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Analyzing the Ennis contract: Value now and flexibility later

By Mike Harrington

Where does Tyler Ennis fit in with the Sabres now and in the future? Is a $4.6 million cap hit too high for him going forward for the next five years?

Interesting questions. We're here to try to provide answers.

General Manager Tim Murray acknowledged today that Ennis is the team's No. 1 center for this year, with the obvious caveat that we don't know what lies in the future (see McDavid, Connor)

"He's a part of the team," Murray said. "Is he a center, is he a winger? We've talked about that with his agent and where he fits. He fits somewhere on this team. I have to look down the road when I feel we're going to be a competitive team. Is he the No. 1 center on that team? He may not be. He may be this year and next year he may be a No. 2 left winger. It depends on what we bring in here, depends how we surround him. That's going to dictate how he fits."

Ennis had 21 goals and 22 assists last year for 43 points. He got a $23-million deal with the aforementioned cap hit of $4.6M. So courtesy of the folks at Capgeek, I got a picture of players who are comparable to Ennis cap-wise for 2014-15 and studied how they produced last year.

The list is as follows:

Continue reading "Analyzing the Ennis contract: Value now and flexibility later" »

Agent on Ennis contract: 'We haven't scratched the surface yet to what Tyler can be'

By Mike Harrington

Tyler Ennis' agent said negotiations with the Sabres went well, with both sides coming to a fair agreement on the 24-year-old's value in Buffalo's rebuilding plan. Eustace King said Ennis made it clear to the team he wanted to be a part of their solution, and that General Manager Tim Murray made it clear they wanted Ennis as well. From there, it was just a meeting of the minds until the five-year, $23-million deal was agreed upon and announced today.

"I believe that Tyler's challenge has been that he's an undersized guy his whole career but he's overcome that obstacle," King said by phone from Los Angeles. "I think Tyler is going to be like some of the smaller guys that have gone through the Buffalo Sabres over the years and gone on to great careers in the NHL. I clearly believe we haven't scratched the surface yet to what Tyler can be."

The Sabres confirmed that Ennis had signed a multi-year deal earlier today but, as per team policy, did not reveal the teams.  Murray was unavailable for comment today and will speak on Ennis' deal in his post-development camp session with reporters on Friday.

King said this contract comes in the prime of Ennis' career and that he expects his client to have peak production at ages 27-28.

Continue reading "Agent on Ennis contract: 'We haven't scratched the surface yet to what Tyler can be'" »

Banged-up Ennis to sit vs. Bruins

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres' lineup for tonight's game against Boston will be a game-time decision but interim coach Ted Nolan said this morning that Tyler Ennis won't play. Stand down, trade rumor mongers: Ennis took a hard hit into the boards in the third period last night and Nolan said he's day to day with "general body soreness".

Ennis is Buffalo's second-leading scorer with 30 points (14-16) and has seven points in the last seven games. He scored a go-ahead goal in the third period last night against Carolina, making a headlong dive to puck the poke through the crease past Carolina's Cam Ward. Only a few players skated this morning and the lines won't be formed until warmups but the scuttlebutt is that Ville Leino will get the first chance to go between Matt Moulson and Drew Stafford.

Henrik Tallinder will go back in on defense after sitting out last night's win following his return from Sochi. John Scott, who played on defense last night with Jamie McBain, could sit tonight or move up to forward. As Nolan planned over the weekend, Jhonas Enroth will be in goal against Boston's Chad Johnson in a battle of backups.

Center Zenon Konopka confirmed this morning he had surgery on his left pinkie over the Olympic hiatus after breaking the finger in October while playing for Minnesota. Konopka said he's going to play tonight although Nolan did not confirm his spot in the lineup.

"You love to get back in there," said Konopka, who has one assist in 13 games with the Sabres. "You love to play hockey so it's going to be exciting. It's always a good rivalry with Boston so it will be fun."

TSN floated Konopka's name yesterday as a possible trade acquisition for a team looking for a veteran to help with faceoffs. Konopka said simply it's that time of year.

"The older you get, the more you realize you can't control it so why worry about it?" he said. "Everything happens for a reason. It's an adventure. I've been outspoken growing up right around Buffalo (in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.). I love it here. I want to be here long term. But I understand it's a business and there will be guys moved at the deadline. What's meant to be is meant to be."

The Sabres will have to play a much better game tonight in front of Enroth than they did last night against Ryan Miller. Nolan expected them to be moving well and it didn't work out that way as Carolina had a 38-18 advantage in shots.

"I was a little bit surprised but this year a lot of things don't surprise me," Nolan said. "We weren't up to par, it took us a little while to get our game going but we got it going enough to get that win.

"You look at the first games of the regular season and they're a little bit rusty and shaky. It takes a little while no matter how much preparation and practice you do. There's nothing like game time. I thought both teams were a little bit shaky at points but it's going to get better."

Sabres' Nolan talks with players, making position changes for Leino, Foligno, Girgensons

By John Vogl

Ted Nolan has a reputation as a coach for whom players would run through a wall. He earns it through motivational techniques and by proving he's with them and believes in them. The latter trait is already shining through.

The Sabres' new coach sat down individually with players to learn about their backgrounds and desires. It's leading to a few changes designed to help the players -- and, by extension, the team -- perform better.

Nolan said erstwhile wingers Ville Leino and Zemgus Girgensons will play center tonight when the Sabres host Toronto in First Niagara Center. Marcus Foligno, who had been put in the middle recently, will move back to the wing.

