As the rebuild of the Buffalo Sabres continues, the roster is starting to take form, and we are seeing players switch from potential to their ceiling as NHL players. As it stands, the Sabres current roster only has 2 lines capable of putting up points on a consistent basis. This isn’t to say I was expecting Nic Desaluriers to put up 20 goals this season, or see David Legwand eclipse 20 goals for the 3rd time in his 16 year NHL career. The problem is, Tim Murray missed a chance to move pieces while the team was at its lowest, and their trade value has dropped substantially
The ENTIRE NHL knew the Sabres players were available, minus a key few pieces. A few of these players I mentioned in the off season that I’d consider moving for other prospects/ NHL ready Forwards or Future Draft picks. Many Sabres fans were extremely against the idea of trading away #thelegendofZemgus or Tyler Ennis and his goal of the year potential.
The idea of trading Zemgus Girgensons, a 2012 1st round pick (14th overall) who is only 21 years old seems asinine at first, and many will disagree about trading him. He still has time to develop yes, but I really don’t see a high ceiling for Zemgus. He could crack the top 6 forwards, but that would mean a switch to wing, which he struggled with last year. He missed 21 games, playing 61 and putting up 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) on a talent depleted roster. Many expected Zemgus to grow with more talent around him, and for him to blossom into a top 6 forward. Yes, its only 35 games into his 3rd full season, but his role is decreasing on this team and the opportunity to sell high may sailed. Zemgus led the voting for the 2014-2015 All-Star game, as the entire Country of Latvia made sure he saw the Exhibition. His play had teams taking notice, as his fore check on the penalty kill was excellent, and his ability to create chances was developing. This year though, I do not see any of the old Zemgus that had fans intrigued to see him lined up with actual NHL talent, and not the 2014-2015 Buffalo Tankers.
If Tim Murray can find another team, like lets say Tampa Bay, who has a talented forward who wants out (Jonathan Drouin) or maybe move “Gussy” for a 1st round pick, I’d be surprised if Murray doesn’t pull the trigger. Murray has shown, he is not gun shy and will make bold moves, if he feels they can help the team out. This move, would be a bold trade and I’d be on-board. Zemgus has regressed, and made me wonder if the best he can do is 30 point seasons. Yes, he has seen a recent line promotion to the 2nd line, making his line-mates Jack Eichel, and Brian Gionta, giving him 3 points in his last 3 games. But before that Zemgus had gone 11 games without a point, and only had 5 points in 32 games. His TOI average has taken a huge hit too, as he is no longer being counted on as a top line forward. Last year he averaged 19:05 but this year he has seen a drop to 15:39, and was only on the ice for 12:39 in a key late loss to Detroit. Does Dan Bylsma see “Gussy’s” ceiling, and knows Zemgus won’t be able to crack the top 6 forwards going into next season? We will add hopefully an NHL ready forward in the Draft this upcoming year.
Tyler Ennis is another player I feel Murray should’ve moved/ should move. Ennis came onto the scene in 2009-2010 and had fans excited. He had 9 points in 10 games, and helped produce 4 points in on playoff series in 6 games 2009-2010 and 4 points his next year in one season in 7 games. Many had hopes the small, shifty winger would be a stable of Sabres hockey going forward, hoping he’d crack 60-70 points a season. Well, Tyler has had a very tough time staying healthy, and the lockout shortened season had fans the most excited. 31 points in 47 games, Tyler should be able to at least get 55 points in a full season, maybe 60 if things are right. After 2 nearly full campaigns, Tyler posted 43, and 46 points, and had a disgusting -44 =/- for the two years combined. Yes, those were the two years of the “tank” but still not something to overlook. Last year, Tyler had a couple of highlight reel goals, and looked to be a valuable trade chip if Murray chose to use him. But as we get closer to the halfway point of the season, it looks like the Sabres missed an opportunity to move him while his value was the highest, and the team was at the lowest.
You can throw in Johan Larsson, Marcus Foligno, Matt Moulson, Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta but these players value aren’t as high as the two previously mentioned. Larsson you still might be able to move, and I’d be interested to see him in an expanded role on another team. He had quite the finish to last season, scoring 5 goals and 9 assists in 18 games, causing Sabres fans to have panic attacks as their hopes of last place became in jeopardy. He could be someone you could pair with a 2nd round pick or two for a 1st rounder, or a top prospect.
I know the lines are starting to take form on this young team, and players are just starting to mesh with each other, but with only a couple of real goal scorers and play-makers, the Sabres need some depth, and more talent. Murray could’ve shipped Zemgus to Nashville, who needs young forwards, for Seth Jones, a young play making defensemen, something that would be foolish not to add. This upcoming off-season will be interesting, as Tim Murray can still make surprising, bold moves to secure talented players. Nobody saw the Evander Kane deal, or Robin Lehner deal, so don’t be so quick to write the potential of another big move off.