After the early portion of the offseason that saw the Buffalo Sabres acquire Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino by means of trade or free agency, it stands to reason that the Sabres are essentially happy with their team heading into next season.
When you look deeper into Buffalo’s situation with regards to restricted free agents and the salary cap, however, there could still be some moves on the horizon. With this in mind, of course, NHL rumor mongers have been hard at work trying to piece together possible trade scenarios.
Although a blockbuster seems unlikely at this point, there is certainly reason to believe the Sabres could make one or two smaller deals before training camp commences in September. Not only does Buffalo have a glut of wingers on its roster, but restricted free agents like Jhonas Enroth, Andrej Sekera and Marc-Andre Gragnani remain unsigned.
With the Sabres just $338,000 from the cap ceiling, it’s quite obvious that additional moves will need to be made if Enroth, Sekera and Gragnani are all going to sign. This could be solved by stashing Ales Kotalik and Shaone Morrisonn in AHL Rochester, but one gets the feeling that another trade could be forthcoming.
The following are the hottest Sabres trade rumors to date.
According to Frank Krulicki, a self-professed NHL rumor monger on Twitter, the Phoenix Coyotes could be in the market for Buffalo’s backup goalie Jhonas Enroth. While this rumor first surfaced in June, the Sabres’ recent difficulty in negotiating a new contract with the young netminder certainly lends some credence to it.
A possible return for Enroth would be 23-year-old winger Viktor Tikhonov, who has struggled to crack Phoenix’s lineup for the past couple seasons. Although Tikhonov certainly has potential, I fail to see how he would be considered an adequate return for Enroth. The Sabres already have a ton of young wingers in their system, and Enroth’s ability to presumably spell Ryan Miller for 20 or more games next season is invaluable.
The Coyotes have since signed Mike Smith to a two-year contract to be their starting goalie, but that could definitely change if they could get their hands on Enroth. Despite being unable to sign Enroth to this point, you have to believe that both parties will eventually come to their senses on agree on a fair deal. If it does come to the point where the Sabres don’t feel as if Enroth can be signed to a reasonable contract, though, I would suspect that they could get a player in return who could immediately help, rather than a project like Tikhonov.
In a recent Buffalo News article by Bucky Gleason, it was suggested that the Columbus Blue Jackets could be in the market for a puck-moving defenseman like Buffalo’s Andrej Sekera. In the article, Gleason says that Sabres’ general manager Darcy Regier is good friends with Blue Jackets’ general manager Scott Howson. With that in mind, Columbus would seem to be a very logical partner if Buffalo is indeed looking to move Sekera.
The Sabres and Blue Jackets have a trade history to boot as Buffalo shipped defenseman Craig Rivet to Columbus in a deal last season. The only question that remains is whether the Sabres want to move Sekera in the first place. Sekera obviously has great potential as an offensive defenseman as he displayed last year, but he is often prone to defensive breakdowns.
With Tyler Myers, Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff, Jordan Leopold, Mike Weber and Marc-Andre Gragnani (should he be re-signed) already in the fold, there doesn’t seem to be much room for Sekera. Gragnani stepped up big time in the playoffs last season and seemed to pass Sekera on the priority list. With that said, Sekera would probably be stuck in Buffalo as a seventh defenseman.
Sekera recently filed for arbitration and could be in line to get around $2 million per season due to his offensive output. That is obviously far too much for what amounts to a spare part. If Sekera is in Buffalo’s future plans, then Gragnani likely isn’t. Since I can’t see that being the case, I would fully expect the Sabres to get some assets in return for him, and Columbus is a possible destination.
HockeyFuzz.ca posted a rumor last week regarding the Sabres inquiring about the availability of winger Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals. While no source was revealed and there is no indication of who the Sabres would send to Washington in return, this is quite the interesting rumor. The Capitals are currently $328,000 over the salary cap and will have to make some sort of move to get under.
Of course trading a player the magnitude of Semin isn’t necessary to accomplish that, but it could make sense for the Caps. Semin’s contract is up after next season and he will almost certainly command a huge deal on the open market. With that in mind, Washington may not be able to re-sign him and may be willing to take preemptive measures by trading him.
As skilled as Semin is, he hasn’t responded well to physical play traditionally and often comes up small in big spots such as the playoffs. Seeing as the Caps honed in on a more defensive style last season, Semin may be a square peg in a round hole at this point. While Washington may be willing to listen to offers, the real question is whether the Sabres have any true interest.
Center is definitely a more pressing need for Buffalo, but talent on the wing like Semin, Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis could make up for any deficiencies it has down the middle. The biggest issue, though, would be re-signing him. With both Ennis and Tyler Myers set to enter restricted free agency next season, there probably wouldn’t be enough money to go around. The expiring contracts of Brad Boyes, Jochen Hecht and Paul Gaustad would help, but I honestly don’t see a real fit here.
After completing a deal that sent Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik and a second-round pick to Buffalo in exchange for Chris Butler and Paul Byron, the Calgary Flames may still be looking to make another trade. According to Steve MacFarlane of The Calgary Sun, another Buffalo/Calgary trade could still be in the works as the Sabres are awfully close to the salary cap and have an excess amount of forwards.
Although the Flames are inching close to the cap in their own right, general manager Jay Feaster is still interested in making improvements, particularly at forward. Brad Boyes, Jochen Hecht and even Jason Pominville are wingers who the Sabres may be willing to part with for the right price. This type of move likely wouldn’t interest the Sabres, however, unless another larger trade is in the works.
Regardless, it’s nice for Buffalo to know that options exist should it find itself in salary cap trouble. As mentioned previously, sending Kotalik and Shaone Morrisonn down to Rochester would free up approximately $5 million in space, but that number could jump to $9 million or $10 million should the Sabres trade one of the aforementioned players.
Unless the Sabres surprise us all and make a play for a top-flight center, however, I don’t think a salary dump is likely.
From the department of “it sounds too good to be true,” HockeyBuzz.com blogger Garth suggested that the Sabres might make a play for New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise. Parise, a restricted free agent, has yet to agree to terms with the Devils. While Parise will certainly command a big-time contract as a 26-year-old star, the Devils should still have enough funds to sign him. They are currently about $7 million under the cap, though, so signing Parise probably wouldn’t allow them to make any other improvements.
With that in mind, Garth suggested that the Sabres should offer the restricted free agent rights of Jhonas Enroth and Andrej Sekera in exchange for the rights to Parise. This would obviously sound great to any Sabre fan, but I have a difficult time believing New Jersey would ever consider this. Martin Brodeur is getting up there in age obviously, and acquiring a goalie of the future would be advantageous, but Enroth’s NHL experience is incredibly limited.
It’s quite possible that he was nothing more than a flash in the pan last season.
Also, Sekera is a nice piece, but he would hardly be enough to pry a young star like Parise away from the Devils. Trading Parise would definitely give New Jersey more flexibility, but there’s no way that it would lead to improvement, at least not for the foreseeable future. Also, the Sabres had better be willing to give up an astronomical amount in exchange for Parise. If Buffalo offers a package involving Tyler Ennis, Zack Kassian, Brayden McNabb and more, then perhaps the Devils will listen. Outside of that, this seems like little more than a pipe dream.