BUFFALO – After a goalie reneged on a verbal agreement with the Sabres on Friday, general manager Tim Murray said he was open to anything – a trade, landing another free agent or even using prospect Linus Ullmark – to fill the backup role.
With most of the established goalies in the Sabres’ price range already signed, Murray went the trade route today, sending a 2017 fifth-round draft pick to the St. Louis Blues for Anders Nilsson.
Murray loves to have size in net, and the 6-foot-5, 229-pound Nilsson is one of the NHL’s biggest goalies.
Nilsson, 26, went 10-13-3 with a 3.12 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage in a career-high 29 games with the Blues and Edmonton Oilers last season. The Swede has below-average numbers – 19-22-4, 3.09 and .900 – in 52 career NHL games.
He began his career with the New York Islanders, who drafted him 62nd overall in 2009.
Following three years with the Isles organization, Nilsson played 2014-15 in the KHL.
After the Sabres lost goalie Chad Johnson to his hometown Calgary Flames on Friday, Murray said another backup verbally agreed to an $850,000 contract. The Sabres had even placed the goalie on their depth chart.
Then the goalie took a $900,000 deal with another team, Murray said. Based on the contracts awarded, Jeff Zatkoff, who signed for that money with the Los Angeles Kings, was possibly the player.
The Sabres added forward depth earlier today, the second day of free agency, signing center Derek Grant to a one-year, two-way contract.
The 6-foot-3, 202-pound Grant, 26, will likely be ticketed for the AHL Rochester Americans.
The Michigan State product has three assists in 40 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames. Grant has often been a top-level AHL scorer, compiling 88 goals and 162 points in 292 games since 2010-11.
Grant, the 119th overall pick in 2008, enjoyed a monster year with the Stockton Heat last season, scoring 27 goals and 45 points in 36 games.
Former Harvard University star Jimmy Vesey, speaking to the Boston Globe, echoed his agent’s recent words, saying, “I’m still going to go to free agency and explore all my options.”
Murray said the Sabres plan to meet face-to-face next week with Vesey, whose rights they recently acquired and have until Aug. 15.