Today was a busy news day with a few wingers reportedly being available on the trade market. The Buffalo Sabres are in the market for impact wingers as the only true top-six winger currently on the roster is Sam Reinhart.
In particular, the Sabres need left-wingers. They have Reinhart and Kyle Okposo who can play on the right side. After trading Evander Kane at the trade deadline, the Sabres have been without a real top-six left winger.
The first big name of the day was an unexpected one. A report from Elliotte Freidman of Sportsnet indicated that Panarin informed the Columbus Blue Jackets that he didn’t have interest in discussing a contract extension at this time. As a result, the Blue Jackets were exploring the market for the 26-year-old Russian.
There is word today that Artemi Panarin has told CLB that he is not ready to consider an extension “at this time.” (UFA July 2019.) As a result, the Blue Jackets are testing the market for him.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 19, 2018
Panarin was traded to the Blue Jackets from the Chicago Blackhawks last offseason. One of the reasons was due to Blackhawks lack of confidence in being able to re-sign the scoring winger to an extension.
Now, Columbus finds themselves in a similar situation and is wise to at the very least test the market.
From a Sabres perspective, Panarin is exactly the type of winger they need. He’s an elite player with speed and scoring ability. He’s scored at least 27 goals in each of his three NHL seasons.
The drawback here is the calculated risk you take. At this point, it appears as though Panarin is set on hitting the open market next July. Things could change as the season goes on, but right now that’s the way it looks from the outside.
Combine that with the high price it’ll likely cost to acquire him. It seems like a little too much for the Sabres to attempt to pull off at this point.
While it would be exciting to see Panarin skate on the wing with Jack Eichel, at this time, it looks unlikely that comes to a reality.
The next forward to have his name surface in trade discussions yesterday was Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds. Like Panarin, he’s on the final year of his contract. He turns 30-years-old in August and carries a pretty good cap hit this season of $3.975 million.
Simmonds battled injuries from literally the opening night of last season and still managed to score 24 goals in 75 games. The previous three years he scored 31, 32 and 28.
The Ontario native isn’t the burner like Panarin but isn’t a slow skater either. He can be shifty and is strong on the forecheck. He would bring some toughness to the top of the Sabres lineup. Simmonds could gel with Eichel or in a second line role with Casey Mittelstadt or even Ryan O’Reilly if he’s still on the team.
He brings playoff experience and leadership that could go a long way in the Sabres dressing room.
The issue again is the contract situation. He’s basically a rental player unless the Sabres can convince him to sign an extension. Simmonds seems like a more likely option than Panarin, but perhaps not worth the risk of giving up the assets to acquire him with uncertainty in the near future.
The last player to hit the news yesterday isn’t that new of a name in Pittsburgh Penguins winger Phil Kessel. Josh Yohe of The Athletic reported that Kessel is not opposed to a trade out of Pittsburgh.
The Coyotes were mentioned as a possible destination with the ties to former Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet who is now the head coach in Arizona. However, at this point, the Coyotes are unwilling to take on the contract of Kessel.
Kessel will turn 31-years-old in October but is coming off a career year where he scored 34 goals and 92 points. He has four years remaining on his contract that carries a $6.8 million cap hit. Kessel also has a modified no-trade clause built into the contract in which he’s allowed to submit an eight-team list of places he’ll accept a trade.
While you would think the Sabres would not be on that eight-team list. You can’t overlook the connection between general manager Jason Botterill and his ties to the Penguins. He was a big part of the front office in Pittsburgh when they acquired Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The cost may not be that high if the Penguins are mainly looking to get rid of some salary. The caveat here is Kessel’s age and contract. He’ll be 34-years-old when his contract expires and is at the end of his prime.
Kessel is also an interesting personality, so you have to wonder if the Sabres want to bring that in at this time.
The Sabres without a doubt need to do something to address their depth on the wing. We’re still a few days from the NHL Draft where most of the trading activity takes place. We’ll see if any other names come up in the next few days.