The 2019 NHL Trade Deadline is fast approaching, with the February 25th cut-off date just a week from today.
As usual, the looming pressure of the Deadline has stirred plenty of rumors around the league, prompting some General Managers to pull the trigger on a couple of trades to date, and even more to consider doing the same. After all, there are some big-name players rumored to be available this year.
Whether you think the Sabres should be buyers or sellers, GM Jason Botterill is among a group of other managers pressured to make a move, as Buffalo is in the thick of the playoff race for the first time in eight years. That said, here are five players the Sabres should target at the Trade Deadline to bolster their roster moving forward.
Michael Ferland, Carolina Hurricanes
2018-19 season stats: 16G, 17A, 33 points in 50 GP
A 6′ 1″, 217 lb. power forward with a scoring touch, the ‘Canes left-handed winger would be a valuable player on any roster. Now 26 years old with 300 games of NHL experience under his belt, Ferland is a seasoned veteran about to enter his prime. He has a positive +/- rating of +12 and has averaged 14:40 TOI this season.
While his stat line isn’t incredible this year, he has proven he can help drive the offense; he notched 40+ points for the first time in his career last season with Calgary. Ferland is a UFA after this year and carries a cap hit of $1.75M. He’ll likely seek a bit of a raise after this season.
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) November 11, 2018
For the Sabres, Ferland could be a versatile forward, playing either at center or the wing in the middle six, adding some secondary scoring and even earning some power play minutes.
Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks
2018-19 season stats: 15G, 8A, 23 points in 50 GP
Silfverberg is a similar player to Ferland, but a bit older and with more proven offensive upside, at least to date. Silfverberg is also a prototypical power forward who can score, standing at 6′ 1″ and weighing 204 lbs. He is a right-handed forward who can play big minutes, as he has averaged 16:46 TOI this season.
Out of every forward on this list, Silfverberg has by far the worst +/- rating with a -15. However, much of that can be attributed to his playing on a struggling Anaheim squad, which has been the worst team in the NHL as of late. While his stats don’t leave you in awe, it’s worth noting that he scored 40+ points in each of his last two seasons, and has a career high of 23 goals.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 14, 2018
A UFA after this year carrying a cap hit of $3.75M, Silfverberg could be a good asset moving forward for the Sabres, as he could shore up the thin right wing position and, if re-signed, contribute to the offense next season.
Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild
2018-19 season stats: 14G, 34A, 48 points in 59 GP
Granlund is unarguably the most complete and experienced player on this list. A smaller forward, Granlund stands at 5′ 10″, and weighs 185 lbs. His biggest upside, though: he has played center during his entire NHL career.
The 26-year-old is poised to enter his prime, and for a struggling Minnesota team, this is considerably valuable trade bait. Granlund has a negative +/- of -1, yet has great offensive upside, with 16 power play points so far this year, and an impressive 4 GWG. To add, Granlund has already eclipsed 60+ points twice in his career.
— NHL (@NHL) March 12, 2017
Granlund is the most expensive player on this list, with a cap hit of $5.75M on his deal that has another year left on it after this one. Averaging 18:44 TOI this season, Granlund is an idyllic second-line center for the Sabres to play behind Jack Eichel, as he would take a lot of pressure off the captain.
Kevin Hayes, New York Rangers
2018-19 season stats: 14G, 28A, 42 points in 49 GP
Kevin Hayes is the biggest forward on this list, coming in at a whopping 6′ 5″ and 216 lbs. Only 26 years old, the left-handed winger has a positive +/- rating of +3 on a weaker-than-usual Rangers team and just passed 40+ points for the fourth time in his career, on track for a career year points-wise.
Hayes also carries a hefty price tag of $5.175M but is a UFA after this season. He’s finishing up a 1-year contract with New York and is a likely candidate to be moved as they push forward with their retooling.
Kevin Hayes uses a picture-perfect shot to beat Craig Anderson and put the Rangers in front. pic.twitter.com/BH6UU2Jhxy
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 20, 2017
Hayes has averaged 19:32 TOI this year and would fit well in a second-line role with the Sabres. He also has experience on a power play and could help out on either the first or second PP unit.
Brett Pesce, Carolina Hurricanes
2018-19 season stats: 5G, 15A, 15 points in 50 GP
The only defenseman on this list, Pesce would be a tough grab for Botterill, considering the Sabres are competing with Carolina for a Wild Card spot. But, then again, Ferland is also on this list. Pesce might be easier to acquire than Ferland, in fact, because Hurricanes GM Don Waddell has made it apparent he’s willing to move defensemen for forwards.
Pesce is a young defenseman with a ton of upside and potential. Just 24 years old, the right-hander has five goals and 15 assists this season, with 1 GWG, and averages an astounding 19:47 TOI– big minutes for a young player. He has the highest +/- rating out of every player on this list with a +21 and has already surpassed the 20-point mark in his career, which he is on track to pass again this year.
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) December 8, 2018
Pesce would be a bit of a gamble: he is signed through the 2023-24 season and carries a cap hit of $4.025M. But, if he turned out to be a stalwart second-pairing defenseman, that would be a steal. With 71 SOG this year already, Pesce would make a great addition anywhere on the Sabres blue line, as he can get shots to the net, and play a shut-down defensive game.
Who to trade?
In a perfect world, the Sabres would be able to acquire the best players to fill every hole in their roster. However, in order to get some of the players on this list, they would need to part ways with some equitable talent.
Luckily, the Sabres have a couple of players who could be key pieces for competing teams looking to make a run, or teams in the hunt looking to make that final push. The most likely candidates are Jason Pominville, Kyle Okposo, Vladimir Sobotka, and Nathan Beaulieu. I wouldn’t count out players like Conor Sheary, either.
Whether Botterill and the Sabres decide to buy or sell come the Trade Deadline is up in the air, so it remains to be seen who will be moved or acquired, if anybody. All Sabres fans can do is wait until February 25th and pray this team picks up some steam.