The Buffalo Sabres have been rumored to be interested in Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan since the early part of this past season, and with the Ducks openly shopping the offensively gifted star, the Sabres must strike in order to become a contending team.
According to Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News, the Sabres are trying to put together a competitive offer for Ryan, and they may be one of two teams in the running for his services. The other is the Philadelphia Flyers, who many believe are the front runners due to the fact that Ryan grew up in nearby Cherry Hill, N.J.
It will all come down to which team is able to offer more, and while it is unclear precisely what the Ducks are looking for in return, the Sabres have several top-notch prospects and NHL-ready youngsters that could be of interest to Anaheim.
After missing the playoffs amid plenty of hype last season, Buffalo clearly entered the offseason looking to make some noise.
Many considered the Sabres to be the winners of this past offseason as they managed to sign Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff, as well as trade for Robyn Regehr, but a slow start doomed them as their late rally fell short.
Owner Terry Pegula is willing to spend money and make the moves necessary to transform the Sabres into Stanley Cup contenders, and acquiring Ryan is the type of big trade that the organization needs.
The biggest complaint from Sabres fans over the past few seasons has been that there is a lack of size and toughness on the roster. Buffalo's brass has addressed that so far this offseason in drafting both Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons in the first round.
Also, the Sabres signed enforcer John Scott and traded long-time whipping boy Derek Roy to the Dallas Stars in exchange for pesky forward Steve Ott and defenseman Adam Pardy.
Now that the Sabres have gotten some bigger, grittier forwards to go with their skill players such as Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Tyler Ennis, it's time to get a guy who has both qualities.
Ryan is a perfect example as he can light the lamp as evidenced by his four consecutive seasons with 30 goals, but he is also 6'2" and 216 lbs., and he won't get pushed around or intimidated.
The Sabres really struggled to score early last season, but a late-season surge caused them to finish in the middle of the pack in terms of goals per game. Buffalo has plenty of promising young forwards such as Ennis, Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno and Grigorenko if he makes the team immediately, but an established guy who has already reached his potential, such as Ryan, would do wonders.
Buffalo is absolutely stacked on defense as it has 11 blueliners that could potentially play in the NHL this year. With that in mind, the Sabres ought to make an effort to deal from a position of strength. The Ducks signed Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen in free agency, but they dealt Lubomir Visnovsky and could still stand to improve in that area.
You have to give up something of value to get something of value in this league, so the Sabres may be best served offering promising rearguard Tyler Myers. The 6'8" behemoth burst onto the scene as a rookie, but he hasn't progressed as many had hoped.
Buffalo has Brayden McNabb, a potential replacement waiting in the wings, so it would be a sensible move if Anaheim were to be interested.
Failing that, the Sabres could offer a package featuring Hodgson as the centerpiece. Buffalo acquired him at the trading deadline for Zack Kassian, and while Hodgson didn't blossom immediately, he showed a ton of promise. The Ducks have a hole at No. 2 center and they may think enough of Hodgson to deal Ryan for him.
Whatever the case, the Sabres need to continue adding to their offensive artillery in order to get goaltender Ryan Miller some support. If that means giving up a promising player or players in order to land Ryan, then Buffalo has to take a leap of faith.
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