"We want to put these players where they feel comfortable so there's no excuses," Nolan said after the morning skate, which ended differently than it had under former coach Ron Rolston.

The players congregated in the middle of the ice for post-drill stretching, an exercise done more for camaraderie than for the muscles. Players tapped their sticks when Henrik Tallinder skated to the middle to lead the stretch, and they talked and laughed throughout the maneuvers.

Under Rolston, players quickly went their separate ways at the end and a sense of team was lacking. Guys definitely felt "lighter" today, Nolan said. The coach said Tyler Ennis looked like he had "a 50-pound weight off his back."

Mikhail Grigorenko, Johan Larsson and Nikita Zadorov will be the Sabres' healthy scratches. Mike Weber (thumb) will return next week.

To hear from Nolan and his expectations on what's sure to be an emotional return to the Sabres' bench, click the audio file below.

Sabres' Sulzer out for rest of season after knee surgery; Leino, Ennis, Miller set to return against Senators

By John Vogl

Alexander Sulzer will miss the rest of the season for the Buffalo Sabres after undergoing successful surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The normal recovery time is a year.

The defenseman was injured Feb. 23 against the Islanders after a collision in the corner.

"He had successful knee surgery and he will be out for the rest of the year," interim coach Ron Rolston said today. "What happens in those injuries – I’m not really a doctor, but I play one on TV – what happens is there’s so much swelling early on that it’s hard to diagnose early how damaged it is until that goes away and until they can actually go in there.

Continue reading "Sabres' Sulzer out for rest of season after knee surgery; Leino, Ennis, Miller set to return against Senators" »

You be Shanahan on the Kaleta & Girardi hits: How many games?

By Mike Harrington

"Mr. Kaleta, Mr. Shanahan is on line 1."

OK, so we know that conversation is taking place today. As it should. 

But will there also be "Mr. Girardi, Mr. Shanahan is on line 2?"

Patrick Kaleta's cross-check on Brad Richards in the third period last night was a cheap and competely ill-advised play, especially when the Sabres were killing a penalty. It was brutally dangerous, with Richards going head-first into the boards. And it looked very serious when the Rangers center was writhing in pain on the ice.

Still, it was pretty odd how quickly Richards returned; NHL senior vice president for player safety Brendan Shanahan usually takes injuries into account on his supplemental discipline decisions and the fact Richards came right back will help Kaleta some. But only some.

(9 a.m. update: TSN's Bob McKenzie reports Kaleta has a phone hearing. That means the maximum suspension is going to be 5 games)

Kaleta had a four-game suspension in 2011 for a head-butt and his reputation around the league is plain terrible. Look what Mark Spector, a senior columnist for, tweeted last night: "Patrick Kaleta is a dangerous, irresponsible player. Has been for years. Game doesn't need him. Be a better place without him."

Continue reading "You be Shanahan on the Kaleta & Girardi hits: How many games? " »

Locker room audio: Emotions still raw among players, staff with Lindy-less Sabres

By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- Today is the first day since July 20, 1997 that Lindy Ruff is not the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres. Jeez. Think of everything that has gone on in the hockey world since then, or just simply in life. 

For 12 players and three of the four assistant coaches on the roster, Ruff is the only head coach they've ever played for or worked under in the NHL. So it's pretty surreal that they're getting ready for tonight's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs without him.

The players and coaches were on the bus in Amherst yesterday to come to Toronto and some said it was odd Ruff wasn't there yet. When he showed up, he hopped on board and said he had some news. Several thought he was announcing a trade. Instead, he said he was fired and thanked them. And then he hopped off.

"That's when we totally realized changes were on the way," captain Jason Pominville said here today. "We all said, "We gotta go out there and see him.' It was pretty emotional for everyone."

Continue reading "Locker room audio: Emotions still raw among players, staff with Lindy-less Sabres" »

Sabres' reunited line of Foligno-Ennis-Stafford on a short leash

By John Vogl

OTTAWA – The Sabres’ hottest line from the end of last season is back together – for now.

Tyler Ennis will center left wing Marcus Foligno and right wing Drew Stafford when the Sabres visit Ottawa tonight. It’s up to them how long they’ll be together.

Continue reading "Sabres' reunited line of Foligno-Ennis-Stafford on a short leash" »

By the numbers: Faceoff follies could spell difference tonight

Mikhail Grigorenko has been a surprise in the faceoff circle. (Getty Images)

By Mike Harrington

BOSTON -- The Sabres have to be quicker on the draw. That's become plainly obvious this season. But it could really be a major issue tonight.

Buffalo enters the game last in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 42 percent -- and the Boston Bruins are No. 1 at 60.7 percent. There's been plenty of chatter on Twitter in recent days over how significant the Sabres' troubles in the circle really are. I say it's one key problem to the season (although I would list lack of secondary scoring and poor play along the blueline as bigger trouble spots).

(*I acknowledge a decent argument can be made that six games is a small sample size, although I remind you it's already 12.5 percent of the season. And it also can be pointed out that the numbers might even out a little bit as well because 42 percent is historically bad; the last-place team in the league has never been under 44 percent since 1998.).

Let's start by comparing the two teams' numbers. The NHL lists faceoffs in wins-losses format so a team or player that's, say, 20-25 has won 20 and lost 25 and is NOT 20 OUT OF 25 (Going 20-25 essentially means 20 of 45).

Continue reading "By the numbers: Faceoff follies could spell difference tonight" »

John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl |

About Sabres Edge

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |