So if you haven’t noticed, fans are getting just a little bit antsy with the Buffalo Sabres season as of late. The team is currently 8th in the Eastern Conference, with Winnipeg & Ottawa one point behind, Washington & Montreal two points back. The Sabres have gone 4-4-2 in their last 10, and they hold a dismal 8-9-3 record at home in the FN Center.
The wisest sages of Buffalo’s media have come down from their high towers and declared that it’s time to take drastic measures. Like we haven’t heard that before. Like countless people haven’t already written that sentiment already, written it better, and did it for free. Sorry, that was my bit of snark for the day.
Anyway, the Sabres have three real options for righting the ship and improving on last season (meaning getting back the first round of the playoffs). They can cross their fingers and hope that once everyone is healthy, it will all work out. They can fire the GM and the coach. Or they can make a trade.
I hear “make a trade” all the time. Ted Black and Terry Pegula have said that Lindy and Darcy are staying, and most of us still want to see action taken. So really, trading someone is the only viable solution here. You’ve got young, piss-ant players from Rochester that are as we speak taking the jobs of Buffalo Sabres. Marcus Foligno and Derek Whitmore join the ranks of AHL players that are banging down the door, because of injuries and whatnot, and once the NHL roster is healthy there will be decisions to be made. So who exactly gets traded?
Ask a hundred different fans that question, you’ll get a hundred different answers. The common statement is that “nobody is un-tradeable,” but let’s think for a moment. Who is toxic? Whose trade would actually make a difference on the roster? And frankly, who aren’t you going to get a reasonable return for? Let’s go player by player, and I’ll use my humble opinion to point out what you’re giving up, what you’re likely to get in return, and whether the trade is for this year or down the road.
The “Toxic” Club
Whether or not it’s true, fans and “reporters” constantly speculate that the presence of these players is actually detrimental to the rest of the team. Even if their individual stats are decent, their overall impact is like a black hole on fellow players.
- Derek Roy, to no one’s shock, leads this list. Roy is the Sabres best center, whether you like it or not. Maybe whosawhatsis can be better in time, but for right now Roysie is third on the team in scoring, he can win draws, and he can kill penalties. That being said, the team did miraculously turn the season around last season after he was shelved with an injury. Try as I might, I cannot ignore that. At 28 years old, Roy has been around for two conference finals and four playoff appearances, and if he gets moved he could fetch a good price. That being said, you’d better be getting a top center back for him. And I mean a Paul Stastny, Joe Pavelski, or Evgeni Malkin, because this team doesn’t have a solid center to fall back on. And if you’re talking a straight upgrade to center, that means you’ll have to give up a lot more than Roy to get it.
Type of trade involved in: Impact, Upgrade At Center
- Ryan Miller. Whoa. I went there. “Toxic” in the locker room? Look, this whole damn thing is hearsay and I only believe half of what I’m actually typing. We’ve got reporters that are yapping constantly about hearing what little birdies say and talking about who he chooses to marry. I don’t put much stock in the kind of garbage that passes for “reporting,” but if Miller is in fact detrimental in any way what can be landed for him? Right now, I’d actually say you could get more than he’s worth. He’s shown career-wide to be above-average, but not a super star. Wherever he signs after next year probably won’t garner a raise, and he’ll likely be making less. So while the Olympics and the Vezina year are still nearby, the Sabres could get a lot in return. Package Miller along with an average winger and a D-man, send him some place like Columbus or Long Island that doesn’t have good goaltending, and you might be able to land a top line scorer. The trick here is that he can name 8 teams he won’t be traded to. That and Enroth is showing signs of mortality.
Type of trade involved in: Impact, Upgrade to Core, Overhaul
The Not Carrying Their Weight Crew
Not much to say here. As the season was starting, this team looked like it’d have 3 scoring lines and a checking line along with 4 top defensemen and 3 guys vying for the last two spots. Right now the only consistent point scorers are Vanek and Pominville, and the defense is more jumbled than fans ever would have thought.
