With injuries to Dmitry Kulikov and Zach Bogosian during preseason action, the Sabres could be in the market for a top four defenseman. And even if those two guys are back in the lineup, the unfortunate circumstances exposed what could be a shortfall on the blue line.
On top of that, Rasmus Ristolainen is still not yet under contract. It has been long speculated that Tim Murray would add another piece to the defensive unit, however aside from bringing in Kulikov and a handful of fringe NHL players, the back end looks very similar to last season.
Depending on the severity of Bogosian and Kulikov’s injuries, Murray may feel pressured to make a move sooner than he anticipated. The Anaheim Ducks appear to be an ideal trade partner for the Sabres. Anaheim boasts an embarrassment of riches on defense along with serious cap issues.
At the moment, the Ducks have just over $7.5 million in cap space. Considering the fact that young forward Rickard Rakell and franchise defenseman Hampus Lindholm are still restricted free agents; now might be the perfect time for them to free up space.
So what would it take to pry one of the young defensemen from the Ducks roster? Speculation has varied greatly on this throughout the offseason. 24-year-old Cam Fowler has been the most popular name mentioned among pundits and fans alike. Leading up to the NHL draft, it was rumored that Tim Murray had discussions with Anaheim about Fowler, but would not part with the 8th overall pick.
The pressure is on for both of these respective front offices. The Sabres need to perform at a high level this season to appease a very patient, yet anxious fan base. Anaheim needs to lock up their young stars before the start of the season.
The question remains, just how high is the asking price for Fowler?
If the Ducks are still looking for a first round pick in return for his services, Murray may pull the trigger. It is no secret that the Sabres intend to be much improved and emerge from the Eastern Conference basement this season. If he feels a player like Fowler puts them over the top, Murray has been known to slightly overpay for players he covets. Fowler is also a left-handed shooter, something the Sabres still need on their top pairing.
Anaheim could seek to acquire a young forward from the Sabres roster as well. Their forwards are aging (not to mention expensive), and they have very few high level prospects in the pipeline. Though the Sabres have parted with prospects like Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, etc., the team still has one of the deeper offensive prospect pools in the league. Paired with a second round pick, players like Nick Baptiste, Zemgus Girgensons or even Tyler Ennis could be included in a deal.
Fowler is not the end-all be-all here of course, but he appears to be the most logical choice for both teams. Anaheim could also deal Sami Vatanen, Simon Despres or even Hampus Lindholm if a deal cannot be reached.
At 25 years old, Vatanen would almost certainly cost the Sabres a first round pick and then some. After his 38-point campaign last season, he seems to be improving at a steady rate and could very well be a top pairing player in the making. He’s also right-handed shooter, which makes his price tag less appealing for the Sabres who currently need a left-handed shot like Fowler.
Hampus Lindholm would be a pipe dream. Odds are, Anaheim would ask for the moon and quite frankly, the Sabres would be remiss to mortgage their future for one player. We are most likely talking about multiple draft picks and prospects going to the Ducks in this deal. Considering Lindholm will require a massive contract as he remains a restricted free agent, it really doesn’t make sense for the Sabres to deal for him.
Overall, Fowler is the ideal candidate here. Murray has interest, and the Ducks need to shed cap space quickly. Time will tell, but don’t be surprised to see an addition to the defensive ranks in short order.
— SabresHockeyCentral (@SHCdotcom) October 2, 2016