Submitted by Cliff Hershley, on twitter at @CHershley
Coming into the 2013-2014 NHL season, the Buffalo Sabres were not expected to contend for a playoff spot. After a disastrous start of 4-15-1, The Sabres fired Head Coach Ron Rolston and longtime General Manager Darcy Regier. Pat Lafontaine immediately took over hockey operations and hired Ted Nolan as interim head coach. New GM Tim Murray was hired January 9th, and now must look at the direction the Sabres are headed in.
Thomas Vanek was traded in late October to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson, a first round pick in 2014, and a second round pick in 2015. It should be noted that the 2014 pick is top ten protected and the Islanders can defer to 2015 if they choose.
As the trade deadline approaches, the Sabres have three players that will catch the eye of many other teams. Ryan Miller, Steve Ott and Matt Moulson will garner a lot of interest. The Sabres will be sellers at the trade deadline, as the playoffs are not a realistic option at this point in the season.
Miller, an UFA at the end of this season, has been a lone bright spot for the Sabres this season. The goalie market has been weak so far this season, and there is caution among other teams on giving up too much for Miller. The Sabres would probably require two prospects and potentially another draft pick in a deal for Miller. The Blues appear to be the frontrunner for Miller, but don’t count out teams like Washington and Minnesota, as their goaltending situations are questionable due to injury and or performance. The other option for the Sabres is to ride Miller through the rest of the season and try to re-sign him to a long term deal. That would prove to be a risky move though, as there is no guarantee that Miller would agree to sign in Buffalo in what looks to be a lengthy rebuild.
Moulson, an UFA after this season, has already garnered a lot of attention from teams like Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. I don’t see the Penguins having the capability to maneuver cap space to acquire Moulson. The Kings on the other hand, have more flexibility and could give the Sabres at least a first round pick in return. Moulson is currently on IR and this might affect his trade value, but assuming he is healthy by the trade deadline, the injury will be a minor issue. The Sabres would be wise to move Moulson; chances are he will not be back in a Sabres uniform next season if he is not moved by the deadline.
Steve Ott, currently the captain of the Sabres, will also have teams watching him through the deadline. A gritty, tough player, Ott could serve as a solid 3rd or 4th line center or winger for a Stanley Cup contender. Chicago and Detroit are two teams I could see making a move for Ott. Ott will not bring in as much to the Sabres as Miller and Moulson would, but a 2nd round pick or a prospect would make new General Manager Tim Murray very happy.
Other players that could potentially be moved are D Henrik Tallinder, and D Tyler Myers, although I don’t believe these players are as likely to be moved.
The Sabres will not necessarily be looking for players in return. I believe they are looking to build through the draft and will try to acquire as many picks as they can. This method will allow them to trade picks for players at the draft later this year, or use them to select young talent to help the Sabres contend three or four years down the road.