Owner Pegula: Sabres have gone through ‘two of the most successful seasons we’ve ever had’

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Statistically speaking, the last two seasons have been among the worst in Buffalo’s history, but Sabres owner Terry Pegula sees great value in those painful years. In fact, he would list them as “two of the most successful seasons we’ve ever had,” per the Associated Press.

Obviously, those losing records allowed the Sabres to draft second overall in back-to-back years (having lost the draft lottery both times). They used those picks to select Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel, but general manager Tim Murray was also able to get plenty of other pieces for the rebuild over that span. He also acquired the likes of Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, and Robin Lehner in trades while moving other players like Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek to get future assets, including first round picks.

A couple rough seasons in the service of a long-term goal can make sense, but the success of the Sabres’ rebuilding effort will be measured by how they do going forward. They don’t have to look any further than the Edmonton Oilers to know how hard it can be to transition from a rebuilding phase to a competitive one. Having a generational talent like Eichel on the roster certainly helps, but he and the Sabres have a lot to prove.

Given that, we can’t call the last two seasons successful for Buffalo in terms of on-ice accomplishments, we’ll have to let history judge if the off-ice moves are as beneficial as Sabres fans hope.

Related: Gionta: Sabres’ offseason ‘excites guys in the locker room’

Gionta: Sabres’ offseason ‘excites guys in the locker room’

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The biggest winners of the Buffalo Sabres’ summer of resounding improvements might just be the players who suffered through the 2014-15 season (not to mention the fans).

Veteran winger Brian Gionta probably isn’t very familiar with seasons like that, so it makes sense that he seemed excited about the additions of Dan Byslma, Ryan O’Reilly, Jack Eichel, Robin Lehner and so on. He praised Sabres GM Tim Murray’s work to USA Today on Friday.

“Look at the moves he’s been able to make,” Gionta said. “You can say you want a better team, you want to bring in better players, but for him to actually pull that off and make the moves he did, it shows that he means business. That excites guys in the locker room.”

Back when he was hired by the team in May, Bylsma said that he sees a bright future for the team, as the Buffalo News reported. Even so, one would guess that Bylsma, Gionta and possibly even Murray are all a little surprised by just how much progress the Sabres have made in mere months.

(They certainly don’t seem out of place on “most improved teams” lists like this one by NHL.com.)

Naturally, it’s not that tough to improve upon the disaster that has been the Sabres for the past two seasons – the phrase “historically bad” came up uncomfortably often – but it remains to be seen how much these moves will translate into results.

It might take some time, yet it’s also plausible that the rebuild will be more rapid than expected, a notion that isn’t lost on veterans such as Gionta.

(H/T to The Score.)

Sabres, Varone avoid arbitration with one-year, $600K deal

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Just over a week after filing for arbitration, Phil Varone has avoided the hearing by agreeing to a one-year, $600,000 deal with the Sabres.

The contract is of the two-way variety.

Varone, 24, split last season between the Sabres and their AHL affiliate in Rochester, appearing in a career-high 28 NHL games while scoring five points. With the Amerks, he had 15 goals and 44 points in 55 games — and it was the AHL part of his contract that led to the original arbitration filing, per the Buffalo News:

Varone had a pro-rated NHL salary of $595,000 last season and made $62,500 in the AHL. The Sabres tendered him his NHL qualifying offer by last week’s deadline, which would push his NHL salary into the $655,000 range. He’s likely looking for a much bigger salary for the AHL portion of his deal, given the large minor-league salaries the Sabres handed out last week in free agency.

Buffalo will be paying former Utica Comets captain Cal O’Reilly $700,000 next season to play in the AHL, while defenseman Matt Donovan would make $400,000 with the Amerks, defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti would make $300,000 and forward Jason Akeson would be at $250,000.

Varone will be in tough for minutes with Buffalo next season. The team will be dramatically different at center, with Ryan O’Reilly as the new No. 1 and both Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart looking to crack the roster and be full-time contributors.

