Sabres starting goalie Robin Lehner exited the game 7:30 into the second period with a leg injury after he fell to the ice and needed to be helped off by the trainer. After the game, he was spotted with a cast on and Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said that while further evaluation is still needed, he didn't think the injury was minor.
Robin Lehner's injury is not expected to be short term, coach Dan Bylsma says.— John Vogl (@BuffNewsVogl) October 9, 2015
Here are six reasons why three days into the season, the Sabres should already be scouring the market for an established goaltender and why Calgary would be an ideal trade partner.
1. Lehner was the Clearcut Starter
Lehner was Buffalo's No. 1 goalie, no question. Picked up in June from Ottawa along with veteran forward David Legwand in exchange for a first round draft pick, the 24-year-old Swede is in the second year of a three-year, $6.675 million deal and it was going to be his crease this season.
The back-up in Buffalo is journeyman Chad Johnson and this was not one of those 1a/1b type of situations. Johnson is the No. 2, that's all he's been in his NHL career, and it's sure to stay that way.
2. Johnson is Not a No. 1 Goalie
Johnson is a 29-year-old that was originally drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 draft by the Penguins. Since moving on from Pittsburgh, he's now in his fifth organization in five years. That's right, the old 'five in five' which is what earns you the label of "journeyman".
Johnson has started 48 NHL games in his career:
- 2009-10 to 2012-13 - 1-2-1 in 4 starts with NYR
- 2012-13 - 2-0-2 in 4 starts with Phx
- 2013-14 - 17-4-3 in 23 starts with Bos
- 2014-15 - 8-8-1 in 17 starts with NYI
- 2015-16 - Now with Buf
Johnson is on a one-year deal that pays him $1.3 million.
3. Buffalo Has Plenty of Cap Space
According to General Fanager, the Sabres payroll is just under $61.9 million. That leaves them with over $9.5 million in cap space and more than enough room to absorb salary that would come with any goaltender they bring in.
It doesn't mean Calgary won't be able to get a deal done without retaining some salary for either Karri Ramo (on a one-year $3.8 million deal) or Jonas Hiller (making $4.5 million in second year of a two-year deal), but cap space certainly isn't going to be an issue here.
As a reminder, the CBA allows for the Flames to retain up to 50 percent of a player's salary in a trade.
4. Not Much in the System
The Sabres two goalies with Rochester in the AHL are Nathan Lieuwen and Andrey Makarov.
- Lieuwen, 24, who was drafted out of Kootenay (WHL) in the 6th round of 2011, is in his third pro season. He's spent most of that time with the Americans but has made five NHL starts, going 1-4-0 two years ago with a 2.98 GAA and .906 SV%.
However, Lieuwen is coming off a mediocre year in the AHL in which he was 4-9-0 with a 3.29 GAA and .883 SV%.
- Makarov, 22, who was undrafted, is also in his third pro season. The Russian spent most of his first year in the ECHL with Fort Wayne before becoming Rochester's No. 1 last year and putting up a 16-18-3 record with a 2.91 GAA and .905 SV%.
Looking at both of their resumes, one could easily conclude that in regards to being thrust into the NHL for anything longer than an emergency situation, they're both just not ready.
5. Sabres Have a Plethora of Draft Picks to Spend
Thanks to the Jhonas Enroth deal, the Ryan Miller deal, the Brian Flynn deal, the Torey Mitchell deal, the Sabres have four extra draft picks in 2016 as well as all seven of their own picks. Those 11 draft picks break down like this:
- 1st round - 1
- 2nd round - 1
- 3rd round - 3 (SJ, Stl picks also)
- 4th round - 1
- 5th round - 2 (Mtl pick also)
- 6th round - 1
- 7th round - 2 (Mtl pick also)
They drafted Eichel and they've brought in Evander Kane, Ryan O'Reilly and Cody Franson. Highly-touted Sam Reinhart, 2nd overall pick in 2014, is also in the line-up this year. Under new coach Bylsma, the Sabres should be a much improved team and as they begin the long journey back to respectability, they won't get very far down that road without a No. 1 goalie.
- Buffalo won 4-3 at home on Dec. 11, 2014 - Flames fans will remember that night. Calgary outshot the Sabres 45-19 but Ramo was not good and the Sabres scored at 7:59 and 12:31 of the third period to overcome a 3-2 third period deficit and post a come-from-behind victory.
- Calgary won 4-1 at home on Jan. 27, 2015 - Hiller got the call on this night and was nearly perfect, stopping 17 of 18 shots.
Ramo was the guy here not that many days ago as indicated by the Finn getting the opening night start. But after his performance that night -- although it was a shoddy performance by the entire team -- has their viewpoint changed? Yesterday, coach Bob Hartley said that Hiller would start Saturday night in Vancouver.
Maybe it comes down to which one commands the biggest return and that would surely be Hiller. The Flames may know in their own mind which one they want to keep but the Sabres are the consumer here so you have to keep their shopping interests in mind also or else they could go to a different store altogether and pursue someone like Ben Scrivens instead. Calgary is the best trade partner for the Sabres, but they aren't the only possibility.
What would make this a good deal for the Sabres is Hiller and Ramo are both on expiring contracts. Lehner would still be the guy in Buffalo when healthy again but should he be out for an extended period, this would be an ideal short-term solution that comes with no long-term commitment.
By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.
- Eight From 80 Feet: Eight Keys to the Flames Returning to the Playoffs: There are plenty of things that need to go right for that to happen and I've taken some time to identify a few areas where they either need to remain good at, or get better at. (Oct. 7, 2015)
- Eight From 80 Feet: Eight Bold Predictions for Calgary for the 2015-16 Season - There are predictions and then there are 'bold' predictions. This is the latter. They could all happen, or none could happen, but yes, I'm saying there's a chance. (Oct. 6, 2015)
- Unveiling the Season-Opening roster, or at Least as I see It - Pre-season is done, auditions are closed, now it's time to wait and wonder what final moves Brad Treliving will make to whittle Calgary's roster down to 23. If I were him, here's what I would do. (Oct. 4, 2015)
- Closing in on Making the Team, Kulak Shines in the "Biggest Test of his Life" - His makeshift dressing room 'stall' has been a folding chair, but Brett Kulak doesn't care as he's still in Calgary and should be for a while after earning rave reviews from coach Bob Hartley for his play Saturday night. (Oct. 3, 2015)
- Flames Cut 15, Leaving Two Finalists for this year's Josh Jooris Award - It's down to 32 players left in camp. With two headed to the IR, that leaves seven cuts to be made. Here are my locks as well as favourites of those on the bubble. (Sept. 27, 2015)