- Drew Stafford leads the list. He’s got 17 points approaching the half of the year, which brings this season back down to around his average. Those that were sold on last year’s 31 goal, 52 point anomaly are looking at him now and maybe realizing that he’s not the next great power forward. Maybe this guy is always going to swing out wide, throw a puck at the neck, and fail to get the rebound. But the Sabres can still tout that $4 million cap hit and the 4 year length of the contract to give another team the Golisano treatment (meaning “he’s a bargain!”). By himself, he’ll fetch a draft pick. Find a team that’s willing to take a chance, and you could probably package Staffy along with a defenseman or a top prospect and a first round pick for a top line forward.
Type of trade involved in: Impact, Upgrade to Core, Draft Pick
- Marc-Andre Gragnani is a bit of a goat right now. He’s sitting on the bench tonight, and can barely get on the ice this year. When he does, any offensive output or good solid play is overshadowed by an endless string of giveaways. Still, his contract is up this year and a team might want to take on his small cap hit to jump start their power play. He’s a good pickup to go to a playoff bubble team and squeak them in to the post season. Maybe trading him for a checking line center with years on their contract to replace someone coming up on contract would be prudent.
Type of trade involved in: Forward Depth, Draft Pick
- Brad Boyes‘ name came up before the season even started. I haven’t been down on Boyes as some people, and I think there’s a bias against him because his acquisition didn’t address the need for a center. And because he couldn’t dethrone a top line forward, and so we saw his minutes reduced to ash before our very eyes. The leg injury that’s kept him out obviously doesn’t add to his trade value. But if the team could, again, find a bubble team that wants a jolt to get in to the post season, perhaps they could trade him for a grinder or a prospect. But expect for them just to let him walk in July.
Type of trade involved in: Depth, Draft Pick
- Paul Gaustad. My hetero boyfriend. I was the world’s biggest Goose fan back in 2005, and his autographed Slug jersey is one I still wear with pride. He was a big, mean, faceoff winning, nasty, fighting, outspoken face in the locker room that was able to chip in decent points and give this team a good checking line. Alas, his physical play has dropped off the last couple years. His point production is dismal this season. Even his almighty faceoffs aren’t what they used to be. It breaks my heart, but Gaustad is absolutely not justifying his $2.3 million cap hit, and I don’t see the team re-signing him unless he pulls out a miracle. From a cold, calculating perspective…I realize that they might do best to package him and send him to a team looking to add roster depth for a playoff run. Give him a good home, Darcy. I still love that big lug.
Type of trade involved in: Breaking My Heart, Upgrade to Core, Blowing Up the Core
- Mike Weber has only been able to crack the lineup for 9 games this season, and he has zero points to show for it. Yes, Weber got a bit of the shaft from last season when he led the team in hits. Yes, this team needs more defensive defensemen. Still, to say that Weber has been a whole lot of “meh” is under-selling it. The fact that he’s signed through next season, and that he has a cap hit of under a million, makes him a good bargain for a team looking to upgrade their defense. Package Weber with maybe Stafford and a first, you could be looking at an under-performing top line player that needs a new home. Maybe someone like a Dustin Penner…just please God not Dustin Penner.
Type of trade involved in: Benching Him Wasn’t Enough
- Nathan Gerbe is out with a concussion right now, but while he was in the lineup he wasn’t exactly delivering game-changing offensive play. He hits everything that moves, and the kid is tough as nails. But wasn’t the reason he was drafted, and the reason he got called up two seasons ago, was because he is a goal scorer? He’s had zero production. He hasn’t displayed any moves, save for the uncanny ability to take a skate to the face. Unfortunately, due to his size he is also underestimated. If a team takes him, they’ll take him for beans. It’s not worth moving him because if he can break out offensively, he might as well do it here. If he can’t, his cap hit is low enough to justify him on the third line.
Type of trade involved in: Obtaining a Washed Up Veteran
- Cody McCormick is looking alright now that his face is in one piece. There’s no doubt I would’ve rather seen him fight Lucic back in November instead of Gaustad, but we would’ve had to deal with a scene from Hellraiser if one good punch landed on his nose. That being said, he earned his million plus salary because he could combine toughness with production, but we haven’t seen much of the latter this season. Even with the rash of injuries giving him more ice time, he only has two assists. Come on. Adam Mair played that role better. Still, what are you going to get in return for him?
