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Charting the Sabres’ Trade Options

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Using Goals Above Replacement to look at the Sabres’ options on deadline day

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks
Adam Henrique has had a strong season for the struggling Anaheim Ducks
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the best Monday of the year, Sabres fans - trade deadline day! And while Jason Botterill has stated he will not mortgage the future for trade deadline rental players, there are still plenty of rumored names that will be available to the Buffalo Sabres at the right price. So, who should the Sabres go after? To find the answer, let’s dig into TSN’s trade bait list:

The above chart uses evolving-hockey.com’s Goals Above Replacement statistics, or GAR for short, to gauge a skater’s value in all aspects of a hockey game. The stat uses many variables to determine value in four categories – even strength, power-play, penalty-kill, and penalties drawn versus taken. To apply this data, I used the skaters on TSN’s trade bait list – minus the pending unrestricted free agents.

This eliminates Mark Stone, Artemi Panarin, and company as it is highly unlikely Botterill looks to acquire someone on an expiring contract per his previous comments. I did include the pending restricted free agents on the list, as the Sabres would control their rights heading into next season if acquired.

I also included the two current Sabres on the list, Nathan Beaulieu and Jeff Skinner, to weigh their potential value on the market. While some of the big names are out of contention, there are some pretty interesting and effective players rumored to be available.

Wingers

The highest GAR on this list is a Buffalo Sabre. Jeff Skinner comes in at a 14.9, due to his strong even strength play as well as his high percentage of penalties drawn versus taken. The New York RangersChris Kreider comes in a close second at 14.5 and would’ve led the group, if not for having taken too many penalties. Kreider’s value at even strength and on the power-play are stronger than Skinner’s, and one would have to think he would draw a big return (1st round pick, top prospect, +?).

Next up for the forwards is Kasperi Kapanen, who’s value may be a by-product of playing on a line with Auston Matthews for the majority of the year. Maple Leaf teammate Andreas Johnsson has also found success under similar circumstances.

Florida Panthers Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Huberdeau are proving to be successful despite being on a struggling team, although Hoffman’s worth is mostly through a potent one-timer on a strong power-play.

Speedster Jason Zucker is very useful at even strength. Alex Steen is aging with two more years at 5.75 left on his deal, but is still very effective.

The Lightning’s Ryan Callahan has been strong in his 4th line role. Nikolay Goldobin is an interesting talent, although he has been unable to take the next step and establish himself as a bonafide top-six winger. Jack Roslovic and Joshua Ho-Sang are young bargaining chips that their respective teams will likely use to acquire help for a playoff run. Andre Burakovsky may fall in that category as well, although he has fallen out of favor in Washington and could potentially be had in a separate deal.

Vladislav Namestnikov, Tobias Rieder, Mikkel Boedker, Markus Granlund, and Jesse Puljujarvi are all detrimental to their teams at even strength and should be an easy “no thanks” in trade discussions, with the exception of maybe taking a flyer on a glimmer of hope that Puljujarvi can turn things around and live up to his draft pedigree.

Centers

It is no secret that the Sabres need stronger production down the middle. To ease some of the burden for rookie Casey Mittlestadt, Jason Botterill should potentially look at center Adam Henrique. While Anaheim has struggled offensively this season, Henrique has displayed strong value at both even strength and on the power-play.

Alex Wennberg is a name that has collected a lot of buzz amongst Sabres fans, but while he’s been a slightly positive even strength player this season, his production has dropped drastically. He might be worth a flyer if he can be had for cheap.

Jeff Carter may be the biggest name at center on this list, but carries a cap hit north of 5 million per season for the next three at 34 years old. He has struggled mightily, along with the rest of the Kings, at even strength, and his strong value on the power-play is at the left flank, which is currently occupied by Sabres’ captain Jack Eichel.

Artem Anisimov is aging as well, and only provides value on the penalty-kill at this stage in his career. Luke Glendening is a relied-upon defensive depth forward for the Red Wings, but ironically has not been strong on the penalty-kill this season despite displaying even strength value.

Defense

Barring a surprise move today, the Sabres are likely to move forward without acquiring any help on the back-end. Their depth on defense has proven to be an organizational strength, and should remain that way even if Nathan Beaulieu receives his desired wish to be traded. Beaulieu has been a replacement-level player this season for the Sabres, with a current GAR of 0.

It should be noted that many playoff contenders value defensive depth heading late into the season, so it should be no surprise if someone comes calling with a mid-round pick as an offer. If the Carolina Hurricanes wish to acquire a forward, they will likely dangle one of their talented right-side defensemen in order to do so. Dougie Hamilton and Justin Faulk are the productive big-names, but somewhat surprisingly to some their most valuable target may be Brett Pesce. Pesce is a strong all-around defender and may be the best value pick-up by a team on deadline day.

On the contrary, if any team picks up Cody Ceci from the Ottawa Senators, that will likely by the worst value trade of the day. The other non-UFA defenseman rumored to be available is former playoff hero Alec Martinez, who has exhibited impressive value on a lowly Los Angeles team. If Martinez could be had for less than Jake Muzzin, his new team should be pleased.

The Low-Down

So, who may I recommend to Sabres GM Jason Botterill? I would dangle a prospect and a seconx rounder for Adam Henrique, and possibly upgrade the second to a first to seal the deal. Anaheim is in quite the salary cap bind, and Henrique’s new deal kicks in next season at 5.825 million for five years.

He is 29, so the Sabres may bear some tough later years of the deal if he begins to drop off, but Henrique is the type of player that could contribute immediately to a playoff push while also providing a steadying veteran presence this year and beyond.

If that can’t get done, Kreider and Huberdeau would be high-priced targets to pursue to make a big splash. Kapanen and Johnsson might be a shade cheaper in trade-value, and just as effective. Hoffman would take a nice ransom, but has a scoring touch on the off-wing and can fill a hole on the right flank on the power-play. Zucker would benefit any team’s top six in a solid deal.

As far a low-key good acquisition, I would recommend Botterill looks at Burakovsky or Goldobin. It may only take a second round pick to acquire either one, and I would consider that a strong pick-up. Wennberg’s an interesting case, because, with four more years at $4.9 million per year left on his deal, his price may be driven down immensely just to dump the salary.

Plus, Columbus is on a tear acquiring players at the deadline, and Wennberg may no longer have a role on the current roster. I would dangle a mid-round pick out there, and see how Columbus responds. Wennberg has been a solid playmaker when given the opportunity to play with talent, and could bounce back to his early form.