We are nearing half way mark of the season. First and foremost, the Sabres are a better team this season than they were previously. They currently sit 13th in the Conference at 15-17-4 with 34 pts. That is a sizable margin, which historically is hard to catch, but all it takes is a six or seven game win streak to swing the tide. The play of Ryan O’Reilly, Sam Reinhart, Evander Kane, Rasmus Ristolainen, Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe really have been encouraging about the near future and core they are building.
I purposely did not list Jack Eichel because he has been very good and for him it’s more of a matter of how fast is he growing than how has he played. If you look at just the score sheet you may say he hasn’t been bad, but maybe you want a few more goals and points. As Andrew Peters said recently though in an article on WGR550 it’s his defensive play that really stands out about the progress he is making as a two player and how impressive he has been.
With the trade deadline coming, I wanted to look at what Buffalo may do or who could be available. As things currently stand, Buffalo would be sellers. However, the Sabres have an incredibly young roster and any of the players above are effectively untouchable, minus a massive deal like last year’s Kane trade.
Here would be the players that could serve as trade bait:
Tyler Ennis- He has had a bit of a frustrating season with injuries and has looked unsure of himself on the ice. That said, he has scored 20 goals three times in his career and has the potential to be a 50 to low 60 pt player, and owns a cap-friendly contract. The Sabres depth chart is very weak on right wing with Brian Gionta being the sole player who is a true right winger. Ennis is a left-handed shot and plays center where the Sabres have built a ton of depth. Ennis is also a player who could use a change scenery to jump start his production. Ennis could help the Sabres grab a good right winger or strong prospect and pick.
Marcus Foligno- At times, Marcus has been a complete war horse at forward between scoring and hitting. At other times, he seems passive and unwilling to commit at either end. He has a good bit of skill and hockey IQ that teams look for when putting a roster together.
Moving Marcus would be a question of whether the Sabres think he has maxed out into being a 3rd-4th line player or whether the Sabres think he is still growing and can be a solid 2nd-3rd line guy. My guess would be the latter and that the Sabres view him similarly as a guy developing still. With Tim Murray running this train, I would not be surprised if Marcus was traded, but it’d be for a very strong return.
Matt Moulson- It was thought when Moulson signed with Buffalo that he would be a solid 2nd-3rd line player that could mix with the kids and put up 20 goals and 30-40 points. Unfortunately, it is looking more and more like father time has caught up to him a bit and he is the not player he was. Moulson never lacks effort, but he has had a real rough go at it this year and a change of location may for the best. He may only fetch a mid to late round pick or an average prospect, but with the log jam at left and the amount of youth there he would be an easy trade candidate.
Cody McCormick- Depth guy that has not played much this year for Buffalo, but for a contender looking for a little more depth could be a good bench player. Maybe a late pick or late round prospect.
Let me preface this by saying the Sabres top five seem pretty set with Ristolainen, Bogosian, Pysyk, McCabe, and Franson. Cody Franson is the elder of the group at 28, with the rest being 25 or a lot younger. For at least the next 2-3 years, I would not expect much change in this group.
Josh Gorges- I actually would hate to see Gorges moved because he has played much better this season and been a strong leader for Buffalo, especially with the young guys. With that being said, he is 31 and a player that a contending team (Dallas, LA) looking to solidify their bottom four could use. He could probably get a decent mid round pick or prospect with some potential.
Back when Ullmark was on his hot streak, it looked like this position quickly was going to be a log jam. Since then, he has leveled off and Chad Johnson has put up very solid numbers. The expectations is when Lehner returns, Ullmark moves back to Rochester to get some more seasoning with Lehner and Johnson splitting time.