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Friday, March 22, 2013

NHL Trade Deadline Preview: Buffalo Sabers

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NHL Trade Deadline Preview:
Buffalo Sabers

By Wild on Sports Analyst Brian Peirce

There might not be a team more in need of being a buyer AND being a seller in the league. A new era was supposed to begin in Buffalo and money was thrown around a team that already had some great players in the system. In my opinion they made all the wrong choices with their first splash of money, in a “go get them phase.” This has left them with a team that has not progressed while the leaders seem to have lost the faith. We could talk about who is to blame or we could talk about the next move. There are two choices, blow it up or push the pedal down.

I get the feeling the mentality of the ownership is not to back down, and so I don’t know if they will make trades that show a rebuilding phase but there are possibilities to consider. The major one is the question of if it is still “Miller time.” There have been rumors and reports that the all-star goaltender Ryan Miller has lost faith in the team and vice versa. The lure of a top goaltender, even if he has lost luster is very high to any team looking to win a cup. I can think of a few off the top of my head. I wanted to play devil’s advocate and suggest at least one trade. I could see the Ducks making a play as well as the Blackhawks, more so the former.

I would not be surprised if the Duck pulled the trigger on this, but there is a huge caveat. It would have to center around a Hiller for Miller trade, which is fun to say. I think this would appeal to the Sabers because it saves them a bit of money, 1.75 over the same term, as well as makes a clean divorce for a marriage that has seen better days. It would be great for the ducks because of the upgrade over Hiller, which might not be in overall worth but in consistency. Let’s face it, vertigo seems to bring Hiller out of games at any moment and they might not want to risk handing game seven of the Western Conference final to Fasth just yet. Either way I think the future for the ducks lies with Fasth, whether they want to cut the cap space down another 1.75 after giving nearly 17 million to their top two players is the question. Buffalo however would be able to save face while moving forward.

The Sabers could add to the roster with 5.6 million in cap space that when you average it per day allows them to add 15 million worth of actual salary. However with the lack of sellers and the fact they are near the bottom, it might be hard to make a deal to push them over the top. I just wouldn’t rule them out as being buyers just yet. Even if they are, it seems likely they move defenseman Robyn Regehr and try to move RW Stafford. Chatter seems to show Regehr as the premier rental d man on the market and his history as a solid defensive force makes him an excellent fit with those struggling to keep the puck out of the net. All of your playoff potential teams seemed to be linked to Regehr in the rumor sections but his status as king in such a small group, the asking price might be too high for anyone to sacrifice. I have to believe everyone with a record better than Washington would at least field a call.

Stafford on the other hand has value as a fifth or sixth forward on some team looking for some secondary scoring. He could come cheap to any team that wants to wait them down to the 11th hour as he is having a pretty awful year. Right now he has 4 goals 7 assists and is -10 through 30 games. The issue is that he has two more seasons after this at 4 million a pop, which makes me think he is amnesty buyout candidate more than a trade candidate. It seems clear that the NHL teams haven’t learned their lesson on big contracts, so someone will have to suffer and I think middling players like Drew are the ones to get the cuts. However, it takes only one team to make a trade happen and there likely is one out there. Ansar Khan suggested the Red Wings might be that team, which makes no sense to me because they have too many forwards and need a goal scorer, which for this year is not Stafford.

Other people to look would be rental player Jochen Hecht and Jordan Leopold. I have always like these guys as underrated mobile puck movers, and with the defensive trade deficit Leopold could return some significant value. The question is how would Buffalo respond to only having two overpaid players in Ehrhoff and Myers, both of whom I would characterize as second pair anchors or support guys on the top line. I know the Sabers would like a legitimate top pairing d man, but there is little chance of getting that unless they pull off a blockbuster.

Speaking of that, Vanek and Pominville are serious stars and Ennis has value as well. Pominville would likely go before Vanek but who knows how much they want to reformat the team. I would keep that in mind if any new stories pop up about a top defensive guy wanting out of a team. Vanek, being moved would make the fans very upset as well.

All in all I could see the Sabers as the top team to watch going forward, except maybe Calgary, as they both are poorly run organizations in need of retooling. Buffalo might just buyout Leino next year and bring in a youth movement to go follow the vets that remain. Cheer up Buffalo, because you still have good young pieces and a ton of trade value. I bet on them being sellers and making one or two of a dozen deals.

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