Murray’s Aggressive Approach To Free Agency Has Buffalo Excited For The Future
Its been a few days since the free agency period started, but Sabres fans are still excited over what transpired on 1st of July. This is the first off-season under General Manager Tim Murray, and people were wondering how the man would approach his first off-season under a team that had its worst season in franchise history in almost forty years.
After having a draft that was praised by many, with the selections of Sam Reinhart and Brendan Lemieux. Buffalo fans were hoping for a more aggressive free agency period than the ones they had seen in the past with former GM Darcy Regier, and Murray did not disappoint.
When the clock hit noon on Tuesday, the Sabres went right to work. The first big signing was of twelve year veteran Brian Gionta with a three-year deal worth $4.25 million per season. The 35-year-old right winger had 18 goals and 40 points in 81 games last season with Montreal. Gionta will also finally get to play for the team he followed in his youth as he is a native of nearby Rochester, NY. Though past his prime, he will be seen as a great leader with a team that is full of youth.
Soon after the Gionta signing, forward Matt Moulson was officially announced that he will be returning to Buffalo with a five-year $25 million contract. Moulson was the man the Sabres traded for in exchange for Thomas Vanek with the New York Islanders back in October. While playing in Buffalo, Moulson scored 11 goals and 18 assists in 44 games for the Sabres before being traded to Minnesota at the trade deadline. But he showed how much he loved playing in city of good neighbors by signing this multi-year deal. The 30-year-old will be looked as a centerpiece to a team that is currently in the rebuilding stage.
Also coming coming back to Buffalo will be the player that was sent to Minnesota along with Moulson, Cody McCormick. The Sabres acquired the center with a three year $4.5 million deal. In 272 games in Buffalo he has scored 20 goals and 41 assists.
But the deals did not stop there, as later the Sabres acquired defenseman Josh Gorges from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2016 draft and re-signed restricted free agent forward Marcus Foligno. Last year in 66 games for the Habs, Gorges scored 1 goal and 13 assists.
With this trade, and the signing of Gionta. Buffalo now has the last year’s Canadiens captain and one of it’s alternate captains. But one thing that will be different for Gorges is how he will be seen as a mentor for this young defense. With Montreal there were plenty of older defensmen around. But now going to Buffalo, at the age of 29, he will be the oldest member of the Sabres blue line.
Buffalo would later add to its defense by signing Andrej Meszaros to a one-year $4.125 million contract. Meszaros scored 7 goals and 15 assists last year with both the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. The 28-year-old will add much needed depth to the blue line, as will Tyler Strachan who was signed on July 3rd for a one year deal with an NHL salary of $650,000 and a AHL pay of $275,00.
Strachan, 29, spent last season with the Washington Capitals organization, playing in 18 games for the caps and 60 games for their AHL affiliate Hershey. In 138 career games he has 1 goal, 15 points, and 155 penalty minutes.
With all the deals made by Tim Murray and the Buffalo organization, many are considering the Sabres are one of the most improved teams so far into this free agency period. We saw how many moves were made during last year’s season, with the Sabres trading away franchise players in Vanek and Miller. Now the Sabres will look to have a more solidified team going into this season.
Of course expectations are not high for the Sabres in the upcoming season with still a lot of young talent and not many “star” players. But the rebuilding stage they are currently in, took a huge step forward. With signings of some very good players it shows that Buffalo is destination for players to come to. As the top draft picks, who many are having high hopes for, develop more and more. You can’t help but think of how bright the future is in Buffalo.
By Matthew Moran