Buffalo Sabres Draft Options: Moving Up To Third Is A Slim Possibility

Oct 12, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Nicolas Deslauriers (44) and Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Jared Boll (40) fight during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 12, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Nicolas Deslauriers (44) and Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Jared Boll (40) fight during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports /

The Columbus Blue Jackets currently hold the third pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, but there is a chance the Buffalo Sabres could swap places and move up five spots.

All right, Buffalo Sabres fans: let’s talk about what a lot of you have been thinking ever since the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery went down.

When the order of the top 14 teams in the upcoming draft was finally determined, fans immediately began mapping out trade scenarios in their heads.   Including the Edmonton Oilers in a trade is an obvious choice, simply because the Oilers would be wise to consider doing exactly that: trading out of the top 5.

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Almost everyone ahead of the Oilers in the draft is staying put – there is no way the Toronto Maple Leafs pass up the chance to draft Auston Matthews, and the Winnipeg Jets will stay put and make Patrik Laine the number two overall pick in the draft – and then there are the Columbus Blue Jackets.

They wouldn’t consider dropping down from third to wherever, would they?

Maybe, my Blue and Gold-clad friends,  Maybe.

The talk around the NHL (if NBC Sports accurately reflects the talk around the league. . . . )is that the Blue Jackets are looking for a center, not a winger, and since there are no centers after Laine and Matthews projected to be picked in the top 5, it sure would not make a whole lot of sense for the Blue Jackets to use the third overall pick in the draft on someone like Logan Brown or Clayton Keller.

Sure, it would be tough for Columbus to pass up Finnish winger Jesse Puljujarvi, who is ranked third out of all prospects by every reputable scouting organization in hockey, but even if the odds of Columbus trading down are one-in-a-million . . . .

Clearly, the Blue Jackets would have to be offered something that blows their socks off, in the words of Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen.   And from the sounds of it, a good number of teams have, indeed, attempted to blow the Blue Jackets – socks off, that is!   So far, no deal, and here is Kekalainen’s take on such a deal transpiring:

"I’ve said this a million times, Wayne Gretzky got traded, so anything is possible. I don’t see it as likely."

Anything is possible, but overall, “not likely.”   Do the Buffalo Sabres have a strong enough offer to make that could blow the Blue Jackets?  Socks off, that is!

That all depends on how much they value Puljujarvi.  Here’s a chunk of the scouting report that Elite Prospects whipped up on him:

"A truly dominant two-way force that consistently demonstrates elite hockey sense, proactive defensive awareness, and a full array of offensive tools. Comparable to Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars, Puljujärvi owns a dangerously accurate shot, as well as exceptional playmaking ability that pairs up quite nicely with his superb vision and enthusiasm. Has the ability to absolutely dominate by using his size and speed to keep possession of the puck until he determines it to be the right time for the rubber to hit the back of the net. Everything that he does, he does well, to the fullest of his ability; there are no empty holes in this electrifying and hard-nosed forward’s game."

Man, it sounds as if Puljujarvi is almost as big a difference-maker as Matthews and Laine are thought to be.   We all know the Buffalo Sabres need scoring on the left wing and a solid top-4 LHD, but is Puljujarvi worth swinging for the fences?

Sabres GM Tim Murray should strongly consider putting together a package that includes almost everything except the kitchen sink.  The 8th overall pick in this year’s draft is a given, along with at least a 2nd rounder and maybe even Buffalo’s first-round pick down the road.  I would also consider including Zemgus Girgensons in the trade, instead of a second round pick or future first-rounder, although some people may be higher on Z than I am.  Hell, maybe the Sabres can find a way to involve Scott Hartnell, and offer to pay his full salary.  I’m usually pretty conservative when it comes to moves like this, but if there is any chance that Buffalo could move into the top 3, I would consider making it happen.

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Of course, we all know that the Columbus Blue Jackets are much more likely to ask for someone such as Sam Reinhart over Girgensons, and that is why Columbus will almost certainly stand pat.  When they say they want someone to blow them – sorry, blow their socks off! – what they really mean is, “We want to find a desperate sucker who will overpay for the third pick.”  A first-round pick and Girgensons would be overpaying as it is, and it still would not be enough to convince Columbus to move.

So, check out the highlight video for Jesse Puljujarvi and then wish you never had, because saying there is a one-in-a-million chance that the Buffalo Sabres might move up to grab him is incredibly optimistic.