Welcome back to another (and the last) installment of An Outsider's Perspective. This week, we have none other than Andy Boron, the Managing Editor for SBNation's Die By The Blade. Given my biases, this was my favorite interview to do as I was reading about my two favorite teams. According to his twitter, Andy is also a Star Wars aficionado, so make sure to have a few puns for him in the comments.
Tim Murray has made some bold moves in the past year. One of them was acquiring Zach Bogosian, Evander Kane and Jason Kosdorf in exchange for Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a first round pick. What was your reaction to this trade and do you think it was the right move?
At the time of the trade, many Sabres fans thought Tim Murray overpaid for what he got in return, but I have a feeling many of those fans will change their minds once they see Evander Kane in a Sabres uniform. Giving up the players they did, the Sabres traded a whole bunch of talent, inconsistency, and potential for proven production and star power. Personally, I loved the move for how well it set the team up with another stud player in Kane while not impacting Murray's tanking efforts thanks to Kane's injury. If the Sabres ever win a Cup with Jack Eichel, this Hall of Fame tanking trade will go down as the move that made it all possible.
With a bunch of prospects like Sam Reinhart, Jack Eichel, Hudson Fasching and Mark Pysyk and young players like Rasmus Ristolainen, Johan Larsson, Marcus Foligno and Zemgus Girgensons, where do you see the Sabres in 3-4 years?
If everything goes according to plan, in 3-4 years the Sabres will be the Chicago Blackhawks of the Eastern Conference - a powerhouse team with strength down the middle and a few stud defensemen that will seriously contend for the Cup every year. Of course, much of that banks on the development of both Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, and the continued growth of young players like Pysyk, Ristolainen, and Girgensons. Tim Murray smartly added young, veteran players like Kane, Ryan O'Reilly, and Jamie McGinn to give the team's youngsters the time, space, and leadership needed to grow into the future stars we all hope they become. Pairing the crazy talented youth with similarly talented veterans provides a bit of "Edmonton Insurance", and will hopefully help speed this rebuild along in a significant way.
The Avs' big splash this off-season came in the form of a trade with the Sabres when they dealt Ryan O'Reilly at the draft along with Jamie McGinn for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and the 31st overall draft pick. What was your initial reaction to the trade and how do you see these players fitting into the Avs' and the Sabres' future?
My initial reaction (after "Holy **** he actually did it") was that Murray is willing to make fair trades for both sides if he thinks the deal will improve his organization. The Sabres previous GM (and thus many Sabres fans) was obsessed with winning every deal and maximizing return. Murray seems more like a guy who's willing to throw that extra piece in to ensure he gets what he wants, which can be both good and bad. I'm very excited for what both O'Reilly and McGinn will bring to Buffalo's first and third lines, respectively, and O'Reilly's presence especially helps to take the pressure off of Jack Eichel's shoulders to be an immediate #1 stud next season.
As for what the Avs got in the deal, they took on a pretty sizable amount of risk with Grigorenko and Zadorov, but could end up looking like geniuses if both those players end up working out. Zadorov has all the potential to be a top-tier #1 defenseman, but was shadowed all year in Buffalo by questions of work ethic, responsibility, and consistency. Similarly, Grigorenko's hands and vision are second to none, but he was constantly mismanaged by the Sabres brass and still needs to get much stronger as a player, skater, and defender to control the puck and contribute at the NHL level. If Patrick Roy can help those two become the players their potential indicates they can be, then Avs fans will be very happy with the deal. If not, you'll experience the same frustration Sabres fans have felt over the past three years. Luckily, JT Compher is about as safe a prospect as there is, and will bring leadership, awesome work ethic, and toughness to the third line in a few years.
With O'Reilly, Girgensons, Reinhart, Ennis, Eichel and McCormick, it seems like there may be a logjam at center. Who do you imagine taking the wing for this year?
After seven years of trying to rationalize players like Tim Connolly, Derek Roy, and Tyler Ennis as #1 centers, this is such a nice problem to have. Sabres coach Dan Bylsma has already named O'Reilly the #1 center, and I can't imagine Eichel moving out of the middle, so that leaves a question of whether Zemgus Girgensons or Sam Reinhart will be the third line center. Both players have experience on the wing, and I would imagine that it depends on what Bylsma wants from his third line. If he wants a typical grinding, two-way, shutdown line, then Girgensons should play the pivot, but if Bylsma wants to roll with three scoring lines, then Reinhart is the man for the job. Ennis is essentially a full-time wing at this point, and either Cody McCormick or Johan Larsson should be the fourth line center next year.
Before free agency, the Avalanche acquired Carl Soderberg's rights from the Boston Bruins for a 6th round pick in a move that seemed to be the final nail in the coffin of the Ryan O'Reilly trade. They then extended him for 5 years, $23.75 million . What are your thoughts on the trade, and the extension?
Getting a player like Soderberg for a sixth round pick was a pretty nice move, and I think his contract is just about right for a player who should help contribute on the second or third line. Honestly, as a Sabres fan, anything that makes the Bruins worse is A-OK with me.
During free agency, the Avs signed Francios Beauchemin for 3 years, $13.5 million and Blake Comeau, for 3 years, $7.2 million. What are your thoughts on the fit and the contracts of these players for the Avs?
I think the Avs were smart with their free agent signings, and with letting O'Reilly go, in that they didn't commit a ton of money to the future and have set themselves up nicely for the next few offseasons when they'll have some monster deals coming up for guys like Mackinnon and Erik Johnson. I'm not a huge fan of signing older players (35+) to multi-year deals, but between Beauchemin and Zadorov, the Avs blue line should be a heck of a lot tougher than last year.
Last but not least, looking forward, how do you think the Avs look compared to a year from now?
When I look at the Avs roster, I see a lot of very young guys and a lot of very old guys, so if they keep getting solid contributions from players like Iginla, Tanguay, Stuart, and Beauchemin, they should be strong enough down the middle and in net to be in the playoff hunt. The development of Grigorenko and (especially) Zadorov will go a long way toward determining Colorado's fate next season.
Huge thanks to Andy Boron for taking the time to answer these questions for us! To thank him, I officially name him part of the MHH andae classification. He can be found at @andyboron on twitter.
Thank you all for the positive feedback about this series. If I continue to write for MHH, I plan to keep this series going every summer. Let me know if there is anything you would like added to it. A quick reminder that Yahoo! opened up their fantasy hockey yesterday (August 20th) so keep an eye out for more fantasy articles in the near future!