Tracking The Trade Deadline, Pt. 4: Jay’s Take
(Ed. note: We’ve got three of the four posts in Tracking The Trade Deadline done, so here’s the final installment! It’s written by newcomer Jay, who tends to obsess over the trade deadline and draft. Monday, on Trade Deadline Day (that most magical of hockey holidays), make sure you point your browser at The Goose’s Roost for their annual megachat.)
The Buffalo Sabres stride into the deadline on the cusp of the playoffs. They have had an amazing season since the all-star break, and are looking like the team they were expected to be at the start of the year. Veterans and stars like Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, and Drew Stafford are all stepping up their games as the playoffs approach.
Buffalo does have some work to do, trailing the final playoff spot by 3 points, with 2 games in hand on the Carolina Hurricanes. With teams around them making moves, the Sabres have been fairly inactive thus far. There are several valid reasons for this lack of activity. The key reason is the ownership change, and the internal changes that have been occurring in the organization.
Buffalo General Manager Darcy Regier has gone on the record to note that they will try to avoid picking up a “rental player,” and make moves that will be healthy for the teams future as well. This would lead me to believe that the Sabres will only part with assets such as draft picks, and unrestricted free agents, if the return is a player under contract for at least another season beyond this one.
Several star players are available at this years deadline, such as Brad Richards, Chris Phillips, Bryan McCabe, and Kevin Bieksa. All of which may garner solid returns from teams in the top 4 of each conference. Possible landing spots for Richards will include, New York Rangers, Los Angeles, and a dark horse of sorts, but possibly a return to Tampa Bay. All of which will have to offer a solid prospect, and a high round draft pick. Phillips is a unique situation, because he has expressed interest in staying with Ottawa to rebuild their failing franchise. However, if a deal can not be worked out by Monday, he will be shopped, and shopped hard. Possible landing spots for Phillips include Nashville, Phoenix, and New York Rangers. McCabe is heavily rumored to go to the Rangers, but could end up in Phoenix, or Washington. McCabe is definitely a fall back plan for anybody who can not land Phillips. Bieksa is an interesting UFA to be, because he is a key part to the Vancouver defense, but will command a high salary at the completion of the season. Possible landing spots for him, if Vancouver decides they can part with him are Phoenix, Washington, and a real long shot, but Buffalo has expressed interest in him previously. If he would agree to an extension, I believe Buffalo may swap a UFA defensive man,
and a draft pick to get Bieksa in.
Buffalo has several options with teams being sellers with long term rebuild plans. These teams include Ottawa, St. Louis, Edmonton, and Colorado. Players that I can see Buffalo targeting are guys who are signed to contracts beyond this year. These players include Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky, Brad Boyes, Carlo Colaiacovo, John-Michael Liles, Paul Stastny, and a long shot at Restricted Free Agent Andreas Nodl. Nodl may be a long shot, but the Flyers will lack significant cap space given that most of their players are signed well beyond this year. The asking price for Penner, and Hemsky is a 1st round pick per player. Buffalo only has one first round pick, however could acquire one of the players with the use of that pick.
Penner would bring a big body, and some solid secondary scoring to Buffalo. Penner has scored 20 or more goals in his career 4 times, and recorded 31 last season, and is on pace for the same this year. Being on a dismal Edmonton team doesn’t really do a player like him justice. He’s shown a rare combination of size and skill since his rookie campaign. Concerns surround Penner’s attitude, however, he provides immediate relief to a team that struggles to score goals on a nightly basis. Hemsky would bring fantastic playmaking ability to the Sabres first line. He would work very well with Vanek and Hecht, and provide a good combination of speed and creativity to a line that at times lacks both. Hemsky is a bit inconsistent however, and is a bit injury prone. Both are a staple on Buffalo’s team, and he could be just another face in the crowd.
Brad Boyes is a story of underachieving, and not meeting expectations. A change of scenery would do a player like him good. His asking price is far less of that than Hemsky and Penner, but he’s also a bigger gamble. Boyes scored 43 goals in 07-08, and 33 in 08-09, but has not eclipsed the 20 goal mark since. He could potentially be a 40 goal scorer again, but he is not a legitimate superstar, he is only as good as the players around him. Boyes would provide depth scoring, but will not change the make up of this current roster. The Blues will require a 2nd round pick, and a mid ranged prospect to acquire him. Carlo Colaiacovo is a very good depth defensive man. He provides a similar skill set to Andrej Sekera, with a bit more consistency. Colaiacovo is not actively being shopped, but could be had for a younger depth defensive man like Sekera, Butler, or Brennan, and an later round pick. John-Michael Liles is signed to a very expensive contract, but Colorado has 10 defensive men on their active roster. Liles is also great friends with Ryan Miller, a fellow Michigan State Alumni. It would make sense for him to come here, but it will cost assets to get him. The price will be steep, but the reward could be even greater. Liles has scored 30+ points in every one of his NHL seasons, and provides a puck moving presence that would help Buffalo’s pedestrian transition game. Buffalo would need to offer something like former 1st round pick Mark Pytsyk, and an additional 1st round pick. This is a move that would require Buffalo to really go out on a limb, but with the shackles off Darcy Regier, anything is possible.
Paul Stastny would require Regier to do something he’s never done before. Trade for a legitimate superstar in this league. Stastny is arguably the most talented young player without a No-Trade Clause. Stastny puts together an impressive resume of having 70+ points in 3 out of his 4 seasons in the league, and is on pace for another solid season again this year. What would the asking price be for a Paul Stastny? Truth be told nobody around the league is certain. I would have to guess that it would require a high level prospect, and a couple of early round picks over the next few seasons. I do not really see Buffalo targeting this player, but again, with the shackles off Regier, anything could happen this year.
Andres Nodl would be a long term project for the team. He would not provide an immediate improvement to the team, but shows potential, and could gel well with fellow Austrian, Thomas Vanek. Nodl could be had fairly inexpensively, and may only require the exchange of a prospect and mid round pick this year. A conceptualized idea would look something like Mancari and a 3rd round pick. Not a very big risk, but could potentially be more of the same in Buffalo, rather than a star in the making.
This years deadline looks to provide a lot of player movement, and some real surprises come 5pm EST February 28th. Trade Deadline Day makes for an entertaining and intriguing day. All fans will watch closely as favorite players are sold, and new favorites are brought into town to help their favorite teams future.