Jason Botterill apparently decided he’s had enough with the poor performance of his club this season. He spent his morning shuffling the Buffalo Sabres roster to try to get a spark. So far, we’ve seen Evan Rodrigues recalled from Rochester, Matt Moulson waived and a trade for Scott Wilson.
We also have reports from the weekend from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet that everyone on the team is available except for Jack Eichel. Then this morning we had Darren Dreger tweeting that teams were calling to inquire about goaltenders Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson. Things are certainly starting to heat up around the Sabres as they have six wins in 27 games and sit alone at the bottom of the NHL standings.
So, since we appear to be headed for a fire sale and big changes to the roster I thought I’d break down the different levels of tradeable or in some cases untradeable players on the roster currently.
This list is pretty simple. It starts and ends with Eichel. I know, some people think that the 21-year-old shouldn’t be held to such a high standard, but come on let’s be realistic. He’s the best player on this roster and cornerstone of the franchise. He’s not going anywhere.
Personally, I’d also consider putting defenseman Marco Scandella in this category too. The Sabres just acquired him and he’s played well after a tough first few weeks. Also, his $4 million cap hit for the next two seasons is a nice bargain for a legitimate top four, if not top pair defenseman.
Better be a Good Return
These players are ones that I wouldn’t be opposed to listening to offers on, but the return needs to be good. I’ll start here with defender Rasmus Ristolainen. It’s been another up and down year for the Finnish native. Ristolainen is only 23-years-old and the Sabres don’t really have a lot on the blue line in the system besides Brendan Guhle. I wouldn’t be in a rush to move him.
Sam Reinhart is barely hanging around in this category. He’s having a really difficult season and has been demoted to the fourth line. His value is perhaps at its lowest point right now. The Sabres may be wise to hang onto the former second overall pick and see if he can turn things around. Then they can re-evaluate moving him in the offseason or perhaps the trade deadline if his value increases.
Another player that is just barely in this category is Ryan O’Reilly. I still have faith in the top six center that he can be a useful piece moving forward. He’s been inconsistent this season, but at the end of the day, O’Reilly is the type of player who’ll end up with 50 points when the season is over.
Also, his contract with a cap hit of $7.5 million for the next five years makes it pretty hard to find a trade that works. At this point, the Sabres just need to hope he finds some consistency and remains a productive player moving forward.
Big Trade Assets
Only one player really occupy’s this category as a coveted trade piece by other teams. That player is Evander Kane. The 26-year-old winger is hands down the top trade piece on the roster. While it might not be a bad idea to hang onto him as a piece to build around moving forward. The most responsible thing for the future of the franchise is to move him by the trade deadline.
A lot of teams are interested in picking up Kane to add a scoring punch for their playoff runs. I didn’t think it would be possible for the Sabres to turn the Vancouver native into a first-round pick, but that has become a real possibility now.
Middle of the Road Assets
Quite a few players fall into this category. They are Josh Gorges, Robin Lehner, Chad Johnson, Jake McCabe, Nathan Beaulieu and Benoit Pouliot. As I mentioned there’s already talk about one of either Johnson or Lehner being moved in the near future. While Lehner really hasn’t been an issue, it seems that the new management group wants to begin a transition to Linus Ullmark between the pipes.
Gorges could be a player that some teams look to bring in as a veteran presence and depth in a sixth or seventh defenseman role. Pouliot is often forgotten about when it comes to players that could move. He’s had some flashes of good play but is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. A team should be interested in his services as a depth addition come the deadline.
This is perhaps our favorite group because it’s the players we love to complain about. They don’t give the team much on the ice right now and their contracts are nearly impossible to trade. Since Moulson is gone, I’ll start with Kyle Okposo who may be stepping into the spotlight vacated by Moulson. Okposo has five years remaining on his deal with a $6 million cap hit. He also carries a full no-movement clause this season and next. Three goals and 11 points in 25 games don’t have teams around the league eager to convince him to waive it for a trade to their city.
Next up is blueliner Zach Bogosian. The 27-year-old just made his season debut on Friday after dealing with another injury that forced him to miss at least 20 games. Bogosian has two years left with a $5.142 million cap hit. It’s possible you could entice a team into taking Bogosian if you are open to eating some salary. He’s a good skater and a physical presence in the lineup. His injury history continues to pop up and the Sabres end up only getting a fully healthy player for about 25 to 30 games of an 82 game season.
Last, but not least is Jason Pominville. He has one year remaining on his contract with a $5.6 million cap hit. The 35-year-old forward will likely be kept around as a leader and fan favorite until his contract expires at the end of next season.
Take What You Can Get, If Anything
We’ve made our way to our final category. The players who are providing nearly nothing to the Sabres and likely don’t have much interest from other teams around the league.
Johan Larsson is up first here. He has been one of the more disappointing players on the roster this season. The past two years we saw flashes of what looked like a pretty good third or fourth line center on a deep team. He’s been unnoticeable for the majority of this season. One goal and four points in 27 games are pretty poor for a player we saw six goals and 11 points from in 36 games last season. Larsson is one of the few players who may have thrived in Dan Bylsma’s system.
Larsson now is in danger of being a healthy scratch with the addition of Wilson. As is Zemgus Girgensons. I expected a bounce-back season from the Latvian native with a clean slate from a new management group and a new system. However, it’s been the same Girgensons we’ve seen the past few years. He goes through games without being noticed and only has three points in 24 games.
Both Larsson and Girgensons have one year remaining on their contracts after this season, but both are on the verge of being sat in the press box. Perhaps even being waived if a trade cannot be worked out.