Type of trade involved in: Depth Swap
- Matt Ellis, Joe Finley, Colin Stuart, & Paul Szczechura Why?
Type of trade involved in: Sending Away a Plugger Making League Minimum for a Plugger Making League Minimum, or Depth for Depth
Here are the guys that you’re actually likely to trade for someone to upgrade the team. This section involves a lot of players that make fans say, “No! Not him!” or “But he will be good soon!” or “He’s integral to the system.” Exactly. If this team wants to get that coveted trade for a big goal scorer or a nasty defenseman, these are the guys that will have to be moved. And not just one or two. They’ll need to be packaged with multiple others from the other lists in order to execute a trade that will actually impact this team.
- Luke Adam is the answer at center for everyone in this fanbase that can’t stand Derek Roy. He looks like he could be the big, dominating center we’ve all wanted in a couple of years. For now, he’s developing nicely and for someone who was supposed to be an AHLer he looks fantastic. As evidenced by the fact that he’s fourth on the team in scoring, and he can play the top line (and hey…why isn’t he?). That being said, if the Sabres were able to package him with someone and trade for a center that already is elite, and is young by his own accord, it wouldn’t be a bad deal. But I won’t hold my breath. He’s got a lot of trade value, but he is what you’d be trading for.
Type of trade involved in: Upgrade to Center
- Tyler Ennis is supposed to be an offensive powerhouse. After being sidelined with injury, he returned and hammered home a number of points before re-aggravating it Saturday against the Penguins. Still, he had an incredible game against the Leafs, and last season showed that he can play at the NHL level as a scoring forward. He can resemble Maxim Afinogenov at times, and so I don’t know if Lindy Ruff’s coaching style is fit for him to blossom. Remember, this whole post is written under the premise that Ruff is staying put. So Enzo could get a big return on a trade based on his projections. It doesn’t hurt that he’s in the final year of his rookie contract. Just…make sure he goes to the West so the Sabres don’t have to play him too much.
Type of trade involved in: Selling the Future for the Present
- Jhonas Enroth started this year amazingly, and many fans were foaming at the mouth to see him as the starter on this team. With Miller’s concussion and increased playing demand, however, we’ve seen Jhonas fall down to Earth a bit and reveal that he is, in fact, human. He’s still learning to deal with the grind the NHL puts on players. I don’t doubt Enroth will be a great goaltender some day soon, and it’s a question of whether the Sabres want to bet on him or stay with Miller. They should move one of them, though. Miller gives them a better shot at the post season right now, whereas Enroth could let them down this year. It’s a tough call, but moving him could lead to a huge gain.
Type of trade involved in: Packaged With Others For a Blockbuster
- Andrej Sekera gets ripped on by me a lot, but this year he’s honestly been doing well. He’s a quiet Top Four guy, meaning that his name doesn’t get mentioned that much. See, that’s good for defenders. You generally notice them when they screw up. He does have offensive capabilities too, which means that another team could be looking closely at him. He’s better than the third pairing, which is where he kind of finds himself when the team is healthy.
Type of trade involved in: Upgrade to Core, Upgrade to Forward
- Zack Kassian, Brayden McNabb, Corey Tropp, & TJ Brennan have all looked awesome in their time with the Sabres. They are all extremely young, and they give this franchise a glimpse at a bright future. Unfortunately I don’t see there being room for all of them, and if this team is looking to become better in the short term they are going to have to let one or two of them go. Teams salivate at the chance to land someone like Kassian or McNabb, and Tropp and Brennan have had their moments in the spotlight as well. You’re talking about packaging a couple of these guys with someone like Sekera or Stafford, and you could be looking at a big, difference-making deal.
Type of trade involved in: Impact, Blockbuster
- Jordan Leopold gets lost in the shuffle, but he is a solid leader, a dependable D man, and he has put up good points throughout his career. Sending him away would hurt the Sabres defense for now, as he brings a calming presence and is able to help mentor the extremely young D players. Also, moving him would require a steady replacement, and who knows if Weber or Gragnani is up to the task. Hey…perhaps if he does get moved and his cap hit doesn’t get replaced we could see Shaone Morrisonn up here. Not that the mule will be re-signing after being stuck in the AHL all season.
