Sabres still paying for the sins of Tim Murray

Hitting the gas pedal burned through all the Sabres' potential roster depth

Joe DiBiase
February 22, 2019 - 2:55 pm

Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports

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Before working at WGR, I was a frequent listener to the station. I remember Bulldog talking about the wave of prospects that were going to, some day soon, hit our shores. They were going to make the Buffalo Sabres a great team for years to come.

After a successful tank that landed Jack Eichel, former Sabres general manager Tim Murray took most of those young prospects and draft assets and tried to hit fast forward, tried to hit the gas pedal. The Sabres are still paying for it today.

Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner, Kyle Okposo, Dmitry Kulikov, the list goes on. Murray and the Sabres even gave up a third round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins to be able to hire Dan Bylsma. Another third went to the Nashville Predators to get the negotiation rights to Jimmy Vesey, who then went on to sign with the New York Rangers. It really was an incredible amount of draft capital that Murray burned through.

Despite the fact he was tanking for half of his tenure, Murray traded away two first round picks, four second round picks, four third round picks, and a fifth round pick in three years. Not to mention the five young players who were first round picks, and three who were second rounders.

It's cruel sometimes to play the "what if" game and you'll often hear coaches/executives say that you can't do it. Actually you can, and it's one of the only ways to judge how a general manager is doing in his job.

What if Tim Murray didn't try to rush his team to contention? Where did those waves of prospects go?

The Sabres are still searching to replace the roster depth that Murray sent away.

 

Joel Armia (Dealt to Winnipeg in the Kane trade)

  • 25-years-old; Sabres' first round pick (16th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft; 72 points in 218 games with Winnipeg and Montreal
  • Armia hasn't become a dynamic offensive player, but unlike a lot of bottom six forwards in the Sabres lineup, he'll get you double-digit goals over the course of a season. Armia will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.


Brendan Lemieux (Dealt to Winnipeg in the Kane trade)

  • 22-years-old; Sabres' second round pick (31st overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft; 12 points in 53 games with Winnipeg
  • Lemieux took a few years of developing in the AHL before cracking the Jets roster. In his first full season, like Armia, Lemieux is proving he can be a secondary scorer on a good team, with bottom six minutes. In 44 games this year, he has nine goals in 44 games. Lemieux was traded to the Rangers at the trade deadline, along with a first round pick, for Kevin Hayes


Tyler Myers (Dealt to Winnipeg in the Kane trade)

  • 28-years-old; Sabres' first round pick (12th overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft; 105 points in 251 games with Winnipeg
  • The Sabres gave up on a 24-year-old Tyler Myers after he failed to become the superstar defenseman most fans saw him becoming after winning the Calder Trophy in his rookie year. Since going to the Jets, he has settled into the role he was meant for - a second pair, second power play, pretty solid blue liner. Myers is in the final year of the contract he signed with Buffalo way back in 2011. If the Sabres wanted a solid second pair guy, they could attempt to reunite with Myers in the offseason.


Nikita Zadorov (Dealt to Colorado in the O'Reilly trade)

  • 23-years-old; Sabres' first round pick (16th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft; 42 points in 207 games with Colorado
  • Zadorov has developed into a tough bottom-four defenseman. He has not reached the offensive ceiling many thought he had when the big Russian was drafted. That's part of the reason he averages just over 18 minutes a night. Zadorov will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.


J.T. Compher (Dealt to Colorado in the O'Reilly trade)

  • 23-years-old; Sabres' second round pick (35th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft; 56 points in 137 games with Colorado
  • Compher has seen a spike in offensive production in his second full season in the NHL. In 44 games this year, he has 24 points playing second and third line minutes. A solid two-way player, he could've been playing Sobotka or Larsson's role with an actual possibility of scoring in that role. Compher might be the guy the Sabres miss most. He'll be a restricted free agent at the end of the year.


Mark Pysyk (Dealt to Florida in the Kulikov trade)

  • 27-years-old; Sabres' first round pick (23rd overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft; 40 points in 215 games with Florida.
  • Like a lot of these guys, Pysyk hasn't become some All-Star player, but he is a nice depth defenseman for the Panthers. Nothing he does is flashy, and that shows in his stats. As advanced stats will show you, Pysyk is about as good as you can do for a third pair guy, and would be a top-four guy on a lot of teams.


