Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Four moves for the Sabres....

if GM Darcy Regier and the Sabres brass are willing to throw in the towel on the season.

That, of course, is a big "if."

The goal, in this blogger's eyes, is to add some center depth now and better position themselves for the draft  by trading movable players. Unrestricted free agents are obvious, but teams are always looking for defensive depth at this time of year and there are a number of teams that could use a top-six center.

The names we'll look at are Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad, Jordan Leopold and Brad Boyes.

What we're looking for are at least two center prospects in return and two draft-picks somewhere in the the #16-56 range (ideally, we'd want to go higher, but that might be a bit of a stretch.)

Qualifier:  It's kind of fun playing GM from behind a keyboard. After all, your ass isn't on the line as you spend millions of your owner's money both near-term and years down the road. Nor do you have the responsibility of uprooting a player and, possibly, his family.

Speculation is the order of the day at this time of year and even though there's no inside info here, with the amount of information on the internet you can draw some conclusions as to what players, especially prospects, are all about. With that info in hand, you can look at a teams' playoff position and read up on needs and/or wants then play match-maker.

Far be it for me to be so stodgy as to stand idly by with the trade deadline less than a week away. This is the time of year armchair gm's relish as they toy with delusions of Stanley Cup grandeur, and I'm game.

That being said, here we go.

(Edit:  After posting this article, the Tampa Bay Lightning traded forward Steve Downie to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for defenseman Kyle Quincy. Bolts GM Steve Yzerman then sent Quincy to Detroit for a 2012 first-round pick and a minor league defenseman--Sebastian Piche.)

Derek Roy

It's been said that the Sabres tried trading Roy over the summer, and, obviously it hasn't happened yet.

Up until the Pittsburgh game this past Sunday, Roy was having a dismal season. But during that game he showed glimpses of why he was near a point/game player for a few years.

Back in early January, we focused on three teams in the playoff hunt that could use a top-six center like Roy--Florida, Minnesota and Phoenix.

Florida is in a battle with Washington for the Southeast Division lead and the loser could still end up in the playoffs. Minnesota is a mere four points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference with four teams to jump. And Phoenix is presently holding down the #7-seed in the West.

We looked at a return for Roy, with the return being a mid-upper level center prospect coming back. The names:  Nick Bjugstad (Florida,) Zack Phillips (Minnesota,) and Ethan Werek (Phoenix.) Click on the link above for more info.

But there's an interesting development in Washington.

Their center depth was depleted with the injury to Niklas Backstrom back in January. Right now down the middle they have sophomore center Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, Jeff Halpern and Matthieu Perreault at the pivot.

Backstrom's out with concussion related problems and he's yet to resume skating. Although the Caps are not in dire straights right now, a move to keep them in the hunt for both the playoffs and the division title might be a good one.

The Caps are tight against the cap, but could create space for Roy's $4M cap-hit this season and be in pretty decent shape for next season as well.

The cool part about the Caps is that they have an extra first-round pick this season thanks to Colorado giving theirs up for goalie Semyon Varlamov.

As Roy begins to heat up along with Washington's playoff chase, Roy could be put to good use by the Caps. Yes, they are having goaltending problems and would probably would like to have a Jonathan Bernier (LAK) or a Cory Schneider (VAN,) but that isn't likely to happening until the off-season.

If the Caps want to add a #2 center like Derek Roy, they have an extra first-round pick to give in return. But if I were in the Sabres shoes, I wouldn't stop there.

The goal for this arm-chair gm is to add depth to the center position too.

The Sabres are not going to get the Caps top-center prospect, Cody Eakin. Nor will they get any upper-level prospect (unless there's a package deal) so Buffalo can set their sights on an older "prospect" in the Caps system--Mattias Sjorgen.

The 24 yr. old free agent signing is presently playing in Europe after an ill-fated stint with the Hershey Bears. According to Hockey's Future, Sjorgen used an out-clause in his contract and his status with the team is unknown.

Sjorgen has good size, 6'1", 210lbs, and is projected out as a bottom-six center. For the Sabres, other than Luke Adam, their center depth has prospects on the small/skilled side of the equation.

Would the Sabres be able to get Sjorgen along with one of Washington's two first-rounders?

Why not? As a free agent Sjorgen cost the Caps nothing to sign. And they'll have Roy, a clear #2 behind Backtrom, or an outstanding #3 behind Johansson as well.

The trade by buffalosabresnow:
  • Derek Roy to Washington for one of their two first-round picks and prospect Mattias Sjorgen.

Paul Gaustad

"Goose" is a perfect UFA for a contender looking for a deep run in the playoffs. He's big, his defensive play is outstanding and his prowess in the dot is top-five. You're not going to get much offense out of him, but there are at least a couple of teams who wouldn't care.

Oh, and his $2.3M annual cap-hit is easily absorbed.

But, as mentioned here (and a lot of places as well,) Goose to Detroit is about as good a fit as any this trade deadline.

Sunday, on Hockey Day In America, Gaustad's line was up against the Evgeni Malkin line as the Pittsburgh Penguins visited the First Niagara Center. Goose, along with LW Nathan Gerbe and RW Patrick Kaleta, throttled Malkin as the Sabres rolled to a 6-2 win.

