Buffalo Sabres May Have Found A Trading Partner For All That Defensive Depth
With all due respect to my colleague Andy, the Sabres have the perfect opportunity to find a trading partner for all of that defensive depth they have. The Flyers recently just tried to acquire Nashville's Shea Weber through an offer sheet, but were denied by the Predators as they matched the sheet. That means the Flyers are still looking for that solid top four defenseman they need heading into this season. Just to give an idea of how the Flyers stand, here is Broad Street Hockey's Travis Hughes explaining the situation:
But the Flyers still have a problem. A pretty big one, if you ask me. Chris Pronger's career is likely over thanks to concussion problems that don't seem to be going away. Kimmo Timonen's career is almost over as well, and it's possible the Flyers only get one more season out of him. Matt Carle is no longer with the organization.
Braydon Coburn is still on the upswing of his career, but can he hold down the top pairing as a No. 1 guy? How many more minutes can the Flyers get out of him per game, anyway? Andrej Meszaros has been mostly a third pairing guy over the last two seasons with the Flyers. How much more will they get out of him?
The Flyers need to get an established defenseman that can lead this core of young defensemen next season. The Sabres have a plethora of defensemen to be able to make a deal and with the number of quality forwards on the market starting to dwindle, a deal with the Flyers could make sense for both teams.
Follow the jump for my trading tiers.
The Sabres have a bunch of bottom six and AHL defensemen that the Flyers could have interest in but most likely won't gather what the Sabres are looking for. That includes Mike Weber, Alexander Sulzer, and Adam Pardy. These players are going to serve the Sabres well with defensive depth, but they are just going to add more to the Flyers issue rather than getting the major haul the Sabres would want.
If the Flyers are looking for a project or two to be able to bolster the defense, the Sabres have that covered too. Players with NHL experience such as Brayden McNabb and TJ Brennan that may evolve into top four defensemen at some point but are going to need a few years to develop into that role. Mark Pysyk and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc are quality defensive prospects, but they are also getting their first chance to play in the AHL this season. There are major question marks on what they will look like facing NHL forwards.
Harder to Trade Defensemen
The Sabres have no real untouchable defensemen on their roster, but a handful that are going to be harder to move. Tyler Myers, Robyn Regehr, and Christian Ehrhoff all have no-movement clauses in their contract that allows them to dictate whether they want to be traded or not. Regehr is on the opposite end of his career arc and is probably going to be less likely to want to move again after being traded from Calgary last offseason.
Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers both recently signed new contracts and while they would be able to bring back much bigger offensive prospects, their no-movement clauses means that they control their fate as compared to the team dictating their fate.
Defensemen on the Trading Block
That leaves the Sabres with two defensemen that can feasibly be traded. One gives the trading team a short-term prospects and the other with a long-term solution.
Jordan Leopold has one year left on his contract which comes with a $3 million cap hit. Over the course of his career, Leopold has played a total of 586 games over the course of nine NHL seasons and has scored 63 goals and 194 points. Over the last two seasons though, Leopold has had some of his best career seasons with 24 points (10+14) over 79 games last year and a career high 35 points (13+22) during the 2010-11 season. Leopold has had three ten goal seasons in his career with two of them coming over the last two seasons. Leopold is 32 years old, so his long-term prospects aren't promising, but Leopold could help a team over the next two or three seasons.
Andrej Sekera gives a franchise a decent young defenseman that comes in at a relatively inexpensive cap hit of $2.75 million over the next three seasons. At 26, Sekera has already played in 302 games over six seasons. While not having as high of a point/game ratio as Jordan Leopold, Sekera has 80 points (15+65) in his career and is starting to grow into his own as a defensive defenseman. Paired often with Robyn Regehr, Sekera had one of the lower offensive zone start percentages on the team at 48.9%. He also had one of the highest quality of competition metrics on the team behind defensive partner Robyn Regehr.
As the summer drags on, the Sabres are running out of pieces to easily pick up to fill in that scoring forward role the team so desperately needs. That leaves making a trade as one of the few options the team will have if they want to improve this summer. General Manager Darcy Regier has definitely stockpiled some defensive depth to make a trade work and may find some trading partners as the season gets closer.