I have been a believer in this Buffalo Sabres team for the last three years and I still believe they have most of the pieces of a Stanley Cup contender. With their play in recent weeks it has become obvious that the key parts are in place but they need some complimentary players to improve the team at the deadline.
If we want to figure out what players they should target at the trade deadline we need to decide the biggest weaknesses on the team. There is no real consensus among Sabres fans as to what the biggest need on the team really is.
Some of you have targeted a quarterback for the power play and others don't think Henrik Tallinder and Tyler Myers can be a shutdown defensive pair in the playoffs. Still others feel the offense is the problem and the top six forwards aren't good enough to score big goals. There are many opinions on the Sabres needs and that talk has increased with the recent five game winless streak.
This team does not need a major shakeup. They have a few missing pieces that could be used to compliment the talent that is already in the room. I see the biggest need on the third line. A couple of pieces to compliment the hard work and toughness of Mike Grier.
Tim Kennedy was fine in the beginning of the season, and he will be in the future, but it's easy to see his struggles as the race to playoffs has begun. Paul Gaustad is a valuable part of the team but he is nothing more than an overpriced fourth liner, his deficiencies are apparent when he is forced onto the third line. Don't get me started on Clarke MacArthur. I defended him against all the naysayers and he has been a liability to this team over the last couple of months. There is not a defensive bone in his body and his offense leaves a little to be desired.
The biggest need for the team is a third line left winger and a third line center. I'm not opposed to improving the defense but I think the players on the roster can do the job with Ryan Miller playing behind them. Miller has struggled some in recent weeks but when he finds his game the defensive worries will be put to rest.
Keep in mind the first trade deadline is Friday at 3 p.m. when there is a trade freeze for the Olympics and the real trade deadline on March 3.
Follow the jump for a look at players the Sabres might target.
Making trades this season might be difficult because there will probably be more buyers than sellers. There is an abundance of teams that are still in the playoff hunt and may not want to dump there assets. I have compiled a list of players that might be available for the Sabres to acquire.
Minnesota Wild - C-Eric Belanger, D-Marek Zidlicky, RW-Owen Nolan
NY Islanders - C-Doug Weight, D-Andy Sutton
Columbus Blue Jackets - LW RJ Umberger, LW- Raffi Torres, LW-Fredrick Modin
Edmonton Oilers - RW-Fernando Pisani, C-Mike Comrie, C-Andrew Cogliano, C-Gilbert Brule, D-Denis Grebeshkov
Florida Panthers - LW-Cory Stillman, C-Gregory Campbell, D-Dennis Seidenberg, D-Jordan Leopold
Carolina Hurricanes - LW-Ray Whitney, C-Matt Cullen, D-Joe Corvo, D-Aaron Ward
Toronto Maple Leafs - LW-Alexei Ponikarovsky, RW-Lee Stempniak
Phoenix Coyotes - C-Peter Mueller
Dallas Stars - LW-Steve Ott
Atlanta Thrashers - RW-Colby Armstrong
Players the Sabres Should Target
#23 / Left Wing / Toronto Maple Leafs
Apr 09, 1980
Salary Cap Number - $2.105 million
|2009 - Alexei Ponikarovsky||60||19||22||41||5||44||4||0||1||0||145||13.1|
Ponikarovsky is a big guy that would fit perfectly with the Sabres. He could play on the third line but he could also step in as a top six forward is necessary. He is a left wing but has known to play on the rights side at times when necessary. His versatility would be welcome when injuries strike in the playoffs.
#29 / Center / Dallas Stars
Aug 19, 1982
Salary Cap Number - $1.425 million
|2009 - Steve Ott||52||11||12||23||-13||100||4||0||2||0||108||10.2|
Ott would be the perfect fit on the Sabres third line. The Stars don't want to part with Ott but his salary demands have been too rich for the Stars and they might give in and move him for the right deal. Ott would bring the toughness that every Sabres fan has been clamoring for since time began. He can also contribute offensively which would help him fit in with Mike Grier on the third line.
#14 / Left Wing / Columbus Blue Jackets
Oct 08, 1981
Salary Cap Number - $2.25 million
|2009 - Raffi Torres||57||17||11||28||-8||30||7||0||3||0||94||18.1|
If the Sabres can't acquire Ott than Torres would be another fine addition to the Sabres third line. Torres is a hard nosed player that will battle in the corners and can contribute offensively. Sabres fans seen first hand the type of player he is when the Sabres were shutout in Columbus last week.
Honorable Mention Left Wingers: RJ Umberger (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ray Whitney (Carolina Hurricanes)
#25 / Center / Minnesota Wild
Dec 16, 1977
|2009 - Eric Belanger||58||13||21||34||0||26||3||0||3||0||113||11.5|
Belanger doesn't have the size that Sabres fans would like to see but he has offensive upside and his faceoff ability would be incredibly useful for the Sabres. Belanger is another player that contributes offensively but he is also responsible in his own zone and could compliment Grier on the third line.
#8 / Center / Carolina Hurricanes
Nov 02, 1976
|2009 - Matt Cullen||59||12||28||40||-1||26||1||2||1||0||135||8.9|
Cullen is more the type of player that Sabres fans would like to see in a Sabres uniform. He has the size to be a power forward and he can contribute in both the offensive and defensive zone. Although Cullen could be a perfect fit as a third line center he will not improve the Sabres faceoff abilities. He is under 50% on the season which would rank him along with the Sabres current players.
Honorable Mention Centers: Gilbert Brule (Edmonton Oilers), Peter Mueller (Phoenix Coyotes), Doug Weight (NY Islanders)