For the first time since 1997, the Buffalo Sabres will go to training camp without Lindy Ruff as coach.
The Sabres went into rebuilding mode after back-to-back disappointing seasons and traded captain Jason Pominville, Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr before the deadline in April. General manager Darcy Regier also traded Andrej Sekera to the Carolina Hurricanes for Jamie McBain and a second-round pick at the 2013 NHL Draft.
Two veterans who have not been traded are forward Thomas Vanek and goaltender Ryan Miller, and each is in the final year of his contract. Regier has been open about trading either or both if the right deal comes along.
Besides the trade for McBain, it was a quiet offseason in Buffalo. Regier added former Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder to provide some of the experience lost on the blue line. Forward Nathan Gerbe was bought out, and a couple of fringe NHL players moved on.
It looks like a transition year in Buffalo, especially if Vanek and/or Miller don't finish the season with the team.
Here is the projected 2013-14 lineup for the Sabres:
Thomas Vanek - Cody Hodgson - Tyler Ennis
Marcus Foligno - Mikhail Grigorenko - Drew Stafford
Johan Larsson - Steve Ott - Ville Leino
Brian Flynn - Kevin Porter - Patrick Kaleta
Christian Ehrhoff - Jamie McBain
Henrik Tallinder - Tyler Myers
Mike Weber - Mark Pysyk
NOTES: One of the biggest things to watch will be the development of forwards Grigorenko and Foligno, who should have a chance to earn consistent top-six minutes. Luke Adam had that chance two seasons ago but spent most of last season with Rochester in the American Hockey League. He's one of several forwards not listed who could make a play for a spot on the opening-night roster.
Another player to watch is Myers, who looked like a No. 1 defenseman as a rookie but whose development has stagnated. He's under contract for a long time, and the Sabres need a bounce-back season from him. Adding McBain and Tallinder should keep the team's first-round picks, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, developing elsewhere unless one of them has an outstanding camp.
As long as Miller is in Buffalo, he will be the No. 1 goaltender. Enroth had a great World Championship for Sweden and could be ready to see if he can be a No. 1 netminder. Matthew Hackett, who arrived from the Minnesota Wild in the Pominville trade, is a top goaltending prospect and could earn some NHL duty this season.