One trade and Free Agent Signing the Sabres Should Make the Offseason

For the Sabres to take a step next season and close the gap on a wild card spot, they need to not only see growth from the young guys, they also need to also improve in the detail oriented aspects of the game. The Sabres last in the league last season in hits, and in the faceoff dot, as well as 31st in blocked shots.

What this tells me is that the Sabres need to improve in the complementary aspects of the game to the skill component. They need to close the gap by acquiring guys who can help with the "little things" of the game.

The Sabres were respectable on the power play, ranking 16th in the league, but there is room for improvement there, however, the penalty kill came in at 23rd last season. The Sabres have struggled badly on the penalty kill for the past three seasons ranking 30th in 2019-20, and 26th in 2020-21. They did improve on the kill, but they still need more out of that unit. So with the offseason right around the corner, the Sabres will likely continue to look to make additions to the roster to push this team closer to a wild card spot.

Top Trade Option: Buffalo acquires RHD Sean Durzi, and LW Alex Iafallo from the Los Angeles Kings for LW/RW Victor Olafsson and LHD Ryan Johnson, pick 41

Generally when there is a team looking for a need, it’s best to look at the spots which have most to offer, and in terms of right handed defenseman, the Los Angeles Kings have several. The Kings have the biggest logjam at the position in the National Hockey League. They possess: Drew Doughty, Matt Roy, Sean Durzi, Jordan Spence, and Sean Walker as guys who are capable of being on their main roster at the moment. In their farm system, they have: Swedish defenseman, Helge Grans, University of Minnesota Defenseman Brock Faber, and because they have so many right handed defenseman, it’s easy to forget that they also have former eight overall pick from the Barrie Colts: Brandt Clarke.

On the left side, the Kings are a little shallower. They have Mikey Anderson and Tobias Bjornfoot under contract, however, Alexander Edler and Olli Maata are both unrestricted free agents, and the team could look for upgrades.

At some point, the Kings are going to need to move somebody off that right side, especially with Brandt Clarke potentially arriving in a couple years. And by the way, let me just say, kudos to the Los Angeles Kings for accumulating an embarrassment of riches at center, and right defense, the two positions that carry the value in any trade in the league.

Having said that, there is something to be done here between these two teams.

I think the Kings would like to move Sean Walker first, however, he’s coming off a torn ACL and MCL, and it may tough for them to get full value for him, although there will be interested parties for sure. The Kings still have the ability to send Jordan Spence to the minors, so I think he’s safe as well. Sean Durzi on the other hand, is the guy who would fetch the most in a trade. It’s easy to love what he does: good vision, puck control, the ability to play on the power play, and he’s not just an offensive d-man, he’s responsible defensively. He can play in all situations. He put up 27 points in 64 games last season, and stepped up in a big way when the team lost Drew Doughty, Matt Roy, and Sean Walker to injury. Most importantly, Durzi is a fit for the aggressive style Don Granato wants to play.

The Kings do this deal because Olafsson helps them offensively, as well as on the power play. They also acquire California native Ryan Johnson in this trade to bolster their left side defense prospect pool. Johnson’s father, Craig, also works for the organization as well in player development, and there have been rumors of Johnson passing on the Sabres for the Kings. If that were to happen, Buffalo or any team that trades for him would receive a compensatory second round pick in the 60’s. I have a feeling that the Sabres will see Johnson as a late first round pick in this trade, but most teams are more likely to value him as a second rounder. The toss up here for me is, do I send pick 28, or is 41 good enough? Given that Johnson could play in the NHL right now, and is a solid prospect, and because he's close to helping a team like the Kings, I think it's more than a good enough offer to include Johnson. I also thought about a scenerio where maybe I do Iafallo, Durzi, and pick 51 for Olafsson, pick 28, and Johnson, which would be another scenario i'd be ok with. If there is one key thing to take away from this, it's that I have a feeling Kevyn Adams may be very hesitant to trade any of this first round picks, and even his second rounders, mainly because, I think he wants to do the opposite of what his predecessors did. I think Adams is going to want to keep the cupboard well stocked, and I am expecting him to make the majority of his four firsts and four seconds over the next two seasons. Adams has done a great job of accumulating draft picks and young assets, so I don't think he's going to want to give much away. The Ryan Johnson dilemma is interesting, and it is a dilemma as a former first round pick who could become an unrestricted free agent, so in terms of talking to the Los Angeles Kings for a trade, given that he is likely to sign there, it's an interesting partner for a variety of reasons. I think Durzi is a good young player with tremendous upside, but I question on if he's worth the 28th overall pick and a top prospect like Johnson. I have Olafsson for Iafallo as a 1 for 1 hockey trade and a wash when talking about that component. For the rest, It's kind of a similar package to the Brandon Montour deal, when we sent a late first and Brendan Guhle away. That may scare some people off, but Montour also played some of the heaviest even strength minutes under Kreuger when he was here, but almost never saw any power play time. Montour came into a right handed defenseman log jam, but Durzi would be coming into a scenario where we need RHD. We also now have a coach who wants to play an exciting aggressive system, on that Montour would have fit into under Granato, and the Durzi would fit into now.

