The Sabres were having one of their most miserable seasons in franchise history during the 2013-2014 season. Darcy Regier was let go after over a decade tenure as Sabres GM. Tim Murray was hired as his replacement and he was tasked with deciding what to do with the face of the franchise, Ryan Miller. It seemed as if Buffalo’s President of Hockey Operations, Pat LaFontaine was very in favor of giving Miller a long-term extension but Murray wanted to stay the course and tear it down and accumulate draft picks and prospects. It hasn’t been confirmed at this point in time but, it seems as if LaFontaine left the organization because of the Miller trade. He wanted to do more of a rebuild on the fly rather than a full on rebuild. Miller was traded shortly before the 2014 trade deadline and it was an unforgettable day as a Sabres fan. I remember waiting for Tim Murray to be on WGR with Mike Schopp and the Bulldog but he didn’t make it. So then fans were speculating that something may be in the works as far as a trade goes. It was a game day and Buffalo was facing the San Jose Sharks. Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott weren’t out on the ice for warmups and we all knew at that point that the face of the franchise was on his way to St. Louis to compete for a Stanley Cup.
2015 1st Round Pick
2016 3rd Round Pick
St. Louis Acquires
This is a shockingly great return for a goaltender. That year, the goaltending trade market was expected to be very dry so GMTM only had a select few teams that he’d be able to trade Miller to. Even though he was handcuffed he was able to pull off an absolute heist.
2015 3rd Round Pick
If you remember when Tim Murray was talking about George McPhee owing him a favor from a previous deal, this is the deal that he was talking about. Of course, Tim was fired before the expansion draft so the favor was never returned. Anyways, Buffalo got a decent young goaltender with a bit of upside in Neuvirth and they took on Rusty Klesla’s contract. Halak was a pending unrestricted free agent so he had to go because they didn’t want to lose him for nothing when he hit free agency. I never quite understood why they gave up a 3rd round pick here but I guess that was the price to get a quality young goaltender.
Ryan Miller does not sign an extension with St. Louis so Buffalo received a 2016 3rd round pick. Had Miller been signed by the Blues, Buffalo would’ve received St. Louis’ 1st round pick in the 2014 draft. Steve Ott signed an extension with the Blues but he just recently retired and joined the Blue’s coaching staff.
2015 1st Round Pick (STL)
This was a deal that got quite a fair share of hate until Kane had a terrific season in 16-17. On paper, it looks like a lot to give up. But I’ll break it down for you here. Just about every Sabres fan was at wit’s end with Tyler Myers and he was probably going to be traded anyways if he wasn’t included in this trade. I consider Tyler Myers for Zach Bogosian a wash. And yes, Zach Bogosian has been a complete failure in Buffalo since he’s gotten here. But, it’s reasonable to think that if Tyler Myers wasn’t given a change of scenery, he’d just continue to play worse. Drew Stafford was going to be a free agent and Buffalo wasn’t going to go forward with him. Reports came out that Brendan Lemieux had no desire to sign an ELC with the Sabres. Joel Armia and the 2015 1st that turned out to be Jack Roslovic are the main pieces to this trade for Winnipeg as far as I’m concerned. Armia isn’t going to live up to his draft status as a 1st round pick but he’ll be a nice 3rd line player for the Jets for years to come. And the 1st round pick, you have to give up something to get something and some fans for some reason just can’t wrap their brain around that. Kane’s future in Buffalo is still up in the air. No doubt he’s a very good young player but, there’s a decision to make for Jason Botterill. Do they extend him, trade him, or just hold onto him and wait to see what happens? This deal is looking pretty good for Buffalo at the moment.
2017 2nd Round Pick (Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen)
Stewart had to go no questions asked. At the time of this trade, the Sabres were in a race for last place so they could have a shot at Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. A 2nd round pick is a good return for Chris Stewart but, it was rumored that Buffalo could’ve gotten quite a bit more for Stewart if they pulled the trigger on a trade earlier in the season. There were rumblings that Buffalo could’ve gotten Bruins center, Ryan Spooner as well as a 2nd round pick for Stewart. Anyways, Buffalo drafted goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen who I consider as Buffalo’s goaltender of the future at this point in time. Stewart walked as a free agent at the conclusion of the 14-15 season and signed with the Anaheim Ducks. After a year in Anaheim, Stewart went back to Minnesota as a free agent.
2016 3rd Round Pick
New York Islanders Acquire
Similar explanation to the Stewart trade here. Neuvirth HAD to go because he was stealing too many wins during the tank. Plus he was a pending UFA and it seems like he wasn’t interested in coming back. Johnson got hurt in practice shortly after the trade so he didn’t play for the Sabres that season. But, Johnson looked very good in Buffalo during the 2015-2016 season. Johnson walked as a free agent and played a season in his hometown of Calgary. Johnson came back to Buffalo during the offseason of 2017. Since Buffalo gave up a 3rd round pick to get Neuvirth from Washington, it’s nice that they were able to get a 3rd back for him in the Isles trade. Neuvirth didn’t sign an extension with the Islanders and he is now in the Flyers organzation.
2016 3rd Round Pick (NYI)
Unfortunately, at the time Buffalo hired Dan Bylsma they had to give the Penguins a 3rd round pick as compensation for hiring him. Since then that rule is gone and Dan Bylsma is no longer the Sabres head coach.
Vegas won’t select Linus Ullmark
2016 6th Round Pick
Jason Botterill valued Linus Ullmark more than Will Carrier judging by this move. I was a pretty big fan of Carrier but I don’t think anyone should lose sleep over losing this player.
Conditional 2019 2nd Round Pick (SJS)
Conditional 2019 4th Round Pick (SJS)
San Jose Acquires
At the time that this trade was made, Jason Botterill received a lot of criticism for trading Evander Kane. Most of that criticism was completely unwarranted because of the mass amount of people that were overvaluing Kane. At the end of the day, San Jose was the only team that made a legitimate offer for Evander Kane and the Sabres took it. Buffalo was rumored to be asking for a first round pick, a high end prospect, a conditional pick, and a roster player. Yeah, there was no way that Buffalo was getting that king’s ransom of a package. The conditions for the Sharks’ second rounder were met when Kane signed a 7 year extension with a cap hit of 7 million dollars per season. Because of that, Buffalo now has San Jose’s 2019 first round pick. For the conditional fourth rounder, San Jose has the option to keep the 2019 fourth if they really like someone at that spot. If they decide to keep the pick, Buffalo will then get San Jose’s 2020 third round pick. One more condition of the trade is that the first round pick is lottery protected. Because of this, if San Jose fails to qualify for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Buffalo will then receive San Jose’s 2020 first round pick. There is no word yet on if the 2020 first rounder is lottery protected or not. And on top of that, Buffalo also acquired Danny O’Regan who has had two very good seasons in the AHL since leaving Boston University. I envision him as a solid depth player who can contribute in Buffalo’s bottom six as early as the 18-19 season.
So here’s what remains from the trade tree
2019/2020 1st Round Pick (SJS)
2019 4th Round Pick (SJS)/2020 3rd Round Pick (SJS)
Buffalo kind of dropped the ball on some of the branching deals here by getting no return for players like Johnson and then having to give up the pick for compensation for Bylsma. But St. Louis walked out of this deal with nothing to show for it so this is a pretty easy W for Buffalo in this trade.
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