Mike Halford

UNIONDALE, NY - APRIL 04:  Playing in his first NHL game, Andrey Makarov #1 of the Buffalo Sabres takes a water break during the game against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on April 4, 2015 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Sabres goalie Makarov signs in KHL


Andrey Makarov, Buffalo’s pending RFA netminder, has signed a two-year deal in the KHL with Spartak Moscow, the league announced on Monday.

Makarov, 23, has appeared in one career game for the Sabres, spending the majority of his pro career with the club’s AHL affiliate in Rochester.

That lone NHL appearance came in ’14-15. Makarov spent all of last year in the minors and appeared in 22 games for the Amerks, going 9-9-2 with a 2.82 GAA and .916 save percentage.

His departure comes after he was passed by Swedish ‘tender Linus Ullmark on the club’s depth chart — Ullmark, 22, got the call up to Buffalo last year in the wake of Robin Lehner‘s early season injury, and proceeded to appear in 20 games.

Jason Kasdorf, a prospect signed out of R.P.I., also got a game at the NHL level last year. The Sabres also have 2011 draftee Nathan Lieuwen in the mix as far as goalie prospects go, which could have essentially squeezed Makarov out.

Trade: Rangers acquire d-man Holden from Avs

Colorado Avalanche's Nick Holden (2) hits Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault (85) during first period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)

BUFFALO — The Rangers needed help on defense, and got some on Day 2 of the NHL Draft.

After the seventh round wrapped, New York announced it had acquired Nick Holden from Colorado in exchange for a fourth-round selection in 2017.

Holden, 29, was a regular fixture in Colorado last year, appearing in all 82 games (while racking up 22 points). He has two years remaining on a three-year, $4.95 million deal — a $1.65M average annual cap hit — and was one of Colorado’s main penalty killers last year, finishing third on the team in average shorthanded TOI per game.

With the departures of Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle, the Blueshirts had holes to fill on defense. Holden will help in that regard.

It remains to be seen what the Avalanche’s plan is for the blueline. They are in the midst of negotiations with pending RFA Tyson Barrie, and believed to be interested in Winnipeg blueliner Jacob Trouba.

If that’s the case, Holden could be viewed as expendable. It was suggested he played too large a role last season (21:53 TOI per night) and might be better suited for a sixth defenseman, third-pairing role.

Trade: Leafs acquire prospect Rychel from Columbus

COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 1:  Kerby Rychel #52 of the Columbus Blue Jackets waits for a face off against the Florida Panthers on December 1, 2014 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

BUFFALO — Toronto made a late move on Day 2 of the 2016 NHL Draft, acquiring former first-round pick Kerby Rychel from Columbus in exchange for d-man Scott Harrington, and a conditional draft pick.

The trade, first reported by TSN, puts an end to Rychel’s oft-contentious stint with the Jackets organization. Despite repeated rumblings that Rychel — the 19th overall pick in 2013 — wanted out of town, GM Jarmo Kekalainen stood firm in the face of the reports, once openly wondering where they came from.

Eventually, though, Rychel was shipped out.

The son of ex-NHLer Warren Rychel, Kerby is certainly an interesting prospect. A former standout with OHL Windsor, he’s spent most of his professional career with Columbus’ AHL affiliate, and helped it capture the Calder Cup this year.

The 21-year-old had good regular season production (27 points in 37 games) but didn’t generate as much in the playoffs, with just one goal and six points in 17 games.

That said, Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch that Rychel’s Game 2 effort in the Calder Cup final was “one of the best games I’ve seen Kerby play.”

All told, Rychel’s appeared in 37 games at the NHL level, scoring 12 points.

As for what Columbus gets out of this deal — well, Harrington split this season between the Leafs and Marlies. He’s still relatively young, only 23, and is a former high pick himself (second round in 2011). He could be a nice depth guy for the Blue Jackets, though there is this clause to consider:

Former first-round pick Bleackley drafted again — this time, in Round 5

2014 NHL Draft - Round 1
1 Comment

BUFFALO — Conner Bleackley’s wild ride ended in an interesting fashion on Day 2 of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

Bleackley, taken 23rd overall by the Avs at the 2014 draft, found himself back in the mix this year, and on Saturday was taken 144th overall by the Blues, who traded up to get him.

Bleackley’s story is pretty unique. He re-entered the draft after the Coyotes — who acquired him at the deadline in the Mikkel Boedker trade with Colorado — opted not to offer him a contract.

Arizona GM John Chayka called Bleackley “a good player,” but said the Coyotes would get more value by taking a compensatory pick instead (Round 2, 53 overall).

That decision came after Bleackley, 20, had 46 points in 55 games for WHL Red Deer this season, and valiantly returned from a wrist tendon laceration to play in the Memorial Cup, scoring two points in four games.

But that’s about it, as far as recent positives go.

Upon getting drafted, Bleackley’s Red Deer coach, Brent Sutter, said the kid wasn’t ready for NHL hockey. Bleackley then arrived at his first Avs camp out of shape, and was sent packing early. Colorado balked on signing him, and shipped him to Arizona.

Bleackley learned of the trade while recovering from a broken kneecap.

Two weeks after returning, he suffered the aforementioned wrist tendon laceration.

It’s going to be curious to see how Bleackley reacts to today’s development. Even though he fell from the first to the fifth round, he was still drafted — and based on what he had to say earlier this month, he’s determined to prove his doubters wrong.

“”I feel like I’ve got a lot left to give,” he said, per the Calgary Herald. “A lot of people may have counted me out already, but you won’t be able to convince me otherwise until it’s all said and done.”

Trade: Kings acquire Campbell, Dallas’ one-time goalie of the future

Dallas Stars training camp

BUFFALO — After six years, the Jack Campbell experiment in Dallas is over.

Campbell, the 11th overall pick in 2010, has been sent to Los Angeles in exchange for defenseman Nick Ebert, the Kings announced on Saturday.

Once a highly touted prospect out of OHL Windsor, Campbell was the first goalie off the board in his draft year, and taken ahead of the likes of Cam Fowler, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Upon taking him, then-Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said Campbell was “the kid that we feel has the best chance to be a franchise player,” adding, “[he] was our guy, right from the start.”

Campbell, now 24, has spent almost all of his pro career in the AHL and ECHL, appearing in just one game for the Stars. He’s struggled to maintain consistent form, and actually played more games for ECHL Idaho last year than he did for AHL Texas.

A pending RFA, Campbell could theoretically challenge for the backup gig in L.A., which looks like it’ll be vacant as Jhonas Enroth preps for free agency.

But it’s more likely Campbell will be back in the minors next season, looking to get his game on track.