Many had talked about how the Olympic freeze essentially created two trade deadlines this year, but for all the talk March 5, the official trade deadline, will hold its usual luster.
That holds especially true for the Sabres.
From comments made by the hockey media to those made by Sabres general manager Tim Murray himself, the Sabres are going to be the preeminent sellers at this year's trade deadline. While Murray has said multiple times─most notably during his introductory press conference─that everyone is available on a last-place team, clearly no one believes that to be true. That statement is more than likely just a way for Murray to let Sabres fans know he understands things have to change.
What is likely is that Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson, Steve Ott and Henrik Tallinder will garner substantial interest over the break and in the ten days between the Olympics and the March 5 deadline when roster moves are allowed.
Miller has arguably been the most regularly discussed trade target for quite some time. Many have speculated on his potential trade destinations, but the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild have emerged as the most popular landing spots. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun believes Minnesota to be the front-runner, saying the Blues support their incumbent Jaroslav Halak.
The comforting thing in all of this uncertainty for Sabres fans is the undeniable fact that Miller will not be cheap for any team to acquire. Common sense tells you that a first-round pick in either this or next year's draft and a top prospect are the cheapest Miller will be. Any past experience with the trade deadline tells you that a top-six forward could easily be added to that.
The same can be said for Matt Moulson.
A 30-goal scorer in the three seasons leading up to the lockout, plus 15 during the shortened campaign last year, Moulson is one of the best pure goal scorers in the league right now. The Sabres picked up the pending unrestricted free agent in the Thomas Vanek trade and he has not disappointed.
At 30, Moulson still has a good chunk of hockey left in him, and his $3.33 million salary cap hit is very attractive for teams looking to add some top-level scoring for the playoff push. If the Sabres can send him somewhere that he would re-sign, the price could be more than anyone would have thought.
However, with everyone so keen on pushing Moulson out of town, it would also be a great move by the Sabres to re-sign him. He (likely) would not be prohibitively expensive and is a proven goal scorer. A player like Moulson is not hard to find a spot for on any team, let alone a rebuilding one.
So, while it seems likely Moulson will be in a new city come March 5 due to the small fortune of picks and players he'd likely fetch, re-signing him could be as beneficial to the Sabres in the long run.
Speaking of the long run, Sabres captain Steve Ott has been the only pending unrestricted free agent to say that he wants to stay in Buffalo and be a part of the rebuild.
The problem? A lot of teams want Steve Ott to be a part of their playoff run.
Ott was featured on Sportsnet's Trade Tracker a few nights ago as a potential player on the move, with the Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche being the teams named that could be pursuing Ott.
The price for Ott is the real uncertain aspect of this as it stands to reason that a team would want to re-sign their captain, especially one that wants to stay put.
So simply put, it seems both the Sabres and Ott want to continue their relationship into the future, but a lot of teams are calling to see what it would take to end that relationship (at least temporarily). Given the Sabres' wish to keep Ott, the price to land his services will have to be more than what he would receive normally.
And while these three players have the most attention and the highest price tags, the Sabres also have a few other players that will garner some attention in Henrik Tallinder, Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis.
Tallinder has a decent chance of finding a new home at the deadline with a playoff-bound team that is having issues defensively, whether it is due to poor play or injuries. Teams that fit this description include the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Stafford and Ennis are different stories entirely. Stafford has another year remaining on his contract that carries a $4 million cap hit and has picked up his play offensively in the last few weeks. Ennis is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but would almost certainly re-sign with the Sabres during the offseason.
Both are intriguing trade targets logically, but most of the buzz surrounding them has come from local sources and there is nothing to suggest that they are being shopped and/or sought. A betting man would put his money on both remaining with the Sabres for the time being.
So it's safe to say that Tim Murray is going to be busy the next couple of weeks. This deadline could go a long way toward putting the Sabres back on the right path toward a Stanley Cup championship, especially when you consider the fact that between Miller, Moulson and Ott you could easily fetch three first-round picks, three top prospects and a roster player or two.
And while the roster freeze is in effect, that does not prohibit GMs from talking during the Olympic break, so expect the chatter to continue.
Don't worry Sabres fans, odds are a quiet Tim Murray at the roster freeze means the ten days between the freeze lifting and the March 5 trade deadline will only be all the more exciting.
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