As the NHL's trading deadline looms, we as mere fans can only sit back and speculate as to the moves the Sabres may make. It seems as if we go through this each and every year, talking about the "big" names that could be headed in or out of Buffalo...yet it seems we always walk away disappointed.
With Terry Pegula about to take over as owner of the Buffalo Sabres, some expect a plethora of potential moves to be made. Will this be the case? Will we only see minor moves by the time the deadline has passed? We can only ask these questions, and speculate on the rest.
With roughly two months left in the regular season, the Sabres sit just four points out of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. With two games in hand on the current placeholder, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Sabres could easily make the push to move into a playoff spot. But, by no means would this secure a playoff berth.
Since the beginning of the new year, the Sabres have been touted as one of the hottest teams in the NHL. This was accomplished by more consistent scoring from top forwards Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek, while Jordan Leopold has been on an offensive tirade from the blue line; racking up 11 goals and 20 assists, good for 31 points (which is no easy feat for a defensemen). Even Jason Pominville has gotten himself back on track, as he is on pace to break the 20 goal barrier once again.
While the team relishes the fact that they have one of the most talented youngsters in the game in Tyler Ennis, guys like: Craig Rivet, Jochen Hecht, Mike Grier, and Rob Niedermayer have been nothing short of disappointments on the year.
Jochen Hecht, Forward:
It's hard to imagine that Jochen Hecht will not be the subject of trade rumors in the coming weeks. He has been invisible all year, and has only 8 goals to show for his $3.5 million salary this season. While his cap hit may prevent a team from making an offer, Hecht can bring leadership to a young team looking to make a long playoff run. Teams like Dallas and Tampa Bay could be potential buyers.
Mike Grier, Forward:
Same as Hecht, although Grier offers nothing other than leadership and experience. He would a good guy to have in the locker room for a young team in the playoffs.
Tim Connolly, Center:
While it seems as though Connolly just isn't the offensive threat he once was, he seems to have put some of his injury problems in the past (knock on wood). Maybe this is what seems to be holding back the once creative goal scorer. Regardless, he can still be a decent #2 center for a team looking to add an intelligent playmaker.
Jhonas Enroth, Goaltender:
Personally, I would urge the front office to hold on to Enroth. He is/was touted as one of the best goaltending prospects in the NHL, which means he has value in the market. While a team in need of goaltending help could make an offer, Enroth would be a great candidate to back up and/or succeed Ryan Miller in the future.
Steve Montador, Defenseman:
While he would only be used to being in a minor piece or add to a larger deal, Steve Montador has more value than he did last year around this time. Seeing as though his contract expires at the end of the year, he could be moved as a rental player to a team in need of a third or fourth defenseman. The Sabres have plenty of promising defenseman waiting their turn in Portland, making Montador a prime candidate for a trade sometime the month.
Drew Stafford, Forward:
Stafford's stock has never been higher, simply put. If the Sabres are looking to get the most bang for their buck, it's by trading either Stafford or Vanek. Seeing as though Vanek's cap hit is through the roof, Stafford would be the more likely of the two to hit the block. His name will come up quite a bit over the next few weeks in terms of trade talks.
Anze Kopitar, Center, LA Kings:
While Kopitar is one of the main pieces in LA, his production is down this year. The Kings sit just one spot out of the playoffs at the moment, and are in desperate need of a top scorer. With all of the young playmakers on LA's roster, Thomas Vanek could really benefit...
Brad Richards, Center, Dallas Stars:
Being the rumor of numerous trades throughout the past few months, Brad Richards is likely the biggest name on the block in 2011. He is still on of the top centers in the NHL, and although he might not put up big numbers, he would be an asset to just about any team.
Ales Hemsky, Forward, Edmonton Oilers:
While Hemsky has had trouble staying on the ice the last couple years, he is a solid first or second line winger when he's healthy. His stats resemble those of former Sabres winger and fellow Czech, Ales Kotalik. His cap hit might be too pricey for a deal, unless a high priced piece such as Tim Connolly is moved.
Dustin Penner, Forward, Edmonton Oilers:
Penner is one of the more intriguing names on the block this year. He's only 27 years old, and has the potential to be a 30 goal scorer, as he showed in the 2009-2010 season. Like Hemsky, he is pricey, but offers more in terms of production.
Zach Bogosian, Defenseman, Atlanta Thrashers:
The latest member to be introduced in trade talks around the NHL, Zach Bogosian has reportedly found his way into the doghouse of the Thrashers coaching staff. With guys like: Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, and Johnny Oduya on the roster; the former 3rd overall pick may be used to coax a team into giving up a top forward or draft pick in exchange for the promising 20 year old blueliner.
Only time will tell what moves will be made by February 28th, and we as fans can only wait and wonder. Make sure you leave your thoughts, comments, and opinions on the moves the Sabres could make before the deadline!
Potential moves were determined by my own thoughts and opinions, as well as rumors provided by various sites, broadcasts, networks, and the NHL.