The message was clear: Shea Weber needs help. After finishing as the top point scorer and one goal shy of being the top goal scorer in 2013/2014, the elite defenseman’s lack of support became more evident than ever.
The biggest move by general manager David Poile was made during the NHL Entry Draft when he traded forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spalling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for previous 40-goal scorer James Neal. A trade that has generally been viewed as a positive one by the Predators’ fan base.
After acquiring goal scorer James Neal, everyone started asking the obvious question: who is going to deliver him the puck in the same fashion as Evgeni Malkin did in Pittsburgh? Poile went out into free agency to solve the problem to the best of his ability. He came back with three potential first-line centers to partner up with Neal: Olli Jokinen from Winnipeg Jets, Mike Ribeiro from Arizona Coyotes, and Derek Roy from St. Louis Blues. It will be interesting to watch if Ribeiro can revive his much trouble career and if Jokinen or Roy can shine in their new environment.
One thing is clear; Shea Weber cannot do everything on his own if the Nashville Predators wants to be in the hunt for a playoff spot come May.
Tim Murray’s first summer as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres was a busy one. The disappointing 2013/2014 season resulted in four new assistant coaches for head coach Ted Nolan, including former elite NHL: ers Bryan Trottier and Arturs Irbe. On the player side, the second-overall-pick Sam Reinhart is supposed to bring much needed playmaking ability on the center man position. His intelligence and leadership qualities make him a good candidate to run for captaincy in a few years. Speaking of captaincy, the Sabres are yet to select a captain for the 2014/2015 season. Newly acquired Brian Gionta from free agency is one named that might surface along with current assistant captain Drew Stafford.
The Sabres made two big moves buying out defensemen Christian Ehroff and forward Villo Leino . As a result, they were able to bring in seven players: Matt Moulson and Josh Gorges being the most notable ones.
It will be interesting to see if Swedish goaltender Jhonas Enroth finally can take one addition step to become a true No. 1 goaltender in the National Hockey League, something that is essential for the Sabres after they traded away their best player in recent years, Ryan Miller, at last year’s trade deadline. Also, look for defenseman Tyler Myers to continue to grow into an elite player.
The Buffalo Sabres might not be competitive in 2014/2015 or even in 2015/2016, but they are definitely on the right track.