Draft Day Trades Turn Sabres Fans Envious

Looking back at the weekend that was, did Buffalo have the ability to make big moves?

The National Hockey League welcomed 217 new players into their brotherhood from multiple countries, leagues and ethnicities following the official completion of the 2019 NHL Entry Level Draft.

Despite the excitement surrounding the annual influx of new talent, many found themselves vastly underwhelmed once the final buzzer sounded.

Buffalo Sabres fans in particular found themselves looking into numerous potential trade partners, chomping at the bit to get Jason Botterill’s “roster surgery” on the operating table.

What appeared to upset most were what the trades themselves included.

Whenever a trade or free agent signing is consummated, the immediate thought is – could the Sabres have pulled that off?

Could the Sabres have traded a late round pick and subsequently hand out a 50 million dollar contract? Sure. Does it make sense for the organization? That is where the real inquiry lies.

This weekend brought us trades that included Patrick Marleau, P.K. Subban and J.T. Miller.

Patrick Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes

What is the deal?
This deal is a win for all parties involved.

Toronto gets much needed salary cap relief.

With 16 players currently under contract, two restricted free agents reportedly close to deals (Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen) and a third restricted free agent (Mitch Marner) looking for a big ticket – salary cap relief is crucial for the Maple Leafs.

Marleau’s $6.25 million cap hit is no big deal for the Hurricanes, who currently has a projected cap space of over $21 million.

It is likely that the Hurricanes will buy Marleau out, which would allow him to complete the reported move that has him returning to the San Jose Sharks on a deal with a smaller salary.

Carolina gets themselves a big pat on the back for being such a good friend to the Maple Leafs, in the form of a first and seventh round pick.

Could Buffalo have made this move?
Buffalo currently has an estimated $18.915 million in cap space available with 16 players under contract next season.

The Sabres could have picked Marleau up and bought him out but the tables then turn back to Toronto.

Would the Maple Leafs have dealt Marleau in their own division and subsequently give up a first round draft pick to make it happen?

The biggest intra-division trade Kyle Dubas has made since becoming general manager? Acquiring Mike Babcock for a third round pick.

Safe to say, there was a method to the madness here.

P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils

What is the deal?
Safe to say that this was the biggest trade of the weekend, just based off of Subban’s name recognition alone.

P.K. Subban has long since been one of the most recognizable and most outspoken players in the National Hockey League.

Some teams believe it is a blessing, others believe it is a curse. This is how Subban ended up in Nashville in the first place.

In 63 games last season, Subban remained as much of an offensive threat as in seasons past, despite only amassing 31 points.

When speaking following the trade on Saturday, Nashville Predators general manager David Poile confirmed the many suspicions surrounding this headscratcher of a deal.

”In this day and age, there’s certain things that need to happen in a cap era. Our team was trending in a certain way with our contracts that we needed to make some decisions. That’s what we did today.”

Could Buffalo have made this move?
The numbers certainly make sense.

As mentioned above, Buffalo currently has an estimated $18.915 million in cap space available with 16 players under contract next season.

Buffalo has $21,917,857 committed to their defense next season and a Subban move would have pushed Buffalo to almost $31 million committed on the back end.

With that being said, a few bulky defensive contracts (Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella, Matt Hunwick) roll off the books after next season.

That does not seem to be a deal breaker there.

Would Jason Botterill feel comfortable paying Subban $9 million for the next three seasons? That is a question we will never know the answer to.

Following the trade announcement, New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero made a great argument as to why the made the deal.

As reported on by our sister site, On the Forecheck, David Poile confirmed that of the four teams to make offers, the Devils were the only team able to take on Subban’s entire contract.

This move for New Jersey was about taking a shot with the young, talented roster they have. Whether this is a move to win with Taylor Hall before he leaves or a move to convince Taylor Hall to stay, the Devils are in prime position to be back in the Stanley Cup playoffs next season.

J.T. Miller to the Vancouver Canucks

What is the deal?
Vancouver gets a 26-year old power forward that will be able to step into their top six and immediately play important minutes.

Miller put up an impressive 47 points in 75 games for a very talented Tampa Bay Lighting squad last season.

The reason Miller was dealt is the same reason P.K. Subban was dealt – money.

Tampa Bay found themselves in a bit of a salary cap crunch with the likes of Brayden Point up for a new contract.

The return for Miller was also a nice little get for the Lightning – a conditional 2020 first round pick, a 2019 third round pick and rights to goaltender Marek Mazanec.

Could Buffalo have made this move?
A move like this would have benefitted the Buffalo Sabres in a multitude of ways.

Last February, leading up to the trade deadline, Miller was mocked in deals to Buffalo for defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen

The rumblings did not quiet down as the season progressed.

Miller would likely have slotted in on the second line with Sam Reinhart flanking him, allowing the Sabres to take pressure off of Casey Mittlestadt.

An equivalent trade could have taken the same shape as Vancouver’s deal but is Jason Botterill really willing to part with a future first round pick with his organization hurting for developing talent?

For now, Buffalo goes back to the drawing board.

As we continue to learn the way of Jason Botterill, the “roster surgery” statement he made might have been more lip-service than he actually intended for.

The draft is in the books and the free agency tampering period has already begun – all eyes are on Jason Botterill.

This offseason roster surgery is looking less like a major, life-saving surgery and starting to look more like a minimally invasive cleanup.