After deal, Sabres look ahead as more changes loom
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Sabres are moving on without the longtime face of their franchise.
And they know the experience will be anything but ordinary.
”When a guy like Ryan Miller gets traded, that’s not a normal player getting traded,” interim head coach Ted Nolan said. ”He was the face of the organization for a long, long time. To lose a player like him, it’s tough.”
Tough, yes, but perhaps good practice for a team that could be offloading several more veterans before Wednesday’s trade deadline, as general manager Tim Murray continues efforts to fix the NHL’s worst team.
Murray traded Miller and captain Steve Ott to St. Louis on Friday. Buffalo acquired goaltender Jaroslav Halak, right wing Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round draft pick and a conditional pick.
It’s unlikely to end there. Christian Ehrhoff said Friday that he recently complied with the Sabres’ request to submit a list of eight teams that would make up the no-trade clause of his contract.
Soon-to-be unrestricted free agents Matt Moulson and Henrik Tallinder could also move, and Murray has said contract status doesn’t dictate availability. Even Halak or Stewart could be traded.
”They’re pieces that will be Buffalo Sabres when they pass their physicals and after that it’s the same as everybody else,” Murray said. ”And what I said, if it makes sense it makes sense. … If they’re Buffalo Sabres, they play here and we’re happy with them.”
The overhaul began under Murray’s predecessor, Darcy Regier, who was fired in November. The Sabres traded numerous high-priced veterans last season, including captain Jason Pominville.
It continued into October, when Thomas Vanek was traded to the New York Islanders for Moulson and two high draft picks.
The Sabres, as a result, have stockpiled picks. They could have as many as two first-round and three second-round selections in this year’s draft, with 10 total picks over the first two rounds of the next two drafts.
Buffalo also has a solid group of prospects in its farm system, including defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, who were both drafted in the first round in June.
Murray’s objective is to add more draft picks or young prospects, and he’s been clear about his intentions to make the team better regardless of cost.
”There’s no untouchables,” Murray said before the Miller trade. ”It’s a rebuild.”
And for the players remaining on the team, it’s a big opportunity to take a leadership role. In the case of Enroth, it’s a chance to become a team’s No. 1 goaltender for the first time in his career.
”If you don’t call this a chance, I don’t know what a chance is,” Enroth said, later adding, ”I truly believe I can be a No. 1 guy here.”
Nolan noticed changes almost immediately after the trade was announced, as Ott and Miller said their goodbyes to teammates.
”You could really see it on Drew Stafford’s face the most,” Nolan said Friday. ”Him and Matt Moulson really took over the leadership tonight with this young group.”
Stafford is now the longest-tenured Sabre and the only player left from the 2006-07 team that won the Presidents Trophy, though Tallinder left as a free agent before being reacquired this summer.
The general manager’s goals aren’t lost on the players in the room, and Tyler Myers has expressed confidence in the direction of the team in general.
”You have to look at what we got, too,” Myers said. ”I think it’s good for both sides. I’m happy for Ott and Miller.”
Murray said the timing of the deal was not ideal for his roster, but the 22-year-old Marcus Foligno and other young teammates almost immediately recognized the bittersweet chance to drive the team into the future.
”I looked around with (Brian) Flynn and (Zemgus) Girgensons, and we just said we gotta step up,” Foligno said. ”This is a game where we have to play well and this is something where we lost them and now hopefully we’re here for the long run and we’re players that they count on.”