The first day of unrestricted free agency came and went with a flurry of signings across the NHL. For the Buffalo Sabres, it took just a couple of hours to make some substantial moves of their own.
Just a few hours into free agency, the rumors began to swirl, and it began to link players to Buffalo rather quickly. Some of the names floating around included Rochester native Brian Gionta. Gionta, the former captain of the Montreal Canadiens, was looking for a new place to call home and the Sabres were willing to make the move.
The move, however, brought an interesting twist to it.
Before Gionta had signed with Buffalo, a face familiar to him was working on his own route to Buffalo where he had heard Gionta would be heading. And in a matter of moments the Sabres had acquired Josh Gorges and Gionta, both from the rival Canadiens, to help bolster the veteran presence.
Gorges didn't originally want to come to Buffalo. In fact, Gorges had a no-trade clause and was shocked to hear he was being shopped by Montreal. Buffalo wasn't on his list of acceptable landing spots but then he changed his mind.
“I got a call saying ‘are you interested’ and I said ‘yes,’ but what’s the point of being interested, he’s got a no-trade,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said. “They said that he had added us to the list of teams he would go to. It happened very quickly after I found that out. To me that speaks volumes. You can talk and talk and talk all you want. Actions speak louder than words and for him to do that … I didn’t call and ask him any questions about coming here. He put us on his list of teams that he’d go to and that told me everything.”
Gorges also turned down a trade to Toronto to be with Gionta in Buffalo
, a move that should resonate with the fans.
With the first two pieces of the puzzle complete, the Sabres then turned around and added some familiar faces. Forwards Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick came back to Buffalo
despite being traded away from the Sabres before the deadline last season.
For some fans, the Moulson deal was a shock. A player who had been traded from the Islanders to the Sabres and then to the Wild that was destined to end up with a contender signed a five-year deal with the Sabres, citing his good experience with the last place club before being dealt for a second time in the season.
"[He's] thrilled to be able to come back," Murray said Tuesday. "He enjoyed his time here. We were his first choice, happy we reached out to him. He had choices and this is a place he wanted to be."
The Moulson deal includes a no-trade clause which will allow the forward to work with a team that will hopefully be on the rise.
The last deal of the day was another bit of a shocker. The Sabres, who already picked up veteran defensive help. signed Andrej Meszaros to a one-year deal, which could be a move created to give the Sabres something to deal come trade deadline day.
“I explained to him that I think he should come here and become the player he once was, the player I used to know,” said Murray. “We could decide to move forward with him, or he gets moved to a contender at the deadline, and that’s a positive also.”
All-in-all the Sabres made moves that make sense. Add veteran help for a young core and generate player development in a positive way. While the Sabres are far from the salary cap, they did pass the salary floor.
New faces and old come to play for the blue and gold despite the last place finish last season, to Murray that speaks volumes.
“We’re trying to rebuild an organization into a top organization. Today shows that we finished in 30th place and there are quality players that want to come here.”
, Buffalo Sabres