What to expect at the NHL trade deadline

The countdown is on.

With the NHL trade deadline tomorrow at 3 pm ET, teams around the league are expected to scramble their rosters and try to acquire those final pieces for a deep playoff run.

Some minor moves have already been made in the hours since the Olympic trade freeze lifted at midnight Sunday night. The Penguins picked up Jordan Leopold from Florida. The Sens grabbed Andy Sutton from the Isles. Other than some swaps involving minor leaguers, it’s been rental players for draft picks.

So what does Darcy Regier have in store for Sabres fans?

Likely it’ll be a disappointing day for die-hards who expect Regier to send Paetsch and a draft pick to Florida for Nathan Horton. That won’t happen. That’s not how Darcy rolls.

Usually, it works like this for Sabres fans: a couple people on the internet will start talking about the Sabres acquiring certain guys, and all of a sudden, fans are furious if the Sabres aren’t the team that gets them, if they’re moved at all. This gets emphasized when people with columns start throwing names out there.

There’s a list of those guys, which is pretty extensive this year, and odds are they won’t be wearing blue and gold by the end of the week.

So far, according to Sabres nation, we should be getting:

  • Nathan Horton, F, Florida …who may not even be available.
  • Tomas Kaberle, D, Toronto …who has said he’s not waiving his no trade clause.
  • Joe Corvo, D, Carolina …who could help the powerplay, but would be feared on Chippewa.
  • Marek Zidlicky, D, Minnesota …who just signed a contract extension.
  • Ray Whitney, F, Carolina …who has a no-trade clause and wants a three year extension to waive it.
  • Martin Biron, G, NY Islanders …who has been worse than Lalime this year but would somehow improve our goaltending.

The list could surely go on. “Realistic” isn’t part of the Buffalo sports vernacular for most fans.

The recent Olympics have surely put more pressure on the organization to make tangible moves to show they’re trying to win now. Sure, now that Ryan Miller is a megastar and can pretty much carry the team through the playoffs by himself, you’d like to see them improve the roster. And it’s safe to say they will. But how will fans react if the team makes a small move and says they wanna go with what they’ve got?

The Sabres tend to believe in chemistry, so making trades for the sake of making a trade isn’t going to happen. If they feel the team can be improved by a certain deal or combination of deals, they’ll make a move.

Of course, the team could use a forward or two. I don’t think anyone can expect to win anything significant when Adam Mair is in the lineup. Same for Matt Ellis. Depth up front can definitely be improved. But at what cost?

Dealing top prospects for low-end rentals, or even high-end rentals, should be considered out of the question for an organization that can’t replenish high-end talent through free agency. Star players in Buffalo can only be developed from within. Look at the top of the roster. Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Tyler Myers, Jason Pominville… those players were all drafted and groomed. You have to consider names like Tyler Ennis out of the conversation. Ennis’ name comes up more times than it should in conversations of what’s expendable, especially on WGR, but that’s worth a whole post in itself, so I’ll leave that alone. Selling the future is never going to help the franchise. Draft picks are like gold to teams like the Sabres. Unless it’s a blockbuster, expect Darcy to hang on to that first round pick.

The way the Sabres are going to do it, and likely the best way to do it, is move spare parts for picks and turn those picks around for talent. We saw it last year, not for a positive gain in my opinion, when they dealt Ales Kotalik for a second round pick, and grabbed Dominic Moore from Toronto for a second rounder. Pretty much a player for player swap. That’s what we’re likely to see.

The leading candidate to be sent packing right now has to be Toni Lydman. Not that Lydman’s been bad, but he’s just the most marketable asset available. He’s a UFA at season’s end. So is Henrik Tallinder, but do the Sabres want to break up their number one defensive pairing? Doubtful. With Andrej Sekera’s resurgence in Vancouver, the Sabres have a crunch at defense. Sekera has to play. To get him in there they’ll have to move somebody, and Lydman has to be the clubhouse leader.

Players who have fallen out of favor are sure to be considered as well. Drew Stafford, Clarke MacArthur, even the aforementioned Sekera can all be moved.

But, that said, there’s always the opportunity for a surprise. CapGeek has the Sabres’ acquisition space (based on full year salaries) as $8,495,427 thanks to all the “banked” cap space from this season. That leaves the opportunity to make multiple moves.

So, for the time being, we wait to see what happens. Who knows what Darcy has working right now. We’ll know tomorrow.

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Posted on March 2, 2010, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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