Defense: Who’s still out there?

The 2015 offseason for the Buffalo Sabres has been an eventful one to say the least. It has so far featured the firing of Ted Nolan, the hiring of Dan Bylsma, and also the drafting of future superstar, Jack Eichel.

But general manager Ti9m Murray has also been busy with trades and acquiring future assets to help the future of the Sabres franchise. He went out and acquired goalie Robin Lehner and forward David Legwand from his former team in Ottawa. Murray also made a blockbuster trade with Colorado, acquiring forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn from the Avalanche.

While Murray has made some improvements on the forward front and in net, he was forced to deal Nikita Zadorov as part of the Avalanche deal, which has left quite a hole on the left side of the defensive position. Murray also delat Mikhail Grigorenko, prospect J.T. Compher, and the 31st pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

After the 2012-13 NHL season, the Sabres were in a pickle with the defense not having enough right-handed defenders on the roster. Of the defenders on that roster who played more than 15 games that year, which was shortened due to another lockout, seven out of nine defenders on the team were left handed shots. The only two right-handed shot defenders the Sabres had that played more than 15 games that season were Tyler Myers and Mark Pysyk.

Since the 2012-13 season, Buffalo has moved out Robyn Regehr, Andrej Sekera, T.J. Brennan, Jordan Leopold, Adam Pardy, Brayden McNabb, Alexander Sulzer, Henrik Tallinder, Andre Benoit, and Andrej Meszaros. All of these defenders are left handed defenders.

Now with Zadorov gone, Buffalo has Josh Gorges and Mike Weber on the left side who are NHL defensemen.

The Sabres were in pursuit of defenseman Johnny Oduya, who had just won his second Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in three seasons. However, Oduya elected to sign with the Dallas Stars on a two-year deal.

Other free agent, left-handed defenders that were available that have since signed elsewhere were Andrej Sekera (EDM), Paul Martin (SJS), Matt Hunwick (TOR), and Matt Irwin (BOS).

Murray could try to go out and acquire a left-handed defenseman via trade, but has yet to find the perfect trade.

So what are some possible scenarios for Murray to do in order to fill the hole on defense? Here are some of the best options for Murray and the Sabres come the beginning of the 2015-16 NHL season:

In The System

1.) Jake McCabe

Jake McCabe played relatively well for his first professional year of hockey. He registered 29 points (5 goals and 24 assists) in 57 games in Rochester this season, and also earned a late-season call-up for two games with the Sabres.

McCabe did suffer a concussion this past season, but showed he was healthy when he returned from injury.

At development camp, McCabe was arguably the best defenseman the Sabres had. McCabe was phenomenal in the Blue and Gold Scrimmage, registering two assists for team Blue, and looked a step above most of the prospects on the ice.

If McCabe can have a strong showing in training camp, and prove that he is NHL-ready, he would be the best possible option. Maybe even play on a pairing with his partner this past year in Rochester with Mark Pysyk.

McCabe is, arguably, the only defender who is near-ready to make the jump to the NHL who is a left-handed shot.

However, it seems as though Murray really wants McCabe to further develop his game in the AHL for another year. That could be the possible reason as to why Murray is being so aggressive on the trade market.

2.) Carlo Colaiacovo

Carlo Colaiacovo was signed back on July 3rd to a one-year contract worth $900,000.

The 32-year old veteran has said he still has a lot to give in terms of his game, and he had a nice rebound year last season with the Philadelphia Flyers.

In 33 games with the Flyers, Colaiacovo had two goals and six assists, and posted a plus-90 corsi rating. His corsi rating was the best among all Flyers defensemen, a plus-84 better than the next best player in Luke Schenn. Schenn was a plus-16 in 58 games played this year.

If Murray is unsuccessful in acquiring a defenseman via trade or free agency, and wants McCabe to stay in the AHL for some more time, Colaiacovo is capable of filling the hole on the defense for the time being.

Free Agency

1.) Christian Ehrhoff

Seems crazy to think this, but bringing back Ehrhoff may be an option for Buffalo at this point. That is as long as he actually wants to play in Buffalo.

Ehrhoff was sticken with concussions this season in Pittsburgh, only playing 49 games with the Penguins and missing the playoff series with the Rangers. Ehrhoff was a plus-45 in 5-on-5 corsi, which was miles better than anyone on the current Sabres defense.

Also, as we know, Ehrhoff is a powerplay defender and loves to shoot the puck. His 110 shots was second on the Penguins defense behind Kris Letang with 197 shots.

But does Ehrhoff want to come back to the Sabres even on a one-year deal? Or does Tim Murray even want Ehrhoff back? Who knows at this point.

2.) Andrej Meszaros

It was a struggle to start the 2014-15 campaign in Buffalo, but Andrej Meszaros rebounded nicely at the tail-end of last year.

In 60 games with Buffalo last season, Meszaros finished with seven goals and seven assists on the year. Meszaros was a minus-379 in 5-on-5 corsi last season, but was added to provide depth on the defensive side.

Does Murray re-sign Meszaros? If it comes down to needing more depth on the blueline, such as a 7-8 defender, it would make sense.

Trade Market

1.) Jakub Kindl

Murray is looking to the trade market for a defender who can possibly help out for years to come. Jakub Kindl would fit in the Sabres roster pretty nicely.

Standing at 6′ 3″, 216 pounds, the 28-year old defender is not the flashiest of players, but he will get you the job done on a nightly-basis. Kindl has 62 career points in 248 career NHL games, all with Detroit.

But what makes Kindl valuable is his possession stats, where he was a plus-129 in 5-on-5 situations last season in 35 games last season.

In a league so heavily favored with advanced statistics, Kindl makes sense to a team who wants to be better with puck possession.

Kindl was a 1st-round pick in 2005 by the Red Wings. He has two-years left on his current contract valued at $2.4 million on an annual average.

2.) Patrick Weircioch

Is Murray going to swing another deal with Uncle Bryan in Ottawa? If it is for Patrick Weircioch, then Buffalo should be extremely excited.

The 24-year old defenseman has yet to hit the prime of his career, but what an addition Weircioch would be.

Standing tall at 6′ 5″ and 206-pounds, Weircioch finished the 2014-15 season in Ottawa with 13 points in 56 games with the Senators.  He also scored two goals and added another two assists in the playoffs against Montreal, before the Senators were eliminated in six games.

Weircioch was excellent in terms of puck possession in the regular season, posting a plus-137 in 5-on-5 corsi rating.

Weircioch has one-year remaining on his current deal with a cap hit of $2.7 million this year. He will be a restricted free agent following the 2015-16 season.

Tim Murray still has some work to do, and the 2015-16 season is quickly approaching. Will he be able to find a piece to fill in the hole in the left-handed defender spot? With Murray’s aggressive approach to acquiring assets. it would be hard to doubt his chances.

In any event, Murray will get his guy. The Sabres will be ready to compete in the 2015-16 season.

Stay tuned to Better Live Than Dead Sports for the latest news regarding the Sabres and the rest of the NHL.

Written by Brayton Wilson

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