This season has been a disappointment. Though the playoffs were never in my expectations, I was hoping for a 17-20th place finish. Under-performing veterans, injuries and poor coaching have sunk this team, which means once again, we’re sellers come the deadline.
Trading all our UFAs will likely only mean the difference between a 25th and 28th place finish. And now, with Ryan O’Reilly out of the lineup for 3-4 weeks due to injury, it may very well be worse than that.
While I like the core of Eichel, Reinhart, Ristolainen, and O’Reilly, no one is untouchable on this team. Remember, even Wayne Gretzky was traded.
Approaching the trade deadline, I believe it’s always better to get something than nothing. Letting players walk away can’t happen. (Let’s not even dredge up what happened after the 2006-07 season.) I also believe trading a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) for a pick is always worth it.
You never know what that pick can turn into. Gems are found in the later rounds of the draft every year, and the odds of finding those players is significantly greater with more picks. Those late rounds are a great time to take fliers on guys that can really skate, but just haven’t produced at a high level yet.
Here are the Sabres unrestricted free agents:
Jamie McGinn (LW) – I like McGinn, but I like a winning team even more. There’s no doubt he can help this team and has chemistry with O’Reilly, but he’ll likely want 4 years at $3.75M or more per season which is on the high side. If he brings a 1st round pick, jump on it.
Remember Chris Stewart? He brought in a 2nd rounder. Paul Gaustad hauled in a first rounder. There’s interest because he brings offense, physicality, leadership, and an ability to fill any hole in a lineup. It’d be great to bring him back in the offseason at the right term and price, though don’t expect it.
David Legwand (C) – Hopefully snags a 4th round pick. The veteran center will get some interest and Murray should be holding the door wide open for him. He’s slow but brings some veteran savviness. Since he played for Barry Trotz in Nashville, Washington could be where he lands.
Mike Weber (D) – He’s had his highs and lows. Some nights he can be a tough guy to play against, others he’s a pylon. I’m hoping he’ll bring a 4th round pick though his stock may rise, since defensive depth is critical in the playoffs. Former coach Lindy Ruff was a fan of his and gave him big minutes so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him land on a team needing a physical defenseman like Dallas.
Carlo Colaiacovo (D) – Hold your breath and hope to get a late round pick. Anything.
Chad Johnson (G) – Backup goalies are a must in the playoffs. That’s Chad’s definition… backup. Hoping he can pull in a 4th rounder. While he’s been a serviceable fill-in for Lehner, he doesn’t have a future here, especially with Linus Ullmark showing he can does. Expect him to land in Calgary, Carolina or Chicago.