I was in the process of writing another post when I found out the Sabres were buying out Christian Ehroff. I was surprised at first, but the more I thought about it the move makes sense. When I checked DBTB later on I was shocked to see how un-popular this move was. What was even more surprising was how many people have a lesser view of Murray just because of this move. Is it that shocking Murray is doing exactly what he told all of us he was going to do? Furthermore is it that hard to believe that a player like Ehroff can be replaced down the road.
Something that should be made clear is that there is nothing that has changed as far as when the Sabres are Cup contenders. Murray has said he doesn’t believe in a five year rebuild, buying out Ehroff doesn’t change that. Three years is still a very reasonable timeline for when the Sabres can begin contending. Combining our cap flexibility for free agents and trades, the prospects available to make a big trades, and the prospects that are in the system that will be ready to make a big impact, it gives Buffalo a potential greater then we’ve possibly ever had. Part of that potential includes a strong defensive core that has at least four defenseman in Myers, Pysyk, Ristolainen, and Zadorov that have as high or higher potential then Ehroff has.
The idea that people have lesser opinion of Murray because of this one move might be the biggest surprise out of all this. He’s coming off a very strong draft, a very strong trade deadline, and now made a move with more foresight then has been around here since I’ve been a fan. This wasn’t a move I’ve advocated for or expected, but that’s why I’m not a NHL GM. No one will argue Ehroff being a quality player, but there’s no getting around the re capture penalty or his desire to get out of Buffalo. Murray continues to show decisiveness and follow the plan he laid out for us the day he took the job.
One point Murray’s been consistent with is if a player doesn’t want to be here he’ll move you out. He wants a positive locker room first and will worry about adding a veteran talent later when it matters. There is going to be an influx of young talent here over the few years and Murray realizes how important it is to have these players coming into the league with a positive locker room. I can’t tell you what type of locker room guy Ehroff was here, but I’m guessing if his desire to get out was well known he wouldn’t have been a positive influence. Would we better with Ehroff next year, most likely. But as everyone knows that’s not the goal, the goal is creating a positive environment with players who want to be here and will provide a strong locker room presence. Ehroff probably wouldn’t provide any of that with his desire to not be part of a long term rebuild.
From a personnel standpoint, Ehroffs been a good player but he isn’t an irreplaceable cornerstone of your franchise type player. He’s a good top 4 Defenseman that’s played well on a pour team. Ehroff was signed three years ago to take what was supposed to be a good team to the next level, the team was poorly constructed and forced to rebuild. He’s not a player that you bend over backwards to try and appease to start a rebuild with. His contract was a good value for the quality of player he is but sometimes gets overvalued because of that. It’s easy for fans to overvalue players on a bad team and this looks like a classic case of why so many are over reacting.
Murray has also stated repeatedly this team will be built through their young assets as well as the 2014 and 2015 drafts. He’s been decisive in every decision he’s made and showed he is willing to commit to that vision. He didn’t hesitate in trading the franchise goalie, the captain, or the team’s best forward. He also didn't hesitate in getting rid of a potential harmful cap recapture when the time comes to add a quality free agent or re-sign your own players. Every move Murray has made has been in the long term goal of this franchise. We’re aiming to be a perennial cup contender for years to come, the cap re capture penalty or an aging Defenseman that has you handicapped with his contract definitely does not fit into the long term cup contending role.
Speaking of how financially handicapped Buffalo could have been, the penalty could have potentially ruined a Cup run. It’s easy for people to make the short sighted argument "I’ll worry about it in 2019", the matter of the fact 2019 matters more than 2014 or 2015 when Ehroff will be his most effective. Ehroff is not going to be the reason we win or lose a Stanley Cup, those days are a few years away. Murray realized that and made sure the cap’s not a problem when we’ll be cup contending. Instead we’ll now have the money to keep around the real core intact when the young players are due for big contracts rather than donating our cap space to a retired Defenseman overseas.
Murrays shown he’s committed to this rebuild through youth and like he said in his opening presser as GM, he’s not afraid to make a mistake. It stings to see a good hockey player leave for nothing. But sometimes that’s what’s in the best interest for the organizations long term contention. This organization has constantly been slow moving over the past several years when it comes to personnel moves. Murray is not going to be that man, he has a vision of where this team is heading and will make moves that’s going to ruffle the feathers of some fans. He’s showing that he’s the shrewd GM the Buffalo Sabres has needed for a long time that will take risks and not care what fans think. Be patient Buffalo, this is a new era. This decisive thinking is what’s going to make us a cup contender with or without Ehroff.