As I sat down at my laptop, ready to work on some season-preview pieces for 716 Sports Podcast ahead of the Buffalo Sabres’ season opener, I thought to myself, “How about a quick recap of this offseason and a review of general manager Tim Murray’s moves – a ‘grading’ of sorts…”
Okay, so first – a recap.
Let’s go back to June 20, which was the fateful day the Sabres traded a third-round draft pick to the Nashville Predators in exchange for the rights to speak with Jimmy Vesey. In the end, the Sabres weren’t able to close the deal with Vesey, and he signed with the New York Rangers once his free agency period opened.
On June 25, in the midst of the NHL draft, GMTM made a huge splash and sent defenseman Mark Pysyk to the Florida Panthers , along with a pair of 2016 picks (Adam Mascherin, Linus Nassen). In exchange, the Sabres picked up defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and a 2016 second rounder, which turned into Rasmus Asplund.
Later, on July 2, the Sabres picked up their potential backup goaltender, Anders Nilsson, from the St. Louis Blues. Murray sent a 2017 fourth-round pick off to The Gateway City in his stead.
Over the course of the summer, Buffalo’s general manager also brought in several players for the Sabres and Rochester Americans organizations via free agent signings.
Among the players acquired were Kyle Okposo for the big club, as well as Eric Burgdoerfer, Justin Falk, and Taylor Fedun; all for the AHL. Derek Grant – originally thought to be an AHLer – made a strong push and jumped into the final Sabres’ roster spot.
He also re-signed restricted free agents Marcus Foligno, Daniel Catenacci, Jason Kasdorf, Zemgus Girgensons, and Rasmus Ristolainen.
“Now that we’ve got all the moves down on paper, let’s try grading them,” I said.
In all honesty, it’s hard to grade the Sabres offseason moves, since this upcoming season hasn’t started yet. We don’t know how Kulikov or Nilsson will perform with their new team, and the same can be said of Okposo. As for the Vesey situation? Obviously Murray knew the risks ahead of the trade. While it didn’t result in Vesey signing with Buffalo, it was a calculated risk – one that was too costly, some may say, but the Sabres only gave up a draft pick, which was a small price to pay.
So how do we grade these moves when it’s impossible to know how they’ll pan out as the year goes by?
Well, in reality, we can’t – at least not yet. We can’t jump in and say that Tim Murray’s signing of Kyle Okposo was genius. We have no idea how he’ll do in his first season in Buffalo, or in the years to come. We can’t say that trading Mark Pysyk to Florida was a bad move, considering we have no idea how Pysyk will fare in Florida, nor can we predict how Kulikov will do here.
The loss of Pysyk on the blueline is undoubtedly something to deal with, but the addition of Kulikov in his stead makes it a little easier to bear. Letting Chad Johnson walk may or may not have been the best move, but signing Nilsson to be the second goaltender could end up being a great deal.
Burgdoefer, Falk, and Fedun should be great additions to the Rochester Americans as the team starts to shape its new identity. The same can be said of Kasdorf, considering the losses of Nathan Lieuwen, who has signed with Colorado, and Andrey Makarov, who is playing in China with the newest KHL team.
In the end, the offseason is in the books. We can try to judge the moves GMTM and crew made this summer, but why not withhold our judgments for the time being and let them play out for a bit first?
Case in point: look back on some of the insta-reactions when the Sabres picked up Robin Lehner in the summer of 2015. Murray said Lehner is a number one goalie, and media even said PRIOR to the trade that he could be the next Sabres’ starting netminder. ESPN, however, said that the GM had paid a hefty price for the netminder.
Despite the hype, and all the judgments, and one game into the season, he was down and out for much of the year. Let’s hold off on grading any of GMTM’s offseason moves for now. Get back to me in a few months or when this season is over and we’ll just see how things pan out.