Buffalo Sabres: Analyzing Their Moves at the Trade Deadline

Matt Clouden@@mattcloudenCorrespondent IMarch 3, 2015

Buffalo Sabres: Analyzing Their Moves at the Trade Deadline

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    Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and the Buffalo Sabres and their general manager Tim Murray were once again big players in the occasion. 

    After dealing some significant players at last year's deadline and a few weeks before this year's, the Sabres were left with mostly role players with expiring contracts as trade pieces. As one can imagine, the return for those pieces was far less than what the Sabres have received in the past, but the departures of four roster players will have a significant impact on the remaining 19 games of the Sabres' season.

    Here is a breakdown of all four deals Murray and the Sabres made Monday.

Brian Flynn to Montreal for a 2016 5th-Round Pick

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The first Sabres move was a bit of a shocker, but it saw Brian Flynn off to join the Montreal Canadiens for a 2016 fifth-round selection, via NHL.com

    Flynn, likely a fourth-line addition for the Habs, has five goals and 17 points in 54 games for the Sabres. Flynn had found himself playing both top-six and bottom-six minutes for Nolan's Sabres, but the top-six minutes were tough for most to watch.

    Flynn is not the most skilled guy, but he is a good skater with good instincts, essentially making him a perfect depth guy in today's NHL. 

    The rationale behind the Flynn deal for Murray was probably the fact that Tim Schaller and Zac Dalpe both have played well in Rochester and both can be a big part of a legitimate fourth line. Schaller has especially impressed, and his ceiling may be that of a third liner, but if he were to become an excellent fourth liner, Sabres fans would be happy.

Michal Neuvirth to the New York Islanders for Chad Johnson and a 3rd-Round Pick

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    Cue the tank talk.

    After a bit of a lull, Murray sent goalie Michal Neuvirth to the New York Islanders in exchange for a third-round pick and backup netminder Chad Johnson, according to Sportsnet's John Shannon (via Chris Peters of CBS Sports).

    Neuvirth had an up and down, injury-riddled year with the Sabres, but in the eight games he started after the trade of Jhonas Enroth, Neuvirth amassed a 3-3-2 record, a 2.25 goals against average and a .941 save percentage. 

    This was obviously all Garth Snow, the Islanders GM, needed to see, and he bolstered his crease for the impending playoff run the Isles will embark on. 

    For the Sabres this does a number of things, but the biggest impact by far will be the loss of a goaltender that was stealing points for them. It's not a stretch to say that he probably earned them five more points in that eight-game stretch than they deserved as an entire team. Forty-five saves on 47 shots against Columbus, 34 on 35 against New Jersey and 37 on 38 in Nashville buoyed an otherwise flat team, and only Anton Forsberg's first two periods could be argued against the two points earned in Columbus. 

    But looking long-term and beyond the current season, the Sabres now have a huge hole in net moving forward. Sure, there are prospects and free agents, but the goaltending position may be the biggest question for the Sabres over the next few seasons.

Torrey Mitchell to Montreal for Jack Nevins and a 2016 7th-Round Pick

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    Jen Fuller/Associated Press

    In their second deal with the Habs Monday, the Sabres moved Torrey Mitchell to Montreal in exchange for a 2016 seventh-round pick and Jack Nevins, according to MontrealCanadiens.com

    Mitchell, who had been playing a top-six role with the Sabres over the past few weeks, was the second depth forward acquisition for the Canadiens Monday. In fact, since his return to the lineup from injury in January, Mitchell had amassed over 15 minutes of ice time in 18 of 20 games. 

    His role will be reduced on a deep Montreal team, but Mitchell will bring the necessary bottom-six spark for a team that will desperately need it going up against some of the deepest forward groups in the NHL. 

    The loss of Mitchell will be felt on the Sabres' penalty kill especially. The unit has not been great to begin with as it's currently ranked 29th in the league, but Mitchell was a big part of it. Without him a far less- seasoned penalty-killer will have to step in, likely making the unit worse.

    As for the return, the Sabres essentially got what they could for an infrequent scorer with PK abilities. The seventh-round pick is just that and Nevins will likely be a depth AHL player.

Chris Stewart to Minnesota for a 2017 2nd-Round Pick

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Right at 3 p.m., the deal Sabres fans were waiting for since October came to fruition.

    Chris Stewart was traded to the Minnesota Wild, a familiar deadline partner for the Sabres, for a 2017 second-round pick, via Josh Cooper of Yahoo Sports.  

    Stewart has been a trade target all season, and many believed he could have been moved last season at the deadline after arriving from St. Louis in the Ryan Miller-Steve Ott deal. But, contrary to most reports for the majority of the season, Stewart did not end up a Boston Bruin. 

    Instead, Stewart became the third Sabre traded to the Wild at the deadline in as many years, joining Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson. 

    But regardless of the destination, Stewart's departure will go a long way toward making the Sabres' offense even worse. While he has not had an excellent season as a whole, he has played extremely well the past month or so. 

    At its simplest, Stewart will be missed because of who will replace him in the top six. Even before Monday the Sabres didn't have much in the way of top-six forward depth, and the loss of Stewart clearly makes that depth worse. 

    But Stewart's trade could signify the last of the Sabres' major trade pieces, which should usher in a period of stability. If anything, the second-round pick acquired by the Sabres could be a deadline asset of their own in a few years.

Early Reaction to the Deadline

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The last 19 games will have a decidedly different feel to them, which is saying something considering the season the Sabres have had. 

    The Sabres have called up Tim Schaller, Jerry D'Amigo and Mikhail Grigorenko to fill in for the departed forwards. Grigorenko likely will be the extra until he can get his legs back after being out with a knee injury for about a month. 

    Johnson and Anders Lindback will share the crease from here on out. With those two in the net the Sabres' team save percentage is now .884, a number that, if sustained over the course of the 63 games already played, would have seen the Sabres allow 258 goals, or 49 more than they actually have allowed. 

    Couple that with the fact that current Sabres skaters have scored 78 goals, or a dismal 1.24 per game, and the Sabres are in trouble. The worst part is 15 of the 78 goals have been scored by Zemgus Girgensons, who may not play again this season. 

    To sum all of this up, last year after the deadline the discussion included the phrase "spectacularly bad." This year it should be even worse. 

    Chins up Sabres fans, only 19 games to go. 

    Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season long: @SwordPlay18.


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