newsabresThe 2009 NHL trading deadline has come and gone and the Buffalo Sabres have made some moves. The most significant of which was keeping glass man, Tim Connolly in Buffalo. Connolly signed a two year contract extension worth $9 million with the club, while Ales Kotalik was shown the door. The right winger has been traded to the Edmonton Oilers, and his replacement comes from the Toronto Maple Leafs in centre Dominic Moore. The Sabres also signed goalie Mikael Tellqvist from the Phoenix Coyotes. While Buffalo didn’t make any dramatic moves by the deadline, they did come out a slightly better club at the end of the night as they went on to defeat division rival, the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 5-1. The victory improved Buffalo’s record to 32-25-7, moving them up into 9th place and one spot out of the playoffs.

Let’s take a closer look at the events of the day:

3447786819Goalie Mikael Tellqvist comes to Buffalo: The Sabres sent a 4th round pick to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Swedish goaltender, Mikael Tellqvist. Tellqvist, the former backup in Phoenix, has started 13 games this season, going 7-5-1. He has a 2.86 GAA and a .907% save percentage for a total of 38 goals scored against him on the year. Compare these stats to current Sabres backup goalie, Patrick Lalime who has started 14 games this year, going 3-9-2. His GAA is 2.78 with a .909% save percentage and 42 goals let in. In Lalime’s defense, his team looks like a totally different club with starting goalie Ryan Miller in-between the pipes. In front of Lalime the Sabres have been sluggish with a horrendous offensive output, averaging a mere 2.4 goals per game. 7 of those goals came on his first start of the year when Buffalo beat the New York Islanders 7-1, and another 5 goals came last night with the victory against the Habs. Take those 12 goals away on the bookend games, and the Sabres average a despicable 1.75 goals in 12 games with Lalime as a starter. It’s tough to blame those losses on the backup. That being said, since Miller went down with a high ankle sprain on February 21st, Patrick has carried the team, allowing only 7 goals in his 4 straight starts, stopping an average of 32 shots a game. Lalime became a liability when he came down with the flu and head coach Lindy Ruff was almost forced to bench him in favor of AHL goalie, Jhonas Enroth. Enroth’s game has slipped as of late, with the goalie playing .500 hockey. Wanting more experience in net in-case Lalime goes down and Miller stays injured, Ruff went with Tellqvist who with 7 years in the league has amassed a career record of 43-40-8, with 2 ties and 6 shutouts. The last player Buffalo acquired from Phoenix was Daniel Briere, which turned out to be the trade of the decade for the Sabres. Lalime has faced 461 shots this year, compared to Tellqvist’s 408.

connolly-3-21-08-bigTim Connolly signs 2 year $9 million deal: In his last three seasons with Buffalo Tim Connolly has missed 149 games, playing in only 79 contests. Assuming Connolly misses more time, this signing may turn out to be a waste of money for the Sabres. No Sabre is more injury prone than Connolly, as he’s never been the same after suffering a concussion in the 2005-2006 playoffs against the Ottawa Senators. If Connolly goes down again, this deal could be considered a missed opportunity for the Sabres to trade him for a more reliable player down the stretch. His stock is currently the highest it’s been since the 2005-2006 season, and now that he’s staying put, Sabres fans hope Connolly’s value continues to climb. Tim’s new contract is a 50% pay increase from his previous deal, and as long as he stays healthy, he is worth the money. Says Connolly of the signing, “Glad that I was able to stay in Buffalo, great hockey town, great place to play, great group of guys. I’m just looking forward to the rest of the season, and doing what we can do to make the playoffs.” The Syracuse native has 11 goals and 16 assists (27 points) in 30 games played this year. He has a +1 rating with 2 power play goals, 1 short handed goal, and 3 game winning goals. Connolly was traded to Buffalo (along with Taylor Pyatt) from the New York Islanders in 2001 for local favorite Michael Peca. 

Sabres trade for Dominic Moore and let go of Ales Kotalik: The Sabres picked up centre Dominic Moore from division rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a second round pick. Hours later the Sabres recovered ground in the draft as Ales Kotalik was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers also for a second round draft pick. At first glance, it appears that the Sabres over payed for Moore, a 28 year old journeyman, but upon closer inspection it turns out that he was essentially traded for Kotalik. Moore, who is two years younger than Kotalik, kotalik0has found most of his success this season parked in front of the net, scoring 12 goals on the year and 29 assists (41 points). Moore also has a -1 rating, with 4 power play goals, 1 short handed goal, and 1 game winning goal. Ales Kotalik has spent his entire career in Buffalo, and has been one of teams better players as of late scoring 13 goals and 19 assists (32 points) this season. He has a -7 rating with 8 power play goals and 1 game winning goal. Kotalik also holds the NHL record in career game winning shoot-out goals with 10. Moore, an Ontario native, does fill a hole with the Sabres as he’s a big guy who plays hard and can score. The question is though, will he stick around past this season? He becomes a free agent at the end of the year and may go the way of former Sabre rent-a-players Dainius Zubrus and Steve Bernier. While Sabre fans will miss Kotalik’s hard slap shot and reliability in shootouts, his lazy skating, weak checking, and unnecessary penalties won’t be missed. Kotalik’s dealing came as somewhat of a surprise as Jochen Hecht and Maxim Afinogenov seemed to be more valuable trade bait.

The Final Word: By the end of he day, the Sabres did make improvements to the team, but the next two months will prove whether they were enough to propel the club into the post season. Buffalo looked like the team they hope to be Wednesday night at HSBC Arena, as they defeated the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 5-1. Buffalo got a Thrashers Maple Leafs Hockeypair of goals from Derek Roy (24 on the year) and Paul Gaustad (9). Roy scored first in the game on the power play, and again in the second period. Gaustad’s goals both came in the third, one on the power play and the other on a breakaway while the Sabres were short handed. Jaroslav Spacek (7) scored the other Sabre goal halfway through the second period. A la Ryan Miller, Patrick Lalime had his shutout attempt spoiled by Tomas Plekanec with 1:06 left to play in the game. With the win, the Sabres move to one point out of 8th place, the final playoff spot. While the Pittsburgh Penguins occupy that coveted spot in the rankings, the Sabres have a game in hand on them, so a win would put them back in playoff contention. Here’s how the Eastern Conference standings look:

  1. Boston Bruins (93 points)
  2. New Jersey Devils (87)
  3. Washington Capitals (85)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (78)
  5. Montreal Canadiens (75)
  6. Florida Panthers (74)
  7. New York Rangers (72)
  8. Pittsburgh Penguins (72)

In the hunt: Buffalo Sabres (71), Carolina Hurricanes (71), Toronto Maple Leafs (63)

Happily, the Sabres hold the tie breaker over the Rangers, and have a game in hand on the Hurricanes. If forced into a tie with Carolina, however, the Sabres lose the edge as the Hurricanes have the tie breaker. With Thomas Vanek back in the line up, Tim Connolly signed semi-long term, and the additions of Tellqvist and Moore, the Sabres have a shot at making a playoff run. Ryan Miller is the teams sole injury and is out indefinitely. His return would be ideal, but as long as Lalime keeps up his strong play and Tellqvist serves his duty as a backup to the backup, it’s the offense that will dictate where this team is headed. Players like Jason Pominville, Jochen Hecht, Henrik Tallinder, and Maxim Afenogneov have been cold all season and need to step it for their team. Thomas Vanek also needs to be the player he was before he fractured his jaw. Most importantly, the Buffalo Sabres need to put together a win streak and obtain some consistency, something they’ve been lacking since losing Daniel Briere and Chris Drury two seasons ago…

Lets go Buffalo!