There are 23 games left in a season where the Buffalo Sabres have experimented with many different players in their lineup.
This year we have seen many of the rookies and guys from Rochester come up and get their crack at the NHL. We have also had a few new acquisitions from the waiver wire and also through trades as the season has played out.
In previous years, it was rare for Darcy Regier to look at waivers to acquire a player. Since Pat LaFontaine took over as President of Hockey Operations, he has acquired two players off of waivers to try and improve the team.
The first waiver acquisition the Sabres made was for forward Matt D’Agostini. The Pittsburgh Penguins placed D’Agostini on waivers on November 26th and was claimed by the Sabres a day later.
Since joining the Sabres, D’Agostini has played in 27 games scoring four goals and adding three assists. His latest goal was scored Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins when he out skated Zdeno Chara to the loose puck and slipped a goal past Bruins’ goalie Chad Johnson.
D’Agostini is a classical Ted Nolan player: a player that competes and puts in a 100-percent effort every game. Nolan has given D’Agostini plenty of ice-time on the second and third lines, and even some powerplay time as well.
D’Agostini has had some injury problems this season, but overall has been a nice fit so far in the Sabres’ lineup.
Another player that was acquired through waivers is center Zenon Konopka. Konopka is a fourth-line bruiser who has been very good at faceoffs, and is not afraid to drop the gloves on more than one occasion. The Sabres acquired Konopka on waivers from the Minnesota Wild on January 3rd. At the time of his acquisition, Buffalo was in need of depth players, and someone who can win some key faceoffs.
In 13 games played with the Sabres, Konopka has an assist, and has fought twice. Nolan has used Konopka to win faceoffs within the last two minutes of games where they may be down by a goal.
Konopka recently had surgery to repair an injured finger, and has had a problem staying out of the penalty box. Nonetheless, Konopka could be the talk of trade before the March 5th NHL trade deadline. Until then, Konopka will continue to play on the fourth line and be called upon to win important faceoffs for the Sabres.
The final acquisition the Sabres made was a dud. On December 19, Buffalo traded a conditional draft pick to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Linus Omark. Omark had requested a trade from Edmonton to get more playing time in the NHL. At the time of the deal, Omark was leading the American Hockey League in points with 29 as a member of the Oklahoma City Barons.
In Buffalo, Omark played 13 games and only registered two assists. Omark was constantly in and out of the lineup, and was shifted from the first line to the fourth line on numerous occasions. Nolan tried Omark in many different situations including the powerplay, but could not get any offensive contribution from the Swedish forward.
Before the Olympic break, the Sabres tried to send Omark to the Rochester Americans, but he failed to report. This prompted Tim Murray and the Sabres to put Omark on unconditional waivers to terminate his contract. Omark has now since signed with Lulea HF of the Swedish Hockey League.
The best news about the Omark deal is that the conditional draft pick given to Edmonton would have only happened if Omark played 15 games with the Sabres. Since he did not play 15 games in Buffalo, Buffalo loses nothing for the Omark trade.
So how have the Sabres fared with their acquisition players? So far, you cannot complain. D’Agostini has done well with the Sabres, and Konopka has not played that bad at all. With the exception of Omark, Pat LaFontaine has done well with his acquisition players before Tim Murray arrived in Buffalo.
Now, it is up to Tim Murray to decide what to do with his team. Who will stay and who will go? In the days to come, the term in Buffalo should be: “In Murray, we trust”.