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Deadline preview: Evaluating Drew Stafford’s value

February 16, 2012

Last week I examined the potential value Paul Gaustad could potentially bring on the trade market. Today I’ll take a look at Drew Stafford’s value as he continues to be mentioned in trade rumors.

The first thing that needs to be understood about moving Drew Stafford is that it is going to be a daunting task. Stafford just signed a lucrative four-year contract that isn’t attractive to many teams. However, he does carry some value as a scoring winger, especially if he is put in the right situation.

As prefaced in the Gaustad analysis, none of this should be considered to be more than conjecture. Short of the few trade rumors swirling about, there isn’t much concrete news surrounding Stafford’s status with the team. However, you have to think he was counted among the assumed “core” the Ted Black said the organization isn’t married to.

The injury information that surfaced this week regarding Tuomo Ruutu is great news for any teams hoping to unload wingers at the deadline. Ruutu was expected to be one of the most sought after commodities this season and his injury all but eliminates him as a target for any teams in need of a scoring winger. This, combined with Vinny Prospal’s new contract, thins the market and adds value to those who are expected to be on the market come February 27.

With Drew Stafford struggling offensively this season, and the Sabres in a position to sell pieces in hopes of retooling the roster, it would appear the winger is one player that Darcy Regier will be looking to shop. Add in the fact that top-six wingers appear to be at a premium on the market, Stafford should likely draw some suitors at the end of the month.

Exactly what type of return will Stafford bring? That is a tough call. His struggles this season cannot be ignored, he has been all but invisible for but a handful of games. He has three multi-point games and hasn’t shown any jump towards trying to end his scoring woes. What’s worse is that plenty of people – mainly fans – have issue with the apparent level of effort he brings on most nights.

I wonder if he is falling into a similar mold that Tim Connolly did in his final weeks in Buffalo. Connolly has enjoyed some success with the Leafs after getting his change of scenery via free agency. Stafford’s talent certainly remains but perhaps a mix of fan hatred, a stale coaching message and a general need for change is pulling his game down. If that is the case, I’m sure he could produce with a new team.

Stafford has plenty of redeeming qualities, however. Despite what many think, he is a young, good sized winger with the ability to score goals from many spots on the ice. Currently the only thing he may be missing is confidence. Stafford’s big season last year warranted a sizeable contract which is probably the biggest turn-off for potential trade partners.

What I will say for his potential value is that he could serve as a great option for a team looking for top-six talent for the foreseeable future, just like Los Angeles. The Kings are in desperate need of scoring and the light market could push them towards inquiring about Stafford. Other teams I could see having interest would be Columbus or Edmonton (for their rebuild) and even Nashville, who could use a little more scoring.

Does Stafford carry enough weight to get a first-round pick? I say no, but a light market could change things. I think a second-round pick and a prospect wouldn’t be a stretch with the potential of a money in-and-out trade for a roster player. This may sound ludicrous to most fans who have grown tired of Stafford’s game, but it is important to understand that he does carry value to teams throughout the league.

The one speed bump here is his contract. There is no getting around the fact that there are three more seasons of paying him $4M attached to any deal regarding Stafford. If Darcy Regier is able to find a team hoping to build on their future, Stafford could potentially serve as a worhty investment. How many teams like that are out there? That is a difficult question to answer.

Stafford’s prime strenghts do remain. He is a talents scoring winger with size. That type of player will always be a commodity in the NHL. Regardless of his production this season, Stafford has the size and history to warrant plenty of attention on the trade market.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2012 11:14 am

    As frustrating as Stafford is to watch, is he worth giving up for a 2nd round pick and a below average player? I hope they’re able to deal him to a rebuild team. Nashville is as good a guess as any because they always seem to have cap room. Edmonton’s probably unloading Hemsky, I’m sure Stafford would look better playing below Taylor Hall on the depth chart.

    • February 17, 2012 1:10 pm

      I maintain he has value to teams in need of scoring who can take on cap. There are only a few teams in the boat, however. If Edmonton or Nashville saw him as a necessary piece, Buffalo could get some solid return for him.

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