With 10 blueliners who played NHL minutes last season, the Sabres have basically become the Costco for NHL defensemen this offseason.
When Adam Pardy came over from Dallas via trade, he gave the Sabres eight NHL defensemen with two more prospects prepared to jump to the NHL this season. Based on the ridiculous level of depth the Sabres have, it isn't out the realm of possibility to think one or two may be leveraged in a trade that would help the Sabres fill their need at center.
Potential trade partners, the asking price for whoever the Sabres are looking to acquire and the market for the players Buffalo has to offer will have a major effect on what kind of action Darcy Regier can take in shopping these players. In addition, the value of Buffalo’s defensemen varies widely.
Players like Adam Pardy, Alex Sulzer and Mike Weber have such limited upside that they would offer little to a trade than just an extra piece. Given that his cap hit is over $2M and that the Sabres just acquired him, makes Pardy that much more unlikely to be moved.
Robyn Regehr falls into a similar position as Pardy, Sulzer and Weber, but his age and cap hit are two main factors that his departure would be extremely unlikely. Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff are as close to untouchable as you could get. Although, they would each be capable of returning a significant amount of talent.
Entertaining the thought of moving either Myers or Ehrhoff is quite difficult. Ehrhoff’s cap hit is an incredibly manageable number based on the return he brings. Not to mention the fact that Matt Carle, Jason Garrison and Dennis Wideman all make more than Ehrhoff does.
Myers would be worth shopping if the Sabres had a sure two-way threat ready to fill his spot. The problem with the surplus of defensemen the Sabres have is that most of the players fill a 4-6 role, rather than 1-3. Moving Myers would leave a hole on one of the top two pairs that could be patched, but not properly filled until the deadline or when the UFA market opens next summer. There is certainly a possibility to fetch a serious defenseman in some other trade, but dangling Myers would be a serious gamble based on what the Sabres would be asking for (top center or scoring threat).
For me, Buffalo’s two most valuable bargaining chips are Andrej Sekera and Jordan Leopold. Sekera probably has differing values throughout the league – just as he has a differing value throughout Sabreland. However, he can play in all three zones and can be rather reliable defensively if he is in a groove.
Leopold only has one year left on his deal and has been a consistent point producer for the Sabres since his arrival. Trading Leopold would deal a serious blow to the offensive punch the Sabres get from the blueline, but Leopold’s value may never be higher. Considering that Andrej Sekera could even fill some of the ice time that would be reserved for Leopold – plus Mark Pysyk and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc nearing their pro debut – would allow for the departure of the veteran.
The key to exploring any sort of trade scenario with Buffalo’s blue line is maintaining balance. Depth is a wonderful luxury when it is necessary to use. But trading out one of your players and having your nightly bottom six made up of Pardy, Sulzer and Weber doesn't appear to be a recipe for success.
Maintaining a certain level of balance is another reason that a player like Leopold or Sekera seem like a much more likely trade option than say, Tyler Myers. Leopold or Sekera could easily fill the minutes vacated by the other, with little impact on the overall depth chart. Removing someone from the team’s top three would cause a significant change in the makeup of the Sabres blueline. A valid argument could be made that Leopold was better suited for top minutes than Myers at times. But the investment and expected role for Myers, or Ehrhoff, makes them tougher to move.
As for potential suitors, there are a few teams that are expected to be sniffing around the trade market for defensemen. Of note, none of what is listed below is to be interpreted as a trade rumor, simply places where I could see a good fit.
The Avs have made a number of significant signings, including Greg Zanon and Erik Johnson. By adding one more steady top-four defenseman, the Avalanche could have a very sturdy unit heading into the season. Obviously the hot name in Buffalo when talking about Colorado is Paul Stastny. Is he the best choice for the Sabres number one center role? Probably not. But helping to clear an overpopulated blueline in order to bring in a top line center is a start.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues have been reported as having serious interest in finding a partner for Alex Pietrangelo. They have a number of young forwards who could inject some new talent on the Buffalo roster. Patrik Berglund would likely take a major package to land, but would certainly address the Sabres need for a center.
Obviously the Predators are in need of a top-four talent, but they may not be an ideal trade partner for the Sabres. I’m not quite sure they would be able to offer the type of offensive talent the Sabres are searching for. A package including Carrie Underwood would be a nice start, but she would probably require a first round draft pick and a prospect. Nashville would be a good place to snoop around. If they’re willing to give up first round picks for checking centers, how much would Sekera or Leopold bring?
Detroit Red Wings
This might be a stretch in terms of what the Wings could offer. However, they’re in desperate need of a defenseman now that they missed out on Ryan Suter and Matt Carle. With the Wings, you’re probably only looking at acquiring futures. Considering what steps the Sabres are looking to take, I don’t think that is the type of trade they want to make.
What’s that? The Wild just signed Ryan Suter? Yes, I heard. But they still have a somewhat underwhelming defensive corps behind their new 13-year man. They would be wise to bring in someone capable of playing 20 minutes a night to help ease Suter’s load a bit as this contract gets off the ground. As for return? That’s a tough one. The Wild certainly have some talent up front, but I’m not sure if any of those players fit with what the Sabres are searching for.
TEAMS: Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild
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