As was expected, the Buffalo Sabres (at the helm of new general manager Tim Murray) were very active leading up to the NHL trade deadline at 3 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, March 5, making a total of four moves.
After the Ottawa Senators waived former Canisius College graduate Cory Conacher the night before, it was widely speculated that the Sabres may place a claim for him, with new Sabres general manager Tim Murray having a part in the Senators acquiring him from the Tampa Bay Lighting while serving as their assistant GM last season. The speculation became reality with the Sabres officially claiming him on Wednesday morning, having first priority with the worst record in the league.
Conacher, 24, was near the top of the NHL in rookie scoring after the first 35 games of last season with Tampa, scoring nine goals and adding 15 assists for 24 points before being traded to the Senators for goalie Ben Bishop. He then finished the season playing 12 games for the Senators, adding two goals and three assists for five more points, ending the regular season with a total of 11 goals and 18 assists for 29 points in 47 games. He then tallied three goals in eight playoff games.
However, Conacher has somewhat struggled offensively this season with Ottawa, with four goals and 16 assists for 20 total points in 60 games.
The second move the Sabres made was trading young defenseman Brayden McNabb and Rochester Americans forward Jonathan Parker along with second round draft picks in both 2014 and 2015 to the Los Angeles Kings for prospects Nicolas Deslauriers and Hudson Fasching.
Since being drafted by the Sabres 66th overall in the third round of the 2009 draft by the Sabres, 23-year-old Brayden McNabb has played 37 games with the team since 2001, scoring one goal and adding seven assists for eight points, while accruing 21 penalty minutes and an even plus-minus rating. He has been held without a point in 12 games this season with the Sabres. He has also played 145 games with the Rochester Americans of the AHL since 2011, scoring 17 goals and adding 78 assists for 95 points, and earning 126 penalty minutes and a plus-23 rating, earning a spot in the AHL All-Star game all three years.
Jonathan Parker has not seen any time with the Sabres since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He has played 76 games with the Amerks over the past three seasons, scoring six goals and adding six assists for 12 points, while tallying 17 penalty minutes and a minus-12 rating. He has also played 46 games in the ECHL, spending time with both the Colorado Eagles and Gwinnett Gladiators.
Defenseman Nicolas Delauriers was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings 84th overall in the third round of the 2009 NHL draft. Having yet to play a game for the Kings, Deslauriers has played 188 games with their AHL Affiliate Machester Monarchs since 2011, recording 76 total points on 23 goals and 53 assists, while also adding 223 penalty minutes and a minus-24 rating.
Hudson Fasching, a forward, was drafted by the Kings 118th overall in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. Currently playing collegiate hockey with the University of Minnesota, Fasching has 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 total points in 31 games. He also has 20 penalty minutes and an even plus-minus.
The Sabres were not done there, later sending forwards Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Torrey Mitchell and second round draft picks in both 2014 and 2016.
The Sabres had acquired Matt Moulson, 30, from the New York Islanders for Thomas Vanek back in October, and played 44 games with the Sabres, recording 11 goals and 18 assists for 29 total points while posting 20 penalty minutes and a minus-8 rating. Before being acquired by the Sabres, Moulson had 213 points on 118 goals and 105 assists in 305 games with the Islanders, having three straight seasons with 30 goals or more from 2009 to 2012.
Cody McCormick, also 30, signed with the Sabres in the summer of 2009, and after spending his first full season in the organization with then-AHL affiliate Portland Pirates was called up for the Sabres brief playoff run in April of 2010 against the Boston Bruins, playing three games. He has since played 168 games with the team, scoring 10 goals and adding 19 assists for 29 points, while amassing 243 penalty minutes and a minus-15 rating. He has one goal and four assists in 29 games with the Sabres this season, with 45 penalty minutes and a minus-8 rating.
Acquired in the trade from the Wild, 29-year-old Torrey Mitchell was initially drafted 126th overall in the fourth round of the 2004 NHL draft by the San Jose Sharks. He played 280 games with the team between 2007 and 2012, notching 30 goals and 43 assists for 73 points, to go along with 152 penalty minutes and a plus-7 rating. He has since played 103 games with the Wild, where he had five goals and 12 assists for 17 points, 42 penalty minutes, and a minus-11 rating.
The fourth move the Sabres made was trading newly acquired goalie Jaroslav Halak and a third round pick in 2015 to the Washington Capitals for goalie Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Rostislav Klesla.
Acquired from St. Louis in the trade that sent Captain Steve Ott and franchise goalie Ryan Miller to the Blues on Friday, Feb. 28, Halak suited up as the backup goalie for the Sabres against the Dallas Stars on Monday, March 3, but did not see any action with the Sabres before the trade.
Drafted 271st overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the ninth round of the 2003 draft, the 28-year-old goalie is a veteran of 260 NHL games, playing 101 games with the Canadiens between 2006 and 2010, and 119 with the St. Louis Blues between 2010 and being acquired by the Sabres. In those 260 games, Halak has a 139-81-26 record with a 2.38 goals against average, a .917 save percentage, and 29 shutouts.
Michal Neuvirth, 25, was drafted 34th overall by the Washington Capitals in the second round of the 2006 NHL draft. He has since played 121 games with the Capitals since 2008, posting a 55-35-11 record with a 2.66 goals against average, a .909 save percentage, and seven shutouts.
Also acquired in the trade, 31-year-old defenseman Rostislav “Rusty” Klesla is a veteran of 659 NHL games, initially drafted fourth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000. Similar to Jaroslav Halak with Buffalo, Klesla was recently acquired by the Capitals (from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Martin Erat on Tuesday, March 4) yet never played for them before being traded fr.
Klesla had been in the Phoenix Coyotes organization since being acquired from the Blue Jackets in February of 2011. He played 144 games with the Coyotes, scoring seven goals and adding 19 assists for 26 points, while also recording 112 penalty minutes and a plus-4 rating. After 25 games with the Coyotes this season (with one goal and four assists for five points, 24 penalty minutes, and a minus-3 rating), Klesla was waived by the Coyotes. Going unclaimed, Klesla was assigned to the Portland Pirates of the AHL, where he has played 25 games and had three goals and six assists for nine points, 16 penalty minutes, and a plus-8 rating.
Before being acquired by the Coyotes in 2011, Klesla played 515 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets dating back to 2000, where he had 41 goals and 92 assists for 133 points, 508 penalty minutes, and a minus-50 rating.
With a newly retooled roster after the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline, the Sabres gear up to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Tampa on Thursday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
Cory Conacher will wear number 88, Torey Mitchell 17, and Michal Neuvirth 30 (much to the dismay of Ryan Miller fans). Rostislav Klesa will be assigned to the Rochester Americans of the AHL.