We’re less than 24 hours from the NHL Trade Deadline and things are starting to heat up around the league. We have ourselves a Rasmus Ristolainen rumor in the last few hours to chew on and other big names around the league have come into focus after some moves in recent days.
I decided to put together a list of realistic players that the Sabres should explore by 3 PM tomorrow if they’re made available by their current team.
1. Chris Kreider | LW | New York Rangers
The 27-year-old forward is a really intriguing idea for the Sabres. He has speed, skill, can play at both ends, and knows how to put the puck in the net. Kreider would immediately fill in as the second line left-winger. He could be a great fit on the second line with Sam Reinhart and would give Casey Mittelstadt two legitimate top-six forwards.
Kreider is ranked third in the entire league in even-strength goals above replacement this season (15.2 GAR) and top 10 in the league in wins above replacement (2.7 WAR) according to Evolving Hockey.
He has one more year on his contract after this season with a $4.625 million AAV. His modified no-trade clause could be an issue for the Sabres if they’re on his 11-team no-trade list.
2. Jonathan Huberdeau | LW | Florida Panthers
The Panthers forward sounds like more a pipe dream at this point, but the rumors of him being available are still out there. He’s a super talented player that, like Kreider, could slot right in as a second-line left-winger on the Sabres.
If the Sabres acquired him it would be part of a big trade that would probably need to include a player like Rasmus Ristolainen going the other way.
Huberdeau has four years at $5.9 million AAV remaining on his contract.
3. Erik Cernak | RD | Tampa Bay Lightning
Cernak is a player who has jumped into view late with the Ristolainen to Tampa Bay rumors. The 21-year-old defender has good size (6’4” and 225 lbs.) and in only 38 games with the Lightning, this season has been very solid.
He was originally a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2015 NHL Draft. Cernak could be a solid replacement for Ristolainen and he also could be a good defender to pair to with Rasmus Dahlin for the future.
4. Jason Zucker | LW/RW | Minnesota Wild
The 27-year-old winger could be the next player shipped out of Minnesota after Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle was moved in the last month. Zucker had a really strong season for the Wild last year. After 33 goals and 64 points last season, he’s on pace for 19 goals and 41 points this season.
Zucker could be a good buy-low option of the new general manager in Minnesota, Paul Fenton, is looking to move out some core players from the previous regime. He has four years remaining on his contract after this season with a $5.5 million AAV.
5. Jared Spurgeon | RD | Minnesota Wild
Sticking with the Wild, Spurgeon, is an underrated player to target that could be on the move. While he may not fit Jason Botterill’s preferred age group (29-years-old), he has had a great season for the Wild.
He’s near the top of the league in even strength GAR among defensemen and is a productive player with 12 goals and 37 points in 62 games this season.
Spurgeon has one more year after this season left on his contract with a $5.187 million AAV. He also has a modified no-trade clause that could prohibit any interest the Sabres have in the defender.
Beyond these five, there are a few other honorable mentions the Sabres could be wise to explore. Anaheim Ducks defenders Josh Manson and Brandon Montour are two such examples.
Forwards Tyler Toffoli and Anthony Cirelli are two other players that could be on their list of targets prior to the deadline.
We’ll see what happens in the next day and if the Sabres end up acquiring any of these aforementioned players. It’s also possible they watch this deadline come and go without making any moves of significance.