When is the trade deadline?
The deadline to submit a trade to the league office is Wednesday, March 5 at 3pm. However, with the Olympic roster freeze ending last night at midnight, this is the unofficial start to the rumor-mongering, double-check-your-Twitter-feed season that is trade week.
Who will the Sabres have on the block?
It might be quicker to list the players the Sabres won't have on the block, but we'll try anyway. Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson, and Steve Ott will be the names that get the most press, but expect to hear rumors involving Henrik Tallinder, Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff as well. Heck, you may even find a team desperate enough for depth to go after guys like Jamie McBain and Cody McCormick. Looking at the team's CapGeek contract chart, the Sabres have a heck of a lot of expiring contracts in all areas, so they've got no shortage of chess pieces to move around.
However, one major thing that separates Murray from his predecessor is that Murray (and the teams he worked for) have not been afraid to move promising young talent for established stars, so don't be surprised if a young player like Ristolainen, Zadorov, or Grigorenko is inserted in a deal designed to bring an established player to Buffalo.
What might they be looking for in return?
The most obvious answer is draft picks, especially first rounders, but the Sabres already have an astounding nine total picks over the first two rounds of the 2014 and 2015 drafts. Would more first rounders be nice? Of course, but at a certain point you need to get some actual players in to the system, so look for the Sabres to target other team's high level prospects and promising young roster players, especially if they can make deals for their big names in Moulson, Miller, and Ott.
However Murray has stated that he won't deal his star players for peanuts - he wants significant returns that will improve the organization. As much as some fans might want it, Drew Stafford for a fifth rounder just isn't happening.
How much salary can they retain in a deal?
Thanks to a wrinkle in the new CBA, any team is allowed to retain up to half of a traded players' salary in a transaction, and with so many teams close to the cap already, this will be a big deal at the deadline. However, a team can only have three of these deals on the books in a given year, and with the Sabres still paying a portion of both Jason Pominville's and Thomas Vanek's contracts, they can only retain salary on one more player this season.
Any other wrinkles that could come in to play?
Because the Sabres are so far under the cap, and many other teams have such little room to spare, the Sabres have the chance to pull off a few deals that wouldn't look out of place in the NBA. Specifically, they could be the type of team that gets back a bad contract in a deal to go along with whatever picks/prospects are also included simply because they have the room. And with both of their compliance buyouts remaining for this summer, and a silo of Pegulabucks still to spend, it gives Tim Murray some extra wiggle room to play with that many GMs won't have.
As we've learned from trade deadlines past, the most important thing over the next week will be to double-check your sources. This is the week that we'll see fake Twitter accounts pop up, and other sites will throw out anything and everything in order to take credit for what little is true. We've all been through this before, so stick to the sources you trust, and make sure you don't fall for the fake accounts.
With all the big-time expiring contracts and with a total organizational overhaul still ongoing, this is shaping up to be one of the most important trade deadlines in franchise history. It's going to be an exciting, sad, and interesting week, so keep your browser open, and happy rumor hunting!