The last two seasons have seen the Buffalo Sabres finish in last place the in the league. This Sabres’ rough stretch brought about a number of moves, including the trade of former Buffalo cornerstone pieces like Ryan Miller in 2014 and Tyler Myers in 2015. Despite their bad record and best odds in the league’s draft lottery, Buffalo string of bad luck continued, as they missed out on the #1 pick in both the 2014 and 2015 NHL Draft lotteries.
Building Up The Roster via the Draft
Despite the hard times of the last two seasons, things are looking up for the Sabres. Sabres’ GM Tim Murray has quietly been assembling pieces in Western NY and has the Sabres trending in the right direction. Murray managed to accumulate a number of picks and players which have since evolved into meaningful additions on the roster.
Even before their two year stretch began, the Sabres had acquired some good young talent in the draft. Players like Zemgus Girgensons, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Marcus Foligno have all developed into NHL talents and will be significant parts of the 2015-2016 Sabres. However, over the last two seasons is where Buffalo has been slowly building their way back into contention.
Last season, the Sabres missed out in the lottery on the clear #1 pick, D Aaron Ekblad. Ekblad is now a Florida Panther and won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. As their consolation, Buffalo received Sam Reinhart, a highly touted 2-way center that is expected to make the jump to the NHL this year. Reinhart has played well internationally for Team Canada and will be a big piece of the team in the future.
If the 2014 draft was tough to stomach for Sabres fans, 2015 was a punch to the gut. Despite once again having the best odds, Buffalo missed out on potential superstar Connor McDavid. This time, however, the consolation prize was much sweeter. They drafted Jack Eichel from Boston University second overall, and Eichel has wowed nearly as many scouts as Connor McDavid in the run up to draft. Between Eichel and Reinhart, the Sabres have acquired some great young talent for the middle of their roster.
Trading for Building Blocks
But the most exciting developments for Buffalo have come via trade. After a falling out with teammates, the Sabres capitalized on the circumstances and acquired former 30-goal scorer Evander Kane and D Zach Bogosian in exchange for a package surrounding Tyler Myers. Kane did not play a game for the Sabres after being acquired due to shoulder surgery, and will be on the ice for the start of the 2015-2016 season and will be looking to make a splash.
Then, in the offseason, Buffalo dealt Nikita Zadurov and Mikhail Grigorenko for Ryan O’Reilly. O’Reilly had only one year remaining on his contract, which caused Colorado to ultimately deal him, and Buffalo extended O’Reilly almost immediately upon his arrival and will be a Sabre for the foreseeable future. While Zadurov and Grigorenko both possessed a lot of potential in Buffalo, the Sabres traded away some of their future for a bit of right now.
Ready to Contend for a Playoff Spot
With the combination of O’Reilly, Eichel, Kane, Bogosian ,and Reinhart coming to town in Buffalo, they will certainly have their best season in the last three years. Tim Murray has turned their roster of AHL All-Stars into a real NHL roster. Finally, on draft day, Murray acquired Robin Lehner, who was one of the most sought after goaltenders available. Lehner will help to buoy the back end for Buffalo, who now has a much more complete team in front of him.
The new look Sabres have officially exited their tank, or rather, rebuild and are returning to NHL relevancy. With their newly constructed roster, they should challenge for a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
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