Thursday’s acquisition of Brandon Hickey and Mike Sislo was a minor trade in almost every sense. None of the players involved are trending to become stars in the NHL but Jason Botterill showed a fair bit of savvy in swapping Hudson Fasching for Hickey and Sislo.
Fasching was pretty well down the pecking order on the wing at the conclusion of last season with a host of younger players poised to vault him. Cliff Pu and Victor Olofsson will arrive for their rookie seasons this fall and they’ll add to a group that includes Justin Bailey, Danny O’Regan, Nick Baptiste, Alex Nylander, CJ Smith. Andrew Oglevie, Rasmus Asplund and Sean Malone are other forward prospects who are going to garner a fair amount of attention as well. Even without the additions of Pu and Olofsson on the wings, Fasching was falling out of the spotlight.
It’s been noted that his healthy scratch in the playoffs likely sealed his fate with the organization and if the trade didn’t make it clear enough, it is fairly evident that Botterill wasn’t planning on tendering Fasching with a qualifying offer. Botterill was able to acquire negotiating rights to a player he has more interest in rather than letting the burly winger walk for nothing.
Hickey as Sislo are both pending UFAs, so at the very least Botterill swapped negotiating rights for the pair. It’s not all that dissimilar to trading a fourth round pick for Christian Ehrhoff or a third for Jimmy Vesey. Botterill bought the right to negotiate with a player he covets ahead of when Hickey enters unrestricted free agency.
Further, Hickey, should he be signed, will serve as another piece for the continued overhaul of Buffalo’s blueline – a significant wrinkle in a wise move for the Sabres GM.
The caveat here is that it would appear the Sabres are heading in the right direction in getting Hickey signed, something that multiple people have credited to the various BU connections the Sabres have, including Jack Eichel (heard of him?), O’Regan, Evan Rodrigues and assistant GM Steve Greeley.
On the whole, this trade is small potatoes. It’s not a deal that’s going to vault the Sabres into the playoffs in 2018-19 by any means but it shows a high level of thinking by Botterill, taking strides to get the most value from the assets at his disposal. There aren’t too many cases of the Sabres making an offseason swap to leverage an expiring asset for anything, let alone bodies who are in the position to contribute over the next few years. The best example I can find was swapping Riley Boychuk for Henrik Tallinder in 2013.
Maybe what impresses me is that Fasching was pretty much toast here. He probably wasn’t going to be getting a qualifying offer and if he did he was going to be an afterthought. It’s easy to create an armchair GM on CapFriendly where the Sabres get draft picks for the negotiating rights for all their RFAs but it’s an entirely different thing to actually acquire assets in such a deal. Even if Hickey and Sislo walk, Botterill deserves credit for working to remain in an advantageous position in terms of stocking his pipeline. If the pair sign, the Sabres come away so much richer for it as they’ll have yet another young defenseman to groom and an AHL scorer who should help elevate the Amerks.
Aside from getting a potentially low return for Evander Kane – something that has since been rectified – Botterill has shown pretty good skills at the trade table and this deal is another feather in his cap. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come this offseason as the rumors of a big deal continue to swirl.