Something like that would only enhanced Gaustad's worth.

The Red Wings aren't exactly spring chickens anymore, although players like Niklas Lidstrom somehow defy age. But, as aged as they are, right now they could be looked at as the Stanley Cup favorite this season.

For the Wings, the future is now and adding Gaustad certainly will give them one of the deepest groups of forwards in hockey.

So, as we move Goose to the Wings, a fit like that deserves a decent return. The Wings have plenty of center depth in their system with three of them ranked in the mid-upper area of the organization:  Riley Sheahan, Calle Jarnkrok and Landon Ferraro.

Of the three, Sheahan has attributes that any team would want, specifically the Buffalo Sabres.

A junior at Notre Dame, Sheahan has an NHL-ready 6'2", 200lb frame, plays a solid two-way game and seems to have a good head on his shoulders.

The trade by buffalosabresnow:
  • Paul Gaustad to the Detroit Red Wings for Riley Sheahan

Jordan Leopold

Leopold is one of those veteran, top-four defensmen that always seems to be on the move at the deadline in fact he knows it first-hand. He's dependable, good in his own end, can put up points, and can log big minutes.

The only drawback to him being moved is that he will have one more year on his contract after this season, so he's not a rental.

The Sabres have quite a few defenseman who can do what Leopold does so moving him would not really hurt them next season.

Once again, there are always a few teams that are looking for veteran defensive depth, but one team could really use his services--Florida.

The Panthers are turning their franchise around after not making the playoffs for the last 10 years. They've done it by bringing in a bevy of veterans to hold the fort while their deep pool of prospects develop.

After a hot start, Florida dropped out of the Southeast Division lead only to gain it back a game later from Washington. But injuries on the back-end have the potential to derail their playoff push.

Three of their six starters on defense are on IR with veteran Ed Jovanoski slated to return very soon.

Enter Leopold.

With Florida well-stocked at every position in the organization, the Cats could, conceivably get by with minimal picks in the upcoming 2012 draft. Sending a couple Buffalo's way for Leopold would not hurt the organization in any way.

The buffalosabresnow trade:
  • Jordan Leopold to Florida for a 2012 2nd-round and 2012 4th-round pick

Brad Boyes

The first acquisition by Sabres GM Darcy Regier under the new ownership of Terry Pegula.

Boyes is a former 40-goal scoring winger who was brought in to bolster the forward group--as a center.

It didn't work out well. In 67 games with Buffalo, Boyes has eight goals and 19 assists and has been dropped to the fourth line.

Boyes will be an unrestricted free agent, and with most of his $4m contract being paid, teams in the hunt for the playoffs, or looking to (hopefully) bolster their scoring from the wing for a long playoff run could look to Boyes as an option.

The team that Boyes could end up with is the team that he's played for before--Boston.

The equation is simple. Bruins RW Nathan Horton is out with a concussion and the team is said to be looking for a replacement. Rick Nash has gathered all of the headlines as the Columbus Blue Jackets have said that all is on the table for their last-place team.

But Nash does not make any sense for the Bruins at this juncture of the season. They're looking for rental.

After Nash, the Edmonton's "Captain Canada," Ryan Smyth, would be next on their list, but he's said that he wants to stay in Edmonton. Another Oiler, Ales Hemsky has been a perennial trade candidate for a couple years now with nothing ever coming of it. Perhaps his $5M cap-hit has been a determent.

As we move down the depth-chart of wingers, we get to Brad Boyes. He has the size and can play a gritty game at times, plus he wouldn't cost the Bruins much in return.

The buffalosabresnow trade:
  • Brad Boyes to Boston for a 2012 3rd-round pick.

When owner Terry Pegula said that "the reason for the existence of the Buffalo Sabres is to win the Stanley Cup," he didn't say how they would do it. When he mentioned that his goal was a Cup in three years, he obviously thought this team was closer than they really were, but that vision has been obliterated.

A partial reconstruction should be in the cards this season. This trade deadline along with a potential a lottery pick in the 2012 draft represents a unique opportunity for a team that's in dire need of, at least, a "re-tool."

For too long--nearly ten years--Buffalo has been mired in mediocrity to the point where they're not good enough to win it all, yet not bad enough to get a top-five draft pick. It's time to buck that trend and tank the season.

The buffalosabresnow plan of attack using that thought and the aforementioned trades:
  • Sabres end up in the top-five of the draft and land an impact center.
  • Derek Roy gets them a mid-lower first-round pick plus a big, bottom-six center prospect (Mattias Sjorgen)
  • Paul Gaustad gets them potential top-six center prospect Riley Sheahan
  • Jordan Leopold lands a second and a fourth round pick in the upcoming draft
  • Brad Boyes gets the team a third-rounder
What would you rather have, a team that goes on a run and falls short of the playoffs ending up out of the top-ten in the draft?

Or a team, via the above moves (and a drive to the bottom of the standings by the team) with two first-rounders (including a top-five,) three second-rounders, two third-rounders and a fourth rounder along with two center prospects?

That was fun.

Thanx for reading.

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