In case you haven't heard, Derek Roy was sidelined indefinitely with a torn left quadricep tendon on December 23rd, leaving a gaping hole in the Buffalo Sabres offense. Roy leads the team in scoring by miles with 35 points in 35 games (second place is Thomas Vanek on 27 points), and was one of the most consistently lethal players on the Sabres roster night in and night out.
The Sabres are now in a world of hurt. They currently sit 9 points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with only 36 points, good enough for 12th place. Many people had already completely written them off before the injury to Roy, and many more have done so since then. Most believe they will sell off their assets at the trade deadline and go into full rebuild mode just a single season removed from winning their division. If the Sabres wish to make an attempt to salvage their season, they need to start looking to make a deal, and fast. They've got to find someone who can fill this gap in their scoring: whether by a young hotshot or by a seasoned vet with a proven scoring touch. Here is my list of 10 potential replacements for Derek Roy.
There have been rumors flying around everywhere about whether or not the Dallas Stars will sell off their star forward at the trade deadline. He's in the final year of his contract, and is playing like he fully wants a huge pay raise next season--one Dallas may not have in their plans.
Richards currently has 18 goals and 27 assists, in the top 10 in the NHL in all three scoring categories. With so many rumors flying around about Richards' fate in Texas, it seems like he would be a perfect fit for the Sabres to fill in for that missing scoring void. In addition, the Dallas alternate-captain would bring in some seasoned veteran experience as well as some playoff pedigree. However, with Dallas leading the Pacific Division at the moment and looking like a very strong contender to make a deep playoff run, it's still up for debate whether or not they'll be willing to let him go.
If you think the situation in Buffalo is a bad one, just take one look at how things are in New Jersey. The Devils have gone from being a perennial playoff contender to being far and away the worst team in the entire NHL. With only 10 wins and 22 points, they're virtually a lock to having the first-overall draft pick this coming summer, assuming they haven't traded it away. Needless to say, dire mismanagement of salary, aging and under-performing players, and a slew of injuries have all but assured that the Devils will most likely be the next team to enter a rebuild mode come this offseason.
The Sabres might benefit from the exodus of a few of of these talents and Travis Zajac might be a good fit. Zajac has put up good numbers in the past, despite not exactly having a strong showing so far this year with only 6 goals and 20 points. He may benefit greatly from a change of atmosphere, and I think it's safe to say his hefty $3.888 million cap hit will be one of the first things to disappear if the Devils do go down the rebuilding road. Another benefit of this is the Sabres might be able to get him for cheap, since the Devils will be attempting to stockpile draft picks in advance of the rebuild, so this may be a good fix without losing many assets.
The Kings have been linked to a number of elite-level scorers who many believe will finally put them over the top for a legitimate Stanley Cup run. Names like the aforementioned Brad Richards, Jarome Iginla, Bobby Ryan, or even Ilyia Kovalchuck have all been tossed around. However, with several of their biggest young talents expecting big pay raises this offseason, the Kings also need to shed some excess salary if they want to keep their immensely talented young core intact as well as make this blockbuster trade.
Michal Handzus is by no means having a poor year, however the Kings have the right to expect more production out of the 33-year-old that delivers a whopping $4 million cap hit. Particularly after last season which saw him put up a 20-goal, 42-point campaign. If the Kings were to make a move for an elite-name player like Iginla (a deal seeming more and more plausible with each Flames loss this season), the Sabres might benefit from the Kings looking to clear some cap space in order to avoid a mass exodus, much like Chicago experienced this past offseason.
David Booth is quietly having a decent year on a Florida Panthers team that is virtually ineffective in the Eastern Conference. With 10 goals and 20 points on the year, Booth is showing signs of production, though he would greatly benefit from having a little bit of help. Help the Sabres would be a little more likely to provide. The Panthers are still looking for answers in their attempt to make the playoffs for the first time since before the lockout, and the players in the roster currently don't seem to have any of those answers.
Booth boasts the biggest cap hit on the Florida lineup, which means if Flordia tries to rebuild again come the trade deadline (which is plausible seeing as they currently sit in 10th in the east, 7 points out of 8th). The Sabres also could benefit for getting him and his scoring talent for cheap, and I would fully expect to see a boost in his numbers with a stronger staff around him to support him offensively.
