Deadline Primer: What direction should the Sabres take?

Tomorrow could be a make or break trade deadline for Darcy Regier. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it will determine his future with the Sabres; but if he falters at the deadline, there could be ramifications in the summer.

Buffalo’s stance for deadline day has yet to be truly determined. Even by taking three of four points this weekend, and five of six for the week, the Sabres are still clawing to gain ground in the playoff race. There have been some bright spots this season and even as of late. However, there still seems to be far too many question marks surrounding the roster.

Derek Roy seems to be a prime candidate to be traded tomorrow.

Considering that, there should be one stance that Reiger should be taking; retooling his roster to improve the glaring weaknesses that have been revealed this season. While that is the approach that 60% of the NHL’s general managers will take, but the Sabres shouldn’t necessarily be labeled as a buyer/seller this season.

Regier’s stance should have been unwavering ever since December when his team began their slide towards the bottom of the conference. It was obvious that Buffalo needed to get tougher and better down the middle. Their secondary scoring had disappeared, but it wasn’t for lack of personnel. There are players on the roster who appear to be in need of a change of scenery and there are other players who just need to be sold for some return (see: UFAs).

With the Sabres still within shouting distance of a playoff spot, they haven’t dug themselves in as a buyer or seller, necessarily. However, Dave Pagnotta on The Fourth Period radio raised some excellent questions. He first made strong points by saying a number of teams need to realize that their roster is flawed and change is necessary. This was also pumped by Pierre LeBrun who said a handful of teams need to stop looking at the standings and start looking in the mirror. I would certainly count the Sabres among that group.

Another interesting point made by Pagnotta and Dennis Bernstein was that the Sabres shouldn’t be waiting any longer to make their call on Drew Stafford or Derek Roy. They made very cogent points that it is obviously time for change and a message needs to be sent to the locker room that a shift in attitude is necessary. It was actually a terrific show, you should get XM just for NHL Home Ice.

I’m in total agreement that the Sabres should be in a position to sell assets, or at least start the process of recycling talent to upgrade the roster. What is unfortunate is that Buffalo’s success this week will likely keep Darcy Regier from shipping off his tradeable pieces – namely Roy, Stafford and even Paul Gaustad. I expect to see a conservative approach from Regier in the hope that his team is indeed capable of finding a playoff position. Continue reading

Deadline Preview: Evaluating Brad Boyes’ trade value

The first two trade deadline analysis posts focused on Paul Gaustad and Drew Stafford. Today’s will take a look at Brad Boyes and how his final days with the franchise may be spent.

Brad Boyes represents the first major step in the Pegula era. Boyes was acquired at the deadline without needing to send money out. It was a straight acquisition of a player expected to help the Sabres’ playoff push.

Since being acquired, Boyes has enjoyed a terrific early run, a dismal playoff showing and now a nearly invisible regular season. A great many have piled on Boyes, accusing Darcy Regier of acquiring a useless winger who makes too much money. What they are forgetting is how key he was for the team during the stretch run.

Boyes’ contributions played a large role in the Sabres sneaking into the playoffs last season. While his cold streak began at the very end of the regular season – and has continued almost a full calendar year – he was a pivotal player for a good portion of February, March and April. Of course, all of that production has disappeared and he is now an afterthought on a team over-saturated with second-line wingers.

While Boyes possesses some traits that make him an attractive option for many teams, his lack of production has destroyed any sort of value he may bring on the trade market. One way or another, Bard Boyes will be wearing a different uniform next season. The question is; can the Sabres get some return for him before losing him?

It is my contention that grabbing a fourth-round pick at the deadline for Boyes would not only be fair return for the winger, but it would ultimately be an equal trade for everything that Regier has done since last February. Remember, Boyes was traded for a second-round pick which was all but replaced by Calgary in the Regehr trade. The Sabres sent their fourth-round selection to the Islanders for Christian Ehrhoff’s negotiating rights. Buffalo could fill that void if they are able to find a trade partner for Boyes.

Keep in mind that Boyes is not a former 40-goal scorer on the downside of his career. He is caught on a roster with an abundance of offensive talent and has been bumped down the depth chart for a host of reasons. His lack of production is alarming, but putting him in a situation where ice time will not be a premium will surely spark his goal scoring touch.