Brayden McNabb (Dealt to Los Angeles in the Hudson Fasching trade)

  • 28-years-old; Sabres' third round pick (66th overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft; 71 points in 341 games with Los Angeles, Vegas.
  • McNabb is nothing special, but has been a top pair or second pair defenseman on really good teams, especially in Vegas last season. After averaging 17 minutes a night in L.A., McNabb saw an increased role, averaging 20 minutes a night for the Golden Knights. At the very least, he's a guy you want on your third pair, and he's proven that he can handle top minutes if needed.


The Sabres would have had to nail the picks, but there was opportunity to get star players with lots of draft picks that were also traded away.


60th pick in 2014 (Dealt to Los Angeles in the Fasching trade)

  • Brayden Point-  LW - Tampa Bay Lightning
    • Selected 19 picks later; 185 points in 211 games.


21st pick in 2015 (Dealt to Ottawa in the Lehner trade)

  • Colin White - C - Ottawa Senators
    • Selected with the 21st pick; 38 points in 80 games.
  • Ilya Samsonov - G - Washington Capitals
    • Selected one pick later; One of the top goalie prospects in the world.
  • Brock Boeser - RW - Vancouver Canucks
    • Selected two picks later; 102 points in 121 games.
  • Travis Konecny - C - Philadelphia Flyers
    • Selected three picks later; 113 points in 224 games.


25th pick in 2015 (Dealt to Winnipeg in the Kane trade)

  • Jack Roslovic - C - Winnipeg Jets
    • Selected with the 25th pick; 31 points in 94 career games.
  • Noah Juulsen - D - Montreal Canadiens
    • Selected one pick later; Top defensive prospect in Montreal.
  • Anthony Beauvillier - C - New York Islanders
    • Selected three picks later; 81 points in 198 games.


31st pick in 2015 (Dealt to Colorado in the O'Reilly trade)

  • Sebastian Aho - C - Carolina Hurricanes
    • Selected four picks later; 184 points in 223 games.
  • Brandon Carlo - D - Boston Bruins
    • Selected six picks later; 28 points in 212 games.


43rd pick in 2015 (Dealt to Los Angeles in the Fasching trade)

  • Erik Cernak - D - Los Angeles Kings
    • Selected with 43rd pick; 9 points in 39 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Daniel Sprong - RW - Pittsburgh Penguins
    • Selected three picks later; 13 goals in 71 games with Pittsburgh and Anaheim
  • Jordan Greenway - LW - Minnesota Wild
    • Selected seven picks later; 11 goals in 69 games


38th pick in 2016 (Dealt to Florida in the Kulikov trade)

  • Alex DeBrincat - RW - Chicago Blackhawks
    • Selected one pick later; 114 points in 145 games.


45th pick in 2016 (Dealt to Montreal for Josh Gorges)

  • Samuel Girard - D - Nashville Predators
    • Selected two picks later; 42 points in 136 games with Nashville and Colorado
  • Carter Hart - G - Philadelphia Flyers
    • Selected three picks later; 13-8-1 with .917 save percentage in his rookie season.


Even if Murray kept all those picks, he wasn't going to hit on all of them, obviously. Would he have hit on two or three? The thing about stockpiling picks is, you're bound to nail a few, if you have enough. Murray would have had the opportunity to draft Aho, DeBrincat, Hart, or Point, who are all thought of as great young players in the league. Just a few of any of these guys would have provided the Sabres with the roster depth they are sorely missing.

The last thing to look at is who the Sabres would be without if Murray didn't trade all these assets. They wouldn't have Tage Thompson. They wouldn't have had the Blues' first round pick, which may be the pick used to land Brandon Montour. Other than that, what would we be truly missing? They wouldn't have Vladimir Sobotka, and I know fans love the sound of that right about now.

The "what if" game is a dangerous one, but it's one that has to be played to learn from mistakes of the past. I think most would agree that trading over a dozen young/future assets for a few very good veteran players was a mistake.

The Sabres are still paying for it.

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