Few Sabres players have received more heat for the team's disappointing season than Stafford. The talented winger hasn't been able to match his point production from last season after signing a long-term contract extension that pays him $4 million per year.
If the Sabres really find a willing partner, they might shed a more lucrative deal. Drew Stafford has three more seasons on his contract at $4 million per, and Andrej Sekera has three more at $2.75 million.
There's continued chatter out of Edmonton, where his uncle was a longtime equipment manager, that the Oilers have interest in Stafford.
It's impossible to deny Stafford's contributions this season have been a disappointment, but there are only a couple players on the team's roster who you couldn't say that about. The Sabres are struggling because players who they expected to play prominent roles have struggled mightily.
Ville Leino, who was brought in to be Buffalo's No. 2 center, has moved back to wing and has just four goals in 44 games. Tyler Ennis has just seven points in 21 games after missing a lot of time due to injury. Brad Boyes and Derek Roy have also failed to play like most anticipated prior to the season.
That's how a team that was projected to finish in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference finds its playoff chances to be virtually nonexistent with two months left. It's not one player's fault, it's a franchise-wide failure.
So fans, as you would expect, have begun to call for radical changes to the team's roster. Stafford has been one of the main targets, with most considering him a contract-year fluke.
Even though this is Stafford's sixth season with the team, he's just 26 years old, which should mean his best hockey is yet to come. He established a 40-goal pace last season before injuries slowed him down, but the talent was obvious.
When he's playing up to his potential, the North Dakota product can be a dominate power forward. It's getting him to play with the necessary intensity on a nightly basis which has been a problem. That maturity should come soon.
Trading him now would also pose the traditional problem of selling low. Stafford's value on the market is unlikely to ever fall lower than it currently sits. He's in the first year of a new deal, underperforming and is a minus player for the first time in his career.
Whatever the Sabres get back in return, which wouldn't be much because teams would see a franchise desperate to make a move just for the sake of riding themselves of an underachieving player, won't be close to Stafford's potential value in the future to the Sabres.
Buffalo would be much better off holding on to him and hope he, along with many of his teammates, rebound next season instead of trading him on the cheap before the deadline.
It might frustrate some of the team's diehard fans in the short term, but it will be the right move for the franchise over the long haul.
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