Buffalo's 'source of frustration'

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vanek.jpgEvery now and then, Pro Hockey Talk will ask for insight from some of the best team bloggers out there. For this feature, we asked a simple question: “Who is your team’s most frustrating player?” Just for fun, Brandon and I also provided our “guesses” as to who that player might be.

First, here are our guesses for Buffalo.

Brandon: Raffi Torres

He was acquired to add scoring depth to Stanley Cup caliber team. Two points, no goals in seven games won’t cut it.

James: Thomas Vanek

Is might seem a little unfair to judge a player for signing a stupidly huge contract, but a player must know that with bigger checks come heightened scrutiny. Sadly, you just never know what you’ll get from Vanek.

For the Buffalo perspective, we tabbed Marty Vance from Double-Edged Sabres and the NHL satire blog Bangin’ Panger. Definitely give his work an extra look if you haven’t already.

Marty: Thomas Vanek

It’s funny; you ask someone who the Sabres best player is; they’ll say Ryan Miller. Ask them who they’re best offensive player is; well, you’d probably get 5 different answers. But looking at salaries, shouldn’t we all equivocally shout, in a “We Are the World” ensemble, led by Justin Beiber himself, “Thomas Vanek!”

Yes, well, if ifs and buts were candies and nuts we’d all have a merry Christmas. But they’re not, and the Buffalo Sabres are currently paying Thomas Vanek 6.4 million dollars (cap hit 7.143 million) for 23 goals and 24 assists. To wit; $278,260.87 per goal. $266,666.66 per assist. $136,170.21 per point. But it’s not his production that frustrates me so, it’s the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.

More from Marty on Vanek after the jump.


vanek2.jpgWell, maybe a little bit. But during a week that saw former heroes Chris Drury and Daniel Briere ride their gilded Bentley’s off to New York and Philadelphia, Kevin Lowe offered restricted free agent Thomas Vanek a 7 year, $50 million offer sheet. That offer sheet was matched in minutes.

The rest, they say, is history. Our little Tommy boy has followed up his career year of 43 goals, 41 assists with campaigns of 36 and 28 in 07-08, 40 and 24 in 08-09, and this year with the aforementioned 23 tallies and 24 helpers. So what’s so frustrating about an accomplished in-between-the-dots scorer who’s consistently amongst the top of the league in PP goals?

We could’ve had 4 1st rounders, but not just any 1st rounders, no, no, these would be Edmonton’s 1st rounders. That would’ve been the 22nd pick in 2008, the 10th in 2009, the 1st in 2010, and God knows where in 2011. Yeah, there would’ve been some sparse years in between, but if the Pens and Capitals have taught us anything; you’ve gotta tank before you can dominate.

Now just think about the picks Darcy Regier has made over the past couple years: Nate Gerbe: 2008-2009 AHL Rookie of the Year, Tim Kennedy: 2008-2009 AHL Rookie Point leader, Tyler Myers: 2009-2010 Calder Trophy Winner (yeah, count it), and Tyler Ennis: 2009-2010 AHL Rookie Point leader. Now add Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Tyler Seguin, and another top 10 pick from Edmonton, and my God, these Sabres would be fighting for tops in the East moving forward.

Oh wait; the Sabres already fighting for positioning at the top of the East? Guess we don’t have much to be frustrated about, eh?

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.