The NHL trade deadline is a week from today. Teams are beginning to determine if they’re officially going to be buyers or sellers. We’ve seen a few trades already take place, including two by the New Jersey Devils yesterday.
After a win last night, the Sabres find themselves eight points out of a playoff spot. The chances of them getting into playoffs are a long shot, to be polite. So, what does Jason Botterill do by next week’s deadline? It’s possible he could be a buyer and a seller. He could sell some unrestricted free agents and acquire a player to help now, as well as in the future.
Trade Partners Again?
One team to keep an eye on over the next week is the Vegas Golden Knights. Sources have indicated to me that the Sabres and Golden Knights have been discussing trade scenarios for a while now. The two sides got together in the summer to complete the Colin Miller trade.
We know that Botterill has been searching for help at forward for some time. While the Knights, on the other hand, are searching hard to find some help on defense. In particular, they’re looking for a right-shot defenseman. The Sabres just so happen to have an abundance of right-shot blueliners. We’ve heard Rasmus Ristolainen and Brandon Montour be mentioned in the last few weeks as pieces that could be used to get help at forward. Depending on how desperate Vegas is for help, they could be willing to part with one of their forwards to find that help in a “hockey trade.”
One name that I know has come up in talks is forward Jonathan Marchessault. The 29-year-old winger would be a welcomed addition to the Sabres top six if they were able to acquire him. He has four years remaining on his contract after this season with a $5 million cap hit. It should be noted that he carries a modified no-trade clause. He provides the Knights with an eight-team no-trade list. It’s unclear if that could block any type of deal involving Marchessault and the Sabres.
It would be an interesting move for Vegas to trade one of their top-six forwards in the middle of a playoff race, but if they’re desperate to add help on the blue line beyond this season, that may be what it takes. They have some depth up front and some prospects coming up like 2017 first-round pick Cody Glass.
Marchessault is a scoring winger the Sabres need. He’s scored at least 25 goals each of the last three years and is on a 30 goals per 82 game pace this season. The Quebec-born forward is a play-driving winger that plays with speed. He’s tied for second on the Golden Knights at expected goals per 60 minutes (0.97) at 5 on 5, according to Moneypuck.
He’s also one of the better players on the club in primary shot contributions at 5 on5 according to Corey Sznajder’s tracking data. As you can see below, not only is he a shooter, but he’s one of the better players in primary shot assists.
There are some other players other than Marchessault the Sabres could explore. They could try to pull 23-year-old Alex Tuch. The Syracuse-born winger is having a down year and has six years remaining on his contract after this season. However, his age and cap hit ($4.75 million) make that contract manageable.
He has some upside to his game offensively, but he’s a strong defensive player as well. Tuch could theoretically fit in nicely on the top line right wing with Jack Eichel if the Sabres want to move Sam Reinhart to another line to spread out the scoring.
The catch with Tuch is that he just went out with an upper-body injury. He’s listed as week-to-week and that may take him out of any trade discussion. On the flip side, the Sabres could add one of their upcoming free agent forwards to this deal to help the Knights replace Tuch in the lineup while he’s out.
The last option here isn’t a great idea, but Vegas may be looking to move on from him. That player is Cody Eakin. After a career-high in goals last season (22), The 28-year-old center only has four goals in 39 games this season. The writing was on the wall for a regression to the mean after he shot 18% and 6.8 goals above expected at 5 on 5 last season.
He’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He’s playing in a bottom-six role with Vegas this season and is nothing more than that. The Sabres are better off staying clear of him as the main piece in any potential trade scenario. If he’s added to be a cap dump that’s fine, but can’t be the big prize of the deal.
We’ll see if the two sides do end up coming together on a deal by next week’s deadline. They’ve been talking for some time now and seem like a match when you look at the needs of both clubs.
Hopefully, things are fun this week and we see some movement around the league because trades are fun.