Teams like Minnesota, Los Angeles, Colorado and Nashville are all in a situation where a scoring winger could do them good. Depending on the type of investment they wish to make will determine what kind of player those teams chase. I would have to assume Boyes is on their radar, at the very least. Given the thin crop of wingers expected to be available, there are surely going to be a few teams seeking his services.

Expecting to receive anything higher than a fourth seems a little foolhardy to me. The market is thin and the potential to steal picks is certainly there, but Boyes’ lack of production this year has to be concerning for any team that will be looking closely. Having the ability to replace the pick they lost to acquire Ehrhoff would not only mean that Boyes helped them make the playoffs, but that brining Ehrhoff on came with a minimal loss.

What Regier will need to determine prior to the 27 is if dropping Boyes from the roster will have any affect on the team as the year winds down. Boyes is getting time on the power play and is seeing time on the wing and at center. With a minimal chance of making the playoffs, there is no reason to hold onto a winger/center who has been forced down the depth chart.

Keep an eye on the playoff teams – or those just on the bubble – who are in need of some secondary scoring. These will also be teams who could be interested in Drew Stafford, but the price for Boyes will be significantly lower than for Stafford.

The Sabres are in a situation to sell an affordable piece (in terms of return) before losing him for nothing in July. Even selling Boyes for a loss will be a small victory.

Value increases for Sabres as more players re-sign

For those expecting to see a fire sale along Perry Street, don’t hold your breath. However, the market for Sabres rumored to be on the block continues to rise – thanks to the fine work of a few general managers from around the NHL.

A new contract for Tuomo Ruutu could increase the interest and return regarding certain players on the Sabres’ trade block.

In recent weeks players who have been at the center of trade rumors have been given new contracts, all but eliminating them from trade talks. Tim Gleason, Vinny Prospal and Andy Sutton are recent signees who were expected to be commodities on February 27. This development, along with the potential of Tuomo Ruutu being signed, has only good results for the Sabres.

There are a few names of Buffalo Sabres that have been floating around the different rumor mills for some time. Brad Boyes, Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad all seem to have some interest from around the league. Drew Stafford’s name is also out there but it seems as if he is someone who is being focused on more from a local standpoint.

When considering the players who may be moved, keep in mind where you’re hearing the reports from and the specific player who is being referred to. For example, there are a whole lot of fans who want to see Stafford, Roy and Boyes shipped out. Some of these people would even trade Ryan Miller, for whatever reason (hockey IQ). However, hearing your friends talk about moving a player isn’t the same as hearing reputable sources say certain scouts and teams are discussing a particular player.

What you can put in the bank is the fact that the assumed market for the players that are said to be on the block has been rising in recent weeks. Paul Gaustad’s recent play has shown the two-way game that many teams covet. In addition, the thinning of the scoring winger market means that more teams may be willing to jump at the chance for Brad Boyes or Drew Stafford. If you’re on the “Trade Stafford” bandwagon, hope to god Jim Rutherford reaches an agreement with Ruutu this week.

If Ruutu and Prospal are off the market it leaves a very thin depth chart of pending UFAs to pick from. It also thins the number of potential trade pieces from teams well out of the playoff race. Despite rumors surrounding Buffalo being fairly quiet, the fact that these signings are occurring will only help Darcy Regier move the players he wishes to part ways with.

As of right now the asking price for Ruutu is alleged to be astronomical. I don’t necessarily think that it makes much sense to ask for a ridiculous return, but Sabres fans should be praying for him to re-sign in Carolina. I don’t think that his market value would translate to the players on Buffalo’s roster that teams would be targeting. However, if he re-signs, I do know that interest in the players on Buffalo’s block will skyrocket. UPDATE: Ruutu was taken out of tonight’s game with an upper-body injury. I can’t speculate length without any additional information. But if he was to be shelved beyond the deadline, it has the same effect as if he were to re-sign.

Consider this hypothetical for a moment: Drew Stafford had been tossed around rather casually for some time as a solution for a team searching for offense. Perhaps his original value was a second-round pick and a prospect, but interest was weak. With Prospal and Ruutu off the market his value likely remains but the interest now skyrockets. With increased interest, there is the opportunity to ask for a better return.

The same goes for Boyes, Gaustad and the rest of the players who are potentially on the block. When a team appears to be approaching the “sell to retool” phase, having a high demand for product is a very good thing. The only question that remains is; will Regier pull the trigger on these deals?