With the NHL trade deadline coming in just a few short weeks, the struggling Buffalo Sabres should be looking to make some moves. Although their playoff hopes are pretty much dashed at this point in this season, and things really aren’t looking great as a whole, there are definitely a handful of players that the team could look to move in the coming weeks.
The first of those players: Rasmus Ristolainen. Ristolainen has been the subject of trade discussions in the past, but still finds himself in the blue and gold. He’s never requested a trade (to public knowledge), but many have brought him up as a potential candidate to be traded.
Ristolainen is certainly not the worst defenseman on the Sabres at this point (more about that in a bit), and although his contract may not be the most lucrative for a team to take on, any team looking for a defenseman who can play big minutes should be considering him.
Like pretty much any player out there, he has his good nights and bad nights. Ristolainen also has plenty of playing years ahead of him - after all, he’s only 25 - and could provide a boost for a team for years to come. Travis Yost also has a piece in The Buffalo News about why the Sabres need to trade Ristolainen before it’s too late, but you could argue that it’s already too late.
Another player the Sabres should look to move: Zach Bogosian. Bogosian requested a trade a while back, and quite frankly, he is not playing well (when he does play, that is.) Bogosian has been a source of frustration for Sabres fans for some time, and even after it came out that he reportedly requested a trade, he’s still here.
However, it’ll be quite challenging to find a new home for either of the aforementioned defensemen, particularly with Bogosian’s contract. In any case, the return for Buffalo would almost certainly be a disappointment; the question is, would that be any better or worse than having said player in the lineup?
Evan Rodrigues is another potential Sabres trade candidate. Like Bogosian, he also requested a trade. He also hasn’t produced substantially this season, has been a healthy scratch at times and hasn’t brought much of anything to the lineup on many nights.
Perhaps a little more of a dark horse for a trade candidate: Jimmy Vesey. Vesey has found himself on the top line (?!?!) as of late, and the 26-year-old Hobey Baker winner could find his offensive spark in another lineup. With the Sabres this season, he’s put up 18 points, including eight goals, in 53 games.
Of course, the problem lies not in having pieces to trade, but in finding teams who are willing and wanting to take these players. Many teams aren’t going to look at a player like Rodrigues and be lining up at your door, making lucrative offers in an attempt to acquire him. In all reality, trading someone like Rodrigues may mean prospects, draft picks or both are headed back the Sabres’ way. Shipping out Rodrigues, Bogosian or any other piece could also mean that the Sabres need to retain some of the cap hit. For a Buffalo team that isn’t exactly overflowing with cap space, that would obviously be less than ideal.
Teams may be more interested in depth players like Conor Sheary or Johan Larsson, as Ryan wrote in the recent FanPulse reaction piece.
Sheary, Vesey, Rodrigues, Larsson and Bogosian are all among those Sabres players who are set to become free agents this summer. Either way, the Sabres are almost certain to be sellers as we approach the trade deadline.