Johnson may see it much tougher for him in Buffalo with Dahlin, Power, and Sammuelson on the left side, as well as Bryson (although I traded him in this scenario). There’s no hate for Ryan Johnson here, if this is the case, I get where he’s coming from. But then Kevyn Adams needs to manage these assets better than his predecessor. Long term the Sabres are set at left defense on the immediate roster however, they will need to start replenishing their prospect pool depth soon, as they are running thin in the pool on both sides. For Olafsson, many (like Paul Hamilton) may say he’s a one trick pony. But I say, that’s still a pretty nice trick. However, the reason I want to move on from Olafsson in this scenario, is because I want to do something different with my roster. I feel really good about the skilled young guys currently on the roster and in the organization, and Jack Quinn and J.J Peterka are both knocking on the door of the NHL. Quinn can do a lot of what Olafsson does, but possesses better two-way ability. Moving Olafsson opens up the door a little wider for Quinn.

For the Sabres, they acquired hometown local product, Alex Iafallo, who is an excellent defensive forward, and one of the Kings primary penalty killers. Iafallo is capable of putting the puck in the net in a supporting role, but Olafsson is more of a weapon on the power play, and a sniper that the Kings really don’t have enough of in their lineup.

I would envision Iafallo massively improving the Sabres third line, and providing a boost to the penalty kill. He’s also signed for three years at four million. Offensively, the production hasn’t been there for Iafallo, In Buffalo, I want Iafallo for his defensive and penalty killing abilities with the ability to chip in 15-20 goals in a supporting veteran role for a young team.

Unrestricted Free Agent Targets Top Target: LW/C Nick Paul, Tampa Bay Lightning

Obviously a goaltender will be very high on the list, and im hopeful the Sabres will add one in the offseason. I do think the Sabres will attempt to talk to Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury has had some of his former Vegas teammates here such as Tuch, Subban, Eakin, and Miller, and he's familar with Jason Karmanos and Sam Ventura. I think they will value his experience as a mentor, and his locker room presence and charachter. However, they may talk to him and reach out, but they may have to over pay if they have a shot at making it happen. I think someone like Braden Holtby would surely fit the bill for the kind of role Buffalo needs.

The Sabres need to add more size and toughness to the lineup, as well as at forward.
Nick Paul would be my primary offseason free agent target. For the Lightning, he’s proven to be a valuable third line center, and can play up and down the lineup. He brings great size to the lineup at 6’3 225 pounds, and is good in the faceoff circle winning 50.8% of draws. He’s big, strong, tough, and can play in a variety of different situations. I think he gets a four to five year deal for north of 3.5 million per year. As a key role player to bring in the grit and physicality, it would be an excellent signing. One guy who I immediately thought of for such a role was Mason Marchment from the Florida Panthers. However, I feel with Marchment, because of his size (6'4, 210lbs), and the fact that he was on a 70 point pace in Florida last season, someone might overpay for his services by giving him north of four million over five years, and will be a cap dump halfway through the deal. With only one year of production to his resume, it would be too risky to bring him in.

P.K Subban is a guy a lot of people have mentioned as a person to take a look at for the Sabres. The obvious link is the fact that Malcom Subban is with the organization, and although he's also a UFA, he's a guy the Sabres could bring back as the number three goalie. The problem with P.K Subban however, is that he's not the guy he was Montreal or Nashville. He's lost a step. He's actually lost a few steps. He needs to be in a lesser role to be effective, he's no longer a 20 minute a night defenseman at age 33. But then again, Don Granato found a way to revive the careers of Kyle Okposo and Jeff Skinner, both of whom were left for dead, it's possible he could do the same for Subban. I don't have a problem with bringing in Subban, but he's not a big minute defenseman anymore, he lost a lot of his power play time last year, and I think last year, he did improve in a lesser role, but he also realized he can't do a lot of the things he used to and it shows in. At this stage of his career, he's a bottom pair defenseman, who can fill in for an injury to a top four guy. The Sabres should not bring him in with the intention of being a top four guy. They need to look elsewhere for that. As for depth options, if the Sabres wanted to bring back Cody Eakin, I would be in favor of that, but at this stage of his career, it would likely be for the 13th forward role, and his defensive and faceoff capabilities.

This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.