Jack Nevins. You can see a summary of all the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline deals here.

Some critics have suggested that Buffalo traded away their roster players to tank or lose as many games as possible to secure a spot in the McEichel sweepstakes. Tim Murray responded to this criticism by saying that he traded away players for future assets and this is following in the footsteps of GMs managing last place teams of the past. Murray’s trades have indeed secured future assets for an already deep system but they also created an even larger talent deficit on the current roster of the already struggling Sabres.

Regardless of one’s position on the Sabres and the idea of tanking, the fact is that the moves made at the deadline further depleted the Sabres’ current roster by creating many new holes. Buffalo filled these holes through call-ups from the club’s AHL affiliate Rochester Americans. While Buffalo has not won a game since the trade deadline, the Sabres will need to rely on their organizational depth to close out the 2014-2015 regular season. Here is a look at the Sabres since the trade deadline and some of Buffalo’s call-ups who have an opportunity to prove themselves at the NHL level.

 

Tyler Ennis is Buffalo's best offensive threat this season (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)
Tyler Ennis is Buffalo’s best offensive threat this season (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Buffalo Sabres Since the Trade Deadline

Since the trade deadline, the Buffalo Sabres have compiled an 0-3-0 record with losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators, and the Washington Capitals. Buffalo scored three goals during this stretch or a 1.0 goals scored per game average which is lower than their league-worst 1.80 goals per game average. Meanwhile, the Sabres’ opponents have scored 12 goals or 4.0 goals per game which is higher than Buffalo’s league worst 3.35 average goals against per game on the season.

The Sabres’ first game after the trade deadline was against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning outworked the Sabres in the first and second periods and they were rewarded during these frames with goals from Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Victor Hedman. Buffalo generated more shots than Tampa Bay in the third period but they were unable to beat netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy who earned his first career shutout. On the positive side, call-up Zac Dalpe won 67% of his faceoffs while defenseman Zach Bogosian led the team in ice time with more than 25 minutes.

In their next game, Buffalo found the back of the net twice against the Ottawa Senators but ultimately fell short. Phil Varone scored Buffalo’s first goal and picked up an assist on the club’s second goal by Tyler Ennis. After gaining the lead in the first, Buffalo sat back and let Ottawa dictate the outcome of the game. The Senators would score three unanswered goals to secure the victory.

The Sabres were completely outclassed in their most recent game against the Washington Capitals and lost by a 6-1 score. Johan Larsson scored the first goal of the game for the Sabres but it was all downhill from there. The Capitals outshot Buffalo by a 45-17 margin. Matt Hackett started the game for the Sabres but after allowing four goals on 23 shots he was replaced by Anders Lindback. The Sabres allowed two power play goals during this tilt against Washington while five players for the Caps had multi-point games.

 [See Also: An Up-and-Down February for the Buffalo Sabres]

Phil Varone has an opportunity to prove he is worthy of an NHL role (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
Phil Varone has an opportunity to prove he is worthy of an NHL role (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

Opportunity Knocking in Buffalo

After the dust from the trade deadline shakeup settled in Buffalo, forwards Zac Dalpe, Jerry D’Amigo, Tim Schaller, and Phil Varone found their way to the Sabres. Dalpe, D’Amigo, Schaller, and Varone each have an opportunity to prove themselves at the NHL level. Buffalo is still looking for its first victory since the deadline so the call-ups and the rest of the Sabres have their work cut out for them heading towards the end of the season.

Zac Dalpe is a former 2008 draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes. The Paris, Ontario native spent his earlier career playing for Ohio State where he scored 34 goals and 70 points in 76 games. He has used his speed to be successful in the AHL where he has 84 goals and 169 points in 230 career games. However, Dalpe hasn’t been able to replicate this level of success at the NHL level where he has just 17 points in 98 career games.

Jerry D’Amigo is a native of Binghamton, NY and he came to the Sabres earlier this season from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the deal for Luke Adam. According to HockeyDB.com, D’Amigo has six goals and 19 points in 31 games with Rochester this season. Tim Schaller signed with Buffalo in 2013. According to Eliteprospects.com, Schaller has appeared in 127 games for Rochester over two seasons netting 27 goals and 57 points during that span.

Phil Varone was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 2009. According to Eliteprospects.com, Varone put up solid numbers in the OHL where he scored 78 goals and 230 points in 228 career games. He has performed well for Rochester this season with 43 points in 52 games. Varone has four points in 12 games with the Sabres this season including a recent multi-point game against the Ottawa Senators.

Others including forwards Johan Larsson, Mikhail Grigorenko as well as goaltenders Andrey Makarov and Matt Hackett also found opportunity in Buffalo. With injuries on the blue line, other players may find their way to the Sabres in the near future. Buffalo’s call-ups will each have an opportunity to contribute at the NHL level and to get noticed. If they work hard and put forth a strong effort, some may earn a spot with the Sabres after this season while others could find a role with another club. The potential is there but this crop of players will need to put in the hard work and play inspired hockey in order to take advantage of this opportunity in Buffalo.

[See Also: Buffalo Sabres: Goaltending Options A Plenty by Chad DeDominicis]