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Where do the Sabres go from here?

Jan 9, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT

Tim Murray

As we wrote this morning, Tim Murray is considered one of the top talent evaluators in the game. Suffice to say, the new general manager of the Buffalo Sabres will need to use all his evaluating expertise to take the NHL’s last-place team and turn it into a Stanley Cup contender.

The draft is obviously going to be important.

“You build a team through the draft,” said Murray. “Good drafting allows you to trade well, and then you use free agency to put you over the top.”

But there are other pressing issues for Murray. Such as…

What does he do with Ryan Miller?

The club’s 33-year-old franchise goalie is a pending unrestricted free agent who said in December that he’s “not going to sit around and let promises get thrown around” by management.

When asked about Miller this morning, Murray said he first needed to get a feel for the trade market before making any decisions about the club’s list of pending UFAs, which also includes captain Steve Ott, Matt Moulson, and Henrik Tallinder.

“The market dictates that,” said Murray. “I can’t go out and tell you right now I’m going to trade all the pending UFAs if there’s no market to trade them. If there’s a market and it makes sense…this team’s in last place right now; everybody could be traded.”

The market for Miller is a tough one to predict. Typically, Stanley Cup contenders are already set in goal. There’s been speculation (much of it ours) that St. Louis could be a potential landing spot for Miller prior to the March 5 deadline, but if there’s no guarantee of re-signing him beyond this season, the market for a rental goalie will be limited.

What does he do with Mikhail Grigorenko?

“You can draft a guy in the first round. If you don’t develop him right…you can lose him.”

That was Murray this morning, and it wasn’t hard to picture Grigorenko while he was saying it. The Sabres selected the talented 19-year-old in 2012 with the 12th overall pick. In hindsight, they shouldn’t have kept him with the big club last season. They did eventually send him back to junior, but not until the first year of his entry-level contract had been triggered.

In 43 NHL games, Grigorenko has just three goals and five assists. Right now he’s in limbo, unable to go to the AHL and possibly unable to go to junior. Obviously, Murray needs to figure out a better development plan than the one that’s gotten the situation to this point.

What does he do with Ted Nolan?

Murray was non-committal when asked about the Sabres’ head coach.

“There’s no preconceived notions,” he said. “He’s the coach of the hockey team and I’m looking forward to getting to know him, getting to know the staff, and getting to know the style of coaches they are and the style they want to play…It’s a clean slate here.”

The consensus opinion is that Murray will hire his own bench boss when all’s said and done. But while that may well be the case, it’s not unheard of for a new GM to stick with the coach.

Off the top of my head, when Mike Gillis was hired as the new GM in Vancouver, it seemed likely that Alain Vigneault would be fired. Instead, Gillis stuck with Vigneault and nearly won the Stanley Cup a few seasons later.

In fact, here’s what Gillis said after he got the job: “I haven’t made any predisposed decisions…This is a clean slate moving forward.”

Sound familiar?

  1. joey4id - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    You nailed it. Numero uno is Miller. Who needs a goalie big time right now? Don’t think he’ll want to go to EDM. Do you try to sign him? You build championship teams starting between the pipes, on d, and then at center. At 33 years old, and at the price you’ll have to pay him I don’t know if he’s the right fit. Maybe they can trade him to one of the CAL teams or PHX where he can be closer to his wife. That leaves a few options to trade for younger goalie. (J. Quick…. :-) hahaha! just kidding blomfeld)

    Keep Nolan for now, and if you like what you see sign him to an extension. No rush here.

    What to do with Grigorenko seems a bit more complicated and may require the power of a major law firm…. Proskauer Rose… :-) Remember them… Yikes! Old wounds have flared up.

    • elemeno89 - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:30 PM

      Thank god Murray is the gm and not you….

      • joey4id - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:43 PM

        hehehehe! Yep! What the hell do I know….. But! Admit it’s fun to have an opinion. He’s there! I’m not. ;-) Stay thirsty my friend!

      • joey4id - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:46 PM

        BTW, which part of what I wrote you don’t agree with? Would be nice to hear what you have to say instead of the just offering useless comments. C’mon! Don’t be shy. Tell Joey what your think the new GM should do.

