It was announced by the New Jersey Devils before yesterday's game that former Sabre Henrik Tallinder had suffered an injury and would be a late scratch. Before they made the official announcement, many thought it was odd that he was pulled off the ice during the pre-game skate. What could have happened? Of course fans like to jump to conclusions, so the first thought that came to some people's minds was a trade.
It was kind of ironic that this would happen against the Sabres, because these days the Sabres could really use a guy like Tallinder in the lineup. Sure, he wasn't the biggest point producer on the team, however, that isn't really what this team needs right now. They need stability, a decent enough defensive defenseman. With the struggles they've had in their own end, couldn't Tallinder possibly give that group a shot in the arm?
Tallinder has played in 14 games this season for the Devils, scoring one goal and two assists. He's played more than 15 minutes in all but one game, including a game in which he played more than 20. Despite being on the ice for that amount of time, he's still has a positive +/- with a +1. Compare that to some of the Sabres defenseman: the Sabres overall haven't been as good as the Devils, and do give up more goals, but they've currently got Jordan Leopold with a -7, Tyler Myers with a -6, and Robyn Regehr and Andrej Sekera with -4.
If Tallinder was on this team, it could mean a ton for the play of previously mentioned Tyler Myers. Tallinder was Myers' defensive partner in his rookie season, when Myers played his best hockey. With Tallinder at his side Myers had 48 points, while without him he had 37, 23, and 4 so far this season. Both Tallinder and Myers were an impressive +13 in 2009-2010.
For much of the season, Tallinder has served as the sixth or seventh defenseman, so they should at least be interested in moving him. With today's market, it likely wouldn't cost much more than a third or fourth round pick. His salary could be a problem for the Sabres, as he makes $3,375,000, which is a hefty pricetag. When you remember that Leopold, who has looked incredibly shaky this season, makes 300,000 less it makes it sound a little bit better.
The Sabres have almost $5 million in cap space, meaning Tallinder could fit under the cap. However, it's likely the Sabres would want a little more flexibility than the $1 million they'd be left with. This is where the Sabres see if they could get one of their more expensive underachievers out the door. If someone is willing to take Leopold, Regehr, or Drew Stafford the Sabres should seriously consider it. Leopold seems like the best fit, because he at least has some reputation around the league for being able to score. This is his last year on contract so a competitor who would like to add one more defenseman before the playoffs could be a good fit. Then the Sabres would basically have Tallinder at the same price tag for the one more year in his contact.
The move could be a low risk, high reward move for the Buffalo Sabres. It could save Myers from his awful play and overall help the defensive unit or it could do nothing. If it doesn't help, the Sabres didn't have to give up that much to get him and they'd just let him walk at the end of next season.
Even if the move isn't getting Tallinder, they'll likely be some sort of movement from the Sabres if they continue to sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference for much longer.