The 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres may well be one of the worst teams in expansion era of the NHL. They so badly wanted to be one of the worst teams ever. Tim Murray couldn't say as much publicly, but every move he made was carefully calculated to achieve this goal of eye-watering terribleness. And with the Evander Kane trade, he's achieved the goal he set out to achieve when he was hired to become Buffalo's new GM last year.
It takes true acumen to be able to construct a team that despite its best intentions and with a coach like Ted Nolan is so unmistakenly horrible in every aspect, from goaltending to defense and special teams thrown in. As much as Ted Nolan didn't want to admit it, he knew exactly what he was being handed this season. Signings like Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, and Matt Moulson were made not because the Sabres wanted to be competitive in the East, but because they had to make the salary floor somehow. Despite the earth moving power of the Latvian hockey community, All-Star Zemgus Girgensons could not help salvage the Sabres from the deep mire that feels deeper than the lake effect snow that socks Buffalo dumb every winter. But somewhere in between the analysis of every possible 2015 draft prospect and a trip to Erie to watch the grand prize of this entire operation ply his trade, Tim Murray must have a wry smile on his face.
Not only does trading for Evander Kane make Buffalo better when it counts (next season), it gives either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel the possibility of playing with Kane and Matt Moulson as wingers next season on the Sabres first line. Somehow, I don't think Ted Nolan will complain about that. Tim Murray also managed to ship out a defenseman in Tyler Myers perpetually stuck in trade limbo, a prospect in Brendan Lemieux who wasn't signing in Buffalo in the first place, the lowest of 3 1st round picks acquired by various means, and an expiring contract for a potential 30 goal scorer and an offensive defenseman desperate for a change of scenery. The only somewhat painful divorce for Tim Murray might have been Joel Armia, who has 25 points in 33 games for Rochester of the AHL this season, but even that only feels like the slight sting of taking a band-aid off the hairiest part of your arm.
Not only does this trade make Buffalo WORSE for the remainder of a season destined to be historically awful regardless (which ensures them either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel), it makes the building phase infinitely more exciting beginning next September. And with more players on trade block, the Sabres could truly ice an AHL team in the NHL for the months of March and April, and be happy while doing so. And every move in this foray towards the NHL's abyss was carefully calculated and constructed by a cunning GM, who has seen every piece of his plan work to perfection.
The Winnipeg Jets get better in the short term as they hunt for a playoff spot while the Sabres get even worse to get better faster in the future. One of the most fascinating trades in the NHL in many years is getting accolades in Winnipeg as the Jets finally push some chips to the middle of the table. It's getting accolades around the hockey world for just how outside the norm a trade like this really is.
And it will make Tim Murray's tanking operation not only entirely successful, but altogether worth it at the same time.
Eat your heart out Sam Hinkie, Tim Murray has tanked in the most beautiful way, and has made everyone stand in awe while doing it.
A far too oft quoted phrase says, "it's always darkest before the dawn".
Tim Murray just made everyone happy by cutting off the electricity.