Type of trade involved in: Upgrade to Forward, Depth at Forward, Regression of Defense
My humble call is that these guys straight up can’t be moved. Sorry. There are various reasons for it, but the fact is you probably won’t see them get traded any time this season. If they do get moved, I’m happy to admit when I’m wrong.
- Jochen Hecht is 34 years old, making $3.525 million, and his contract is up this year. He’s never scored more than 22 goals and he’s a third line center, second line wing at best. Honestly, who is going to trade for him? I like Hecht, but that contract is just too much to take on.
- Ville Leino. Here’s the guy that’s got everybody’s ire right now. I called him to be a HUGE impact player and thus far he has fizzled. Darcy Regier signed him to an enormous contract, and the problem was that he said he’d be a top line center. He’s not. He’s a winger, and I still believe he will be solid. A difference maker in the playoffs. Just as he was getting going, though, #TheCurseOfTimConnolly happened and he was injured. That being said, you do NOT trade a player in Year One of a six year contract. You just don’t. Carolina recently traded Tomas Kaberle in the first year of an overpaid four year deal, and if you think that won’t have severe ramifications you’re mistaken. These players talk to each other. Their agents talk to each other. If Buffalo pulls back on the 6 year deal they signed and moves Leino, say goodbye to any free agent signings you’d like to see for a long time. If the Sabres were trying to make this a destination for players to want to come and play, trading away a signed player in the first year of six is the best way to sabotage that.
- Christian Ehrhoff. See above. Tack on the fact that he leads the team in TOI and is doing well point-wise. Not only would it be free agent suicide, but you’d also shoot the current defense in the foot.
- Tyler Myers struggled before being injured, but he’s going to be great. Honestly. The kid is 21 years old, he’s got the size and skill to be elite, and he has so much left to learn. They just extended him for seven years and his cap hit will be a ridiculously reasonable $5.5 million. That’s under six million for a game changer. Where Myers goes, the Sabres go. Don’t make him go to another team.
- Robyn Regehr. See Leino and Ehrhoff. Regehr wasn’t technically a free agent, but he had to be romanced and swayed just like one. He waived a No Trade Clause to come to Buffalo, and it took effort on Terry Pegula’s part to get him to do it. Asking him to be traded again would send shockwaves through the NHLPA that this team goes back on their word. Not what you want at all.
- Patrick Kaleta. Sorry. I really like Kaleta for what he brings, and he has that hometown favoritism, but I just don’t see anyone taking him on. He’s constantly injured, he’s rated the most hated player in the NHL, and he’s up on his contract. I really hope he gets re-signed for league minimum next season, but he’s not worth trading for the 7th round draft pick the Sabres might get for him.
- Thomas Vanek isn’t moving. Seriously, guys…he’s led this team in goal scoring the past 5 seasons, and he’s going to do it again this year. He’s the only All Star on the top six, and trading him away would mean that they were rebuilding. Forget it.
- Jason Pominville is much the same as Vanek. I know people aren’t happy with his captaincy, and they feel he’s “soft” or this or that. Strip him of the “C?” Fine. Whatever. But you’re not trading one of the two guys on this team that is likely to break the 60 point mark this season. The only way that happens is if there is an absolute tire fire and this season is in flames before February, and we’re not there yet.
Tags: Buffalo Buffalo Sabres Carolina Hurricanes Christian Ehrhoff Darcy Regier Derek Roy Drew Stafford Eastern Conference Fansided Free Agency Hockey Jason Pominville Jhonas Enroth Lindy Ruff Nathan Gerbe New York Islanders NHL Northeast Division Olympics Ottawa Senators Patrick Kaleta Robyn Regehr Rochester Americans Ryan Miller Sabres Stanley Cup Stanley Cup Playoffs Terry Pegula Thomas Vanek Trade Trade Deadline Tyler Ennis Tyler Myers Ville Leino