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A Triad of Potential Sabres Trade Targets

With the trade deadline a few months away, the Sabres will likely be buyers this year

NHL: Calgary Flames at Minnesota Wild David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret the Buffalo Sabres’ forward group needs a spark. The secondary scoring group of Casey Mittelstadt, Conor Sheary, Kyle Okposo, Tage Thompson and company are just not cutting it. And while the top line continues to make things irrationally top-heavy, moves will have to be made in the new year to balance out the seesaw.

While it is pretty apparent the Sabres will dip into the farm to see what C.J. Smith, Alex Nylander, and/or Victor Olofsson may provide, the reality is that some proven NHL scoring needs to be acquired to resolve the club’s secondary scoring woes.

Trades are tricky to predict. What we do know is GM Jason Botterill is not willing to sacrifice the future for immediate needs. This likely rules out high picks and prospects being shipped out for a rental player, and leans the Sabres in the direction of acquiring a younger player with some term left on the contract.

While it is easy to say the Sabres should target this or that guy, it takes two to tango, as they say. So who are some of Botterill’s potential dance partners? Who are their best gems available? Let’s take a peek:

Nino Niederreiter, LW/RW, Minnesota Wild

Why potentially available?

The Minnesota Wild are unraveling. A strong start for the team has been compromised with poor play as of late, sending them racing the Buffalo Sabres down the double-slide at the playground. Unlike Buffalo, however, the Wild are currently out of a playoff spot and falling farther and farther down the Western Conference standings.

As for Niederreiter’s availability, the Swiss forward has consistently found himself playing on the Wild’s 3rd line this year. With a 5.25 million-a-year cap hit, not a lot of cap space, and Eric Staal’s steal-of-a-contract up at the end of the season, the Wild may tempted to clear Niederreiter’s contract off the books.

Why Niederreiter?

He’s 26-years-old. Despite having three years left on his deal after this season, Nino is young enough that his contract and production should remain a match. He’s been a strong corsi player since arriving in Minnesota, with a 53 Corsi-for percentage. The Sabres would also be adding .52 point-per-game player in that time, and one that is a plus-48 in expected goals for minus expected goals against when he is on the ice during his time in Minnesota.

Where does he fit?

Niederreiter would slot right in immediately in the Sabres middle-six, as he would immediately be an upgrade on the right wing over Kyle Okposo, Jason Pominville, and Tage Thompson. Niederreiter is a complete player that can also contribute to the second powerplay unit and the penalty kill. Sabres fans may remember him well, as his only two career hat-tricks have come against the club.

What will it cost?

A player of Nino’s caliber will not come cheap. A good prospect and a 2nd or 3rd round pick would be my best guess.

Tyler Toffoli, RW, Los Angeles Kings

Why potentially available?

A change is needed in Los Angeles. The team’s stars have aged, and the team’s pace of play is amongst the slowest in the NHL. The once corsi powerhouse has now found themselves bringing up the rear in the Western Conference. As another 26-year-old, Toffoli is the lone piece on the Kings roster currently that could be dangled for a pretty decent return. His $4.6 million a year cap hit for this season and next would help clear up things for a Kings team that is in a tough bind cap-wise.

Why Toffoli?

Scoring. The Sabres need it, Toffoli has it. His .28 goals per game would slot him right ahead of anyone on the Sabres roster not named Jeff Skinner. The shooter’s career corsi-for percentage in an impressive 56.1%. Like Niederreiter, Toffoli has a positive impact on his team, as his career expected goals plus/minus when he is on the ice is at plus-36.4.

Where does he fit?

Toffoli would immediately improve the Sabres’ second line. He would be a strong candidate to skate with Mittelstadt and Sheary. He would also improve the powerplay as well, whether it be with the top unit or the second. He’s also been used on the penalty kill as well, and has two shorthanded goals to his name.

What will it cost?

Toffoli’s goal totals would likely raise the price a bit more than Niederreiter, and he’s definitely a solution and not the problem in Los Angeles. So, to get him, you’d probably have to blow away the Kings with the deal. That likely means parting with a first-round pick, among some other pieces.

Jaden Schwartz, C/LW, St. Louis Blues

Why potentially available?

The Blues made it clear that they will listen to offers on all players. While this has prompted many fans to dream about Vladimir Tarasenko, it is much more likely a deal could be swung for the lesser-heralded - but almost as productive - Schwartz.

Why Schwartz?

Schwartz has been a key component of St. Louis’ offensive production. He is a career .71 point-per-game producer, which translates to roughly 58 points per season. While his production has dipped bit this year, he is coming off his best season where he had 59 points in 62 games. He carries a strong career Corsi-for percentage of 54, and his expected goals plus-minus is plus-28 over the past 5 seasons.

Where does he fit?

While Schwartz has mostly played on the wing with Tarasenko, the 26-year-old also has played center in his career. The position flexibility could help ease some of the burden on Mittelstadt. Schwartz would immediately slot in on the second line, powerplay, and can be used in any and all situations.

What will it cost?

It should cost a pretty penny to acquire a player like Schwartz. Surely the Blues would like to acquire high draft picks if they intend to rebuild. Perhaps Blues GM Doug Armstrong would desire his own team’s first round pick back? That would be a strong starting point in discussions.

Each of these three players could play a key role in making sure the Sabres hold on to a playoff spot come April. Offering more than a band-aid to an open wound, the Sabres’ desperately need a transaction that can turn into a pretender into a contender.