The Buffalo Sabres 2015-16 campaign was a success in some respects, but a failure in others. The Sabres officially closed the book on this year with a press conference featuring GM Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma. They had plenty to say in the 40+ minutes of questioning, but here are some of the highlights.
Here's the full video, courtesy of the Buffalo Sabres -
Team and player outlook
- The organization's goal next year is to make the playoffs. Might seem obvious, but it's nice to hear it from the horse's mouth.
- When asked what things the team needs to add in order to take the next step, Murray said the team needs an established, #1 goalie (more on that later) and a power play quarterback. He quickly mentioned the team has good young players that can fill that role now, but it seems he doesn't view any of them (even Ristolainen) as a true #1 power play point man.
- Jack Eichel won't be playing in the World Championships this spring, but the team didn't tell him not to participate. He'll be training in the offseason "like he's preparing for a championship fight," according to Murray. Eichel was also mentioned as being a guy that free agent wingers want to play with.
- Dan Bylsma was effusive in his praise of Sam Reinhart and his growth from last season. Mentioned how he's become a big presence in front of the net and has added both strength and pace to his game this year.
- Will Eichel and Reinhart play together again next year? "That's one I have written down," joked Bylsma.
- The team will not be buying out Matt Moulson. Murray acknowledged that it was a rough year for Moulson, who has vowed to train better and regain his game next year. Said that Moulson was "pissed" about the comments Murray made earlier this year about his training habits, but they worked it out.
- Ryan O'Reilly was praised for his leadership this year on and off the ice, but Murray said he told the center that he has to be louder on the ice.
- When asked about Robin Lehner, Murray said that 21 games was not enough to crown him the starter forever, but that he showed in those games on and "80% ankle" that he has what it takes. The changing goalie pads next year will help Lehner because he is only one of two goalies in the leaguewho can wear XL equipment thanks to his size.
- Murray was asked about a contract for Rasmus Ristolainen, and said the team was not sure whether they would like to go for a bridge deal or something more long-term, it would depend on what Risto's camp wanted. Murray also mentioned that a bridge deal with a smaller cap number might allow them to add a big player in free agency on a short-term deal.
- Cody McCormick will be retiring. It's pretty terrible news that he wasn't able to recover from his blood clot issues, but we wish him all the best in his retirement. Murray later added that while McCormick won't play, he may have a role in the organization.
- Tyler Ennis was never going to play at the end of the season, despite practicing with the team. He knows he needs to prepare better for practice next season.
- No players will be needing offseason surgery.
- Murray would discuss trading the team's #1 pick. He doesn't think he can get that top-end quarterback for that pick alone, but says any trade for that pick would have to be special. He mentioned Brandon Saad last year as a guy who had to be traded because of his contract.
- But he also understands that the fans would like to see the team make their first-round pick when Buffalo hosts the draft this year. "It will give them a chance to cheer me or boo me," says the guy who makes the best draft announcements ever.
- The team is interested in college free agent Drake Caggiula, and the Sabres have not been eliminated from Caggiula's personal list.
- The Sabres will be active in free agency this summer. Murray said they have good prospects, but he's not sure how many, if any, of their young guys are ready to contribute next year. Seems like Hudson Fasching and Justin Bailey will be spending more time in Rochester.
- The team would like to bring back Chad Johnson, but Murray didn't sound like the price would be agreeable.