The NHL trade deadline is just under a month away from happening in this shortened, last man standing season. Injuries will leave teams still in the hunt looking for replacements, or have moved faltering clubs into seller status. Positions in the standings will of course have more effect on anything, and that being said I’ll begin my preview series by the most obvious situations going forward.
Today’s preview will be centered on the Buffalo Sabres. Big things were expected of the Sabres after getting a new, deep pocketed owner in Terry Pegula two years ago. The Sabres have still yet to meet on those expectations. As they continued to invest in this team things got worse, to the point where Lindy Ruff was even fired several weeks ago. They currently sit in 14th place in the Eastern Conference with 21 points, and are hardly looking like a playoff team. With so many good young players developing on offense, and their aging defense struggling expect many of their moves to center around balancing these issues. As much as it will pain the Sabres faithful to hear this, they are once again going into this deadline as sellers. Who knows though, maybe they’ll get lucky with another Kassian for Hodgson esque hockey trade. Here’s a list of candidates that could be on their way out of town, and what they could fetch in return.
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Drew Stafford: It’s always one step forward, two steps back with Stafford. It may have seemed like he’d bucked that trend last season, with his second consecutive 50+ point year, but he’s reverted to his old self this year. He currently has only 9 pts, 2 of which are goals and is a -7. Stafford’s $4m cap hit could make moving him a little difficult, but hardly immovable. Team’s desperate for top six scoring might be interested in taking a flier on Stafford.
Possible returns: Probably one or two mid round picks. Can’t see them moving Stafford without at least getting a second round pick, maybe even a prospect too.
Ville Leino: Leino and his $4.5M cap are more of a buyout candidate, but with Nieuwendyk still the general manager in Dallas anybody’s tradeable. Not that there’s even a slim chance he lands there, but I’ve seen crazier happen. Like the Habs trading for Gomez... If the Sabres can find somebody stupid enough to take this contract off their hands consider this deadline a grand success.
Possible returns: A late seventh round pick.
Jochen Hecht: He had a difficult time getting back with the Sabres this season, but his play to this point might make him more in-demand with other teams now. Hecht has managed 7 points and +3, which really is amazing as a checking forward on the defensively lost Sabres. Could be relied on as a great fourth line center or a good third liner. Can also play the wing.
Possible returns: A mid to late round pick seems about right.
Patrick Kaleta: He’s developing quite the reputation as a player who often crosses the line between gritty and dirty, which is just what you need in the playoffs. Unfortunately. Kaleta’s physical style and shot blocking make him a great fourth liner for a team set to make a deep playoff run. His 0 points this season however are a little disconcerting.
Possible returns: No higher than a fourth round pick.
Robyn Regehr: He is in the final year of a contract that carries a $4.02M cap hit, with a full no movement clause, but I can see Regehr waiving it to play for a contender. His best hockey is well behind him at this point, but he could still be a valuable pick up for a team looking to add some physicality and leadership in their bottom four defensemen.
Possible returns: Wouldn’t be surprised if he fetched a first rounder, but a second seems more likely.
Jordan Leopold: It hasn’t exactly been a great year for Leopold in Buffalo. He’s dealt with injuries and fought for playing time, and currently only has 4 points and a -7 to his name. He is also in the final year of his contract, and carries a modest $3M cap hit. Can see a lot of teams desperate for help on the blueline inquiring about Leopold.
Possible returns: No more than a second rounder.
You can follow J.D. Burke for more hockey commentary, stats, tweets, etc. @WeveGotTwins and find his blog at We've Got Twins