Just What Does Botterill Have to Offer in a Trade?

For the first time in a while the Sabres are in a position to buy ahead of the trade deadline. Or, at the very least, use their picks and prospects to add rather than selling bodies to build assets.

Their post-November slide is complicating matters, as they’re doing impressive work to fall out of playoff contention. That slide will likely temper Jason Botterill’s urge to get too aggressive prior to the deadline as a struggling team with picks to spare isn’t won’t get much charity from around the league. Of course, they probably weren’t getting too many cheap offers at the peak of their winning streak either.

We aren’t privy to any conversations Botteril is having during the season, so we’ll never know how active he is during the year. But Botterill hasn’t taken much of a shine to in-season trades in his short term as general manager. And it’s the general manager’s job to assess the market as it fluctuates to determine when to pull the trigger. He’s made five in-season (counting the Deslauriers deal made on the eve of last year’s opener) trades and only one was of any real significance. That being the deal that sent Evander Kane to San Jose and it was no secret that deal was coming.

Botterill’s done most of his work in the offseason, when prices are typically lower and more players are usually available. Even with the Sabres finally back in the conversation, he may still opt to make his big moves in the offseason for those two reasons. That will frustrate a lot of fans as you’d hope Botterill is at least working to keep his team competitive down the stretch.

The other obstacle facing Botterill is what exactly he will be able to offer that other clubs will value when it comes time. Buffalo’s pipeline isn’t packed with talent – one reason that Botterill is likely reticent to deal his firsts. Nor are the players they have in the pipeline obvious talents another team would covet. There is talent to be offered, just not the overabundance you’d want when it comes to a continued retooling.

I compiled a list of players and picks that are either obvious assets for Botterill to use in trade talks, or names that I’ve seen mentioned by fans in various instances. Not all of these are even likely to be moved, but an attempt to compile a somewhat comprehensive list of assets that could be packaged or players who could be moved in order to create new opportunities for others. Continue reading

Exploring who the Sabres can Shop for at Center

The Sabres are in an unusual position heading into this season’s trade deadline. They’re no longer sellers but they’re still a ways off from being a traditional buyer. As the rental market isn’t going to favor Buffalo’s needs in either the short or long-term.

That’s a good thing. The Sabres aren’t a piece or two away from an Eastern Conference championship, nor are they stagnant, sitting on their hands hoping to stockpile more draft picks. At the very least they’re on schedule with the vision that Jason Botterill has set for the franchise. They may even be slightly ahead of schedule. I certainly think the fanbase would say they are in hopes of seeing the team stay ahead of schedule.

Between rumor reporting and media appearances with Botterill it’s pretty clear that the plan of attack is to only use a first round pick if it’s for a young player with term. That will narrow the trade market but also puts the Sabres in a position to hunt for bigger game. Rather than circling the rental market, Botterill has the opportunity to seek out a player who can plug into the Sabres core for longer than a few weeks.

If the next few weeks go well, I wouldn’t be shocked if Botterill sought out a pending UFA in an effort to give the Sabres one last boost for the stretch run (it is worth noting that Jeff Skinner may have been viewed as that guy), I don’t expect him to use a first round pick to do it.

The trade I wish the Sabres had been in on was the one that sent Nick Schmaltz from Chicago to Arizona. He’s exactly the type of player I hope the Sabres can find on the trade market: under 28, 200-foot player with term (team control in this case). It’s worth noting that 22-year old centers on their entry-level contracts don’t exactly grow on trees. But he checks about every box when it comes to who the Sabres should be targeting.

In terms of that particular deal I don’t think the Sabres had the ammo to make the deal that ultimately went down. Even with their extra first round picks, they don’t have a former lottery selection lying around that they could offer up like Arizona did with Dylan Strome.

Even if Schmaltz is no longer attainable, the Sabres won’t be without options when it comes to the trade market. So I decided to run through the other 30 rosters around the NHL to see just who might be worth targeting in a deal. Continue reading

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.