      • elemeno89 - Jan 9, 2014 at 4:53 PM

        Sure no problem. You brought out some good points like sticking with Nolan for the time being as the interim, and the question surrounding Grigorenko. The main reason I gave you a thumbs down was in regards to the trade talk with Miller. As the article said trade options are tough. Miller doesn’t want to go to EDM (as reported earlier this year), PHO already has a world class goalie locked up in Mike Smith, and CAL is also in the midst of a rebuild themselves.

        Miller is a sensitive case. He’s at an age where he wants to win, but he’s also loyal to our cause. He’s never shred away from saying he likes in Buffalo. Given his age there aren’t many chances to win the cup, but at the same time teams that are on the verge of winning the cup don’t make an addition by trading for a goalie. As you said you build from the net.

        In my honest opinion I think we will lock Miller up. Unless he decides willingly to not invoke his NTC and go to a team that may win, I think he will decide to stay and help with the rebuild. Also with him in net it’s one less thing we needs to worry about trying to tweak and fix. Ultimately the decision lies with Murray, and we will figure out that decision soon…

      • joey4id - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:32 PM

        I wrote “one of the CAL teams” meaning California, and mentioned Phx for its proximity to California. You’re right that it won’t be easy to get Smith out Phx. He’s locked in for another 5 or 6 years, so he’s probably not available unless Buffalo throws in another player. Worth a phone call though.

  2. c9castine - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    “zetaone – Jan 29, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    Yeahhhh except why burn a contract year on a kid that doesn’t SEEM ready for the NHL quite yet? Especially with barely over 40 games left in the season to develop..

    Personally I thought he could have benefited from a season in juniors..

    I get that the team is spread a little thin on talent, I just don’t think this is the right move. Time will tell.

    12 22 ”

    comment that somebody made in that article last year. it got 22 dislikes and 12 likes.

    he was spot on.

    • zetaone - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:56 PM

      Yeahhhh.

  3. ryanprzy - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:57 PM

    From here, you have to do it the right way.

    You got a new GM and an old, trusted friend back to coach. All set there.

    Keep the farm system intact, even though it’s underwhelming. There should be no “win now” sentiment in that organization, so don’t part with future assets for any bloated contracts of players older than 30.

    Get whatever you can for whoever you can on the current big club. Stockpile picks and minor leaguers. Trade Miller/Moulson/Hodgson/Ott/Stafford/Ehrhoff/Myers/etc. in multiple deals for the best packages available. You gotta blow this team up and get rid of the losing tradition.

    Be patient. Let the farm develop and draft like the dickens. I understand there’s a cap floor you gotta be at, so sign older veterans to one-year deals (Florida Panthers-type contracts) and what not. Just don’t commit to long-term contracts in free agency until the kids develop and you feel that the UFAs are the cherry-on-top kind to compliment what you’ve built. Only then can this ship be righted.

    It’s probably a lot more complicated than that though.

    • rabidbillsfan - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:25 PM

      Channeling my inner “elemeno89″… Thank God Murray is the GM and not you.

      • elemeno89 - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:31 AM

        yea buddy!!!

  4. President Charles Logan - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:42 PM

    Sabres are going to to be bottom feeders for years to come, just like the NY Mets will be in Baseball.

    • thedavesiknowiknow - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:56 PM

      You could have just screamed “PAY ATTENTION TO ME”.

      • President Charles Logan - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:58 PM

        You Sabre fans come from such a disillusioned place … It must be really dark and lonely wherever that is.

      • rabidbillsfan - Jan 11, 2014 at 6:33 PM

        Must be similar to the basement you reside in, except we are mildew and cat smell free.

  5. george1859 - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:10 PM

    Message to Tim,
    Buy a can of Lysol and empty it in Darcy’s old office.
    Hopefully, that will kill off the rest of the nightmare we as fans suffered for the last decade and a half.

  6. broadstreetsbaddest88 - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:49 PM

    The miller trade to the blues makes all the sense in the world. He’d solidify that teams backend. Sabres could get a decent return for him, a first rounder I’m sure. The blues would be Even more scary then they already are. They got top 3 D in the league if not the best and a stellar goalie like miller would complete that team. He’d be crazy not to trade moulson at the deadline too for a good return. Other then that Murray seems like he’ll be good for this team. He’s got a great track record in the draft and managing the Binghamton senators and winning Calder cup. He fits perfect for this job.

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