GM Tim Murray also added some depth in veteran David Legwand, acquired from Ottawa in the Robin Lehner deal.

PHT Morning Skate: Patrick Kane takes the Stanley Cup to a Jimmy Buffett concert

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane took the Stanley Cup to a Jimmy Buffet concert on Saturday. The 26-year-old took to the stage and helped Buffet sing “volcano” while rocking some interesting dance moves. (Bar Down)

UFA Decision Day looms for Mike ‘Motorcycle Gang’ Green. (The Hockey News)

“I think there was something between me and Paul (MacLean) that didn’t click when he was there” – Robin Lehner on his time in Ottawa (Ottawa Sun)

The Florida Panthers were one of the finalists in the Cam Talbot sweepstakes. (Miami Herald)

A behind the scenes look at the Toronto Maple Leafs’ fourth overall selection Mitch Marner:

A look at the new jerseys, which were unveiled during the 2015 NHL Draft. (Bar Down)

Actor Jonathan Cherry, who plays Marco Belchier in the movie “Goon” sat down with Habs’ goaltender Carey price for an interesting interview recently:

Photo courtesy of @JimmyBuffett

Winners and losers of the 2015 NHL Draft

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Hindsight is 20/20, but what about when something is so close it’s directly in your blind spot?

The 2015 NHL Draft is over, and with the long-awaited wave of prospects behind us, it will be years before we can truly judge what just happened. It would be foolish to hand out grades on the same day the draft ended. Who would do that, right?

Well, uh … about that.

Here’s a stab at some of the winners and losers from this busy, busy weekend in the NHL. Feel free to add your own suggestions and counterarguments in the comments (preferably kindly).

Winners

Oilers: They will smile upon this weekend for Connor McDavid alone, but GM Peter Chiarelli also made some interesting trades to improve the team with the likes of Cam Talbot and Griffin Reinhart.

Sabres: In the same “No, duh” spirit as the Oilers grabbing McDavid, the Sabres probably would have come up winners if they merely grabbed Jack Eichel and went into cruise control with picks.

Instead, GM Tim Murray was as busy as his selection announcement for Eichel was brief. Robin Lehner is, at minimum, someone Murray believes in. Ryan O’Reilly is a legit find, setting up Buffalo to have a scary 1-2 punch down the middle with Eichel.

Flames: OK, this has more to do with what happened before the draft than what happened during it … but landing Dougie Hamilton for a package of picks could end up being one of those moves we remember for ages.

That said, getting Oliver Kylington about a round after many believed he would be drafted (60th overall) isn’t chopped liver, either.

Islanders: Over the years, GM Garth Snow has steadily earned a reputation as one of the NHL’s sneaky-shrewdest executives. The 2015 NHL Draft will only strengthen those arguments.

Flyers: Are we prepared for a brave new world in which the Philadelphia Flyers are sober-minded and clever like this? Forgive reheating a joke from last night, but:

Losers

Bruins: Yes, the Bruins’ salary cap is slimmer, and they definitely nailed the draft from a “quantity” standpoint.

Still, they moved mountains to get picks 13-15, but the grades for their picks generally range from “not very sexy” to “huge reach.” Time will ultimately be new GM Don Sweeney’s judge, but right now, he’s probably not the most popular fellow among B’s fans.

Penguins: Actually, consider this grade more of an “Incomplete” than an “F.” Sometimes no splashy moves are better than reckless ones … still, Pittsburgh fans might be a little antsy.

Canucks: That’s a disappointing haul for Eddie Lack, but GM Jim Benning’s biggest mistake might have been forgetting to get an intern to tell him when the camera was on him:

Talk about a caption contest waiting to happen.

***

Again, the Bruins could very well end up laughing at all of us after making bold moves in the middle of the first round. Chances are, there are gems buried in later rounds that will drastically change how we view 2015.

Still, winners and losers lists are fun, so enjoy yourselves in the comments.

Just be nice.