Jason Spezza has the skills to put up phenomenal numbers, but has been virtually anemic for the Ottawa Senators this season. The team has suffered greatly sitting on 37 points in 11th in the East, more or less a sure bet to miss the playoffs again. Spezza is currently on injured reserve after suffering a shoulder injury on December 26th, but odds are he'll be back soon, and the Senators would love to get rid of his massive $7 million cap hit. Spezza would love to regain his scoring touch, and with snipers like Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek at his side, I believe the Sabres would stand to gain significantly from his services. And in my eyes the Senators would love to get rid of a player who's causing them a load of headaches at the moment with constant complaining and severely under-performing numbers.
Let me clear this up right now: there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way Alexander Semin is playing. Despite having missed 3 games already so far this year, Semin leads the Capitals in goals with 18, and is third in total points with 35. Even better for Semin is the fact that this is a contract year for him, and despite already denting the Capitals for $6 million in cap hit, it's safe to say he'd probably make more money elsewhere, putting the Caps in a real tight spot: trade him and get some significant benefits, or keep him and risk him walking away. They won't be able to offer him much more than what they already pay him with virtually zero cap room.
The Sabres might want to jump on this opportunity to replace their leading scorer. If Semin wants the bigger paycheck, he may opt to leave the Caps, and the Sabres might be able to pounce on him. He'd be a great fit with some of the top snipers, and possibly delay a complete rebuild that might be necessary if the Sabres can't find a way to get their team to play at a competitive level again.
This is more of an option the Sabres might want to pursue if they want to acquire a scorer for the long run but are willing to surrender this current season. Mueller is currently out indefinitely with a head injury sustained in the pre-season. However he has shown flashes of brilliance in his young NHL career. His maturing scoring talents would be a great asset for years to come. In a season split between Phoenix and Colorado last year (that included several trips between the NHL and the minor leagues), Mueller managed to score a respectable 37 NHL points. The Sabres would most likely not be able to regain his services until later this year, if not until next season, but the investment might be worth it if the Sabres are looking for a future investment that is showing potential to pay of major dividends in the near future, and at a most reasonable price in the short term.
The Calgary captain and inaugural winner of the Mark Messier Leadership Award, Jarome Iginla has been linked with blockbuster trade rumors for a couple years now. Most of these rumors have been linked with the Los Angeles Kings, but the Sabres, looking to get rid of current captain Craig Rivet due to a large number of poor performances, would love to get their hands on a strong leader to take over the reins, and particularly one with such a distinct pedigree. Iginla brings in years of experience and an abundance of scoring potential, with the possibility of putting up some huge numbers. He has been surrounded by a Flames team that has been terrible to say the least so far this season, and appears bound for a major rebuild starting this summer. Yet despite all that, Iginla has managed to put up some pretty good numbers so far with 16 goals and 35 points. If the almost-inevitable rebuild happens at this point, however, expect Iginla's massive $7 million cap hit to be one of the first things to go.
The young San Jose Sharks forward has shown signs of absolute brilliance in his still remarkably young NHL career, with many people believing he will soon be capable of throwing up goal totals similar to those he achieved just two seasons ago when he put up a 31-goal, 65-point campaign. However, his totals have slid this season, as through 30 games he only has 12 points, poor numbers for such a talented forward. This may be partially due to the suddenly streaky and inconsistent Sharks team he plays for, which is causing its fans a number of headaches and many hockey pundits to scratch their heads in bewilderment. Like several other players on this list, he is in a contract year, though he is a restricted free agent. The Sharks, one of several NHL teams starved for cap space, might not be willing to give him much of a raise, which Setoguchi might not agree with, and this could see his departure come the trade deadline. The Sabres would love to obtain the services of this young player with so much raw potential to buffet the loss of their top scorer, and in addition they would be getting a great player who could throw up those huge numbers again for several years to come.
Martin Havlat joined the Minnesota Wild on a free agent deal in an attempt to replace the departed Marian Gaborik, but he has been a far cry from adequate. Since joining the Wild in 2009, he has only scored a grand total of 26 goals, including only 8 this season, showing more or less that this was a completely failed experiment. The Wild look bound to miss the playoffs again this season, sitting in 13th in the Western Conference, 4 points out of the final playoff spot, and with the West as tight as it is, that 4 points might as well be 40.
The Wild need to look for a new option for an offensive leader, as the $5 million Czech-born winger has not filled this role in Minnesota. The Wild would no doubt love to get rid of him, and I believe he might return to his former glory again on a different team. Buffalo might be the place he does so. Surrounded by some dynamic offensive talent, Havlat could see his goal totals start going skyward again, making him an adequate fill-in for Derek Roy. Additionally, the Wild, currently completely strapped for cap space, would gain some room to resign important players and possibly even go shopping for a new offensive stalwart to spearhead their anemic attack.