Now is not the time: The case to sell at the deadline

With the frenzy of deadline day only a mere week away, and the Buffalo Sabres living on the fringe of the playoff picture, there’s no easy answer as to what GM Darcy Regier should be doing.

(No, the answer is not “quitting” and/or “leaving town”, morons.)

New ownership is taking over tomorrow and with that comes hope for a new era. The only problem is the team isn’t showing us on the ice why there is reason to hope… for this season anyways. A three game losing streak comes at a horrible time, squandering a chance to put the team into the top 8 and creating doubt as to whether it would be worth it to try and make a push this season. The choice should be obvious.

Sell.

Sell everything you can and get whatever you can. The 2010-2011 Buffalo Sabres have done nothing to show they are capable of being successful in the postseason. What is the point of sacrificing potential down the road for a better chance to get nowhere? The returns for rentals is so high, it’d be stupid not to take advantage of it.

Now, keep in mind that the Sabres haven’t often been in the position to sell off rentals. In recent history, the only selling they have done was when they traded Brian Campbell at the deadline in 2008. At the time, Buffalo was in 9th place, tied with 8th place Philadelphia in points. Still, knowing they had an expiring asset, management decided to sell. The Sabres missed the playoffs, as they probably would have, finishing on a 9-7-3 run and four points out of 8th in 10th place.

But for the 19 games of Brian Campbell they gave up, the return was huge. The San Jose Sharks sent forward Steve Bernier and a 1st round pick to Buffalo for the red-headed defenseman. The Sabres would trade Bernier to Vancouver in the offseason for a 2009 3rd round pick and a 2010 2nd round pick, and then deal that 2010 pick at last year’s deadline in a deal for Raffi Torres.

In sacrificing a futile playoff push, the Sabres netted draft picks that brought them Tyler Ennis (the 1st from San Jose), Brayden McNabb (the 3rd from Vancouver) and an asset they could use for a rental when they have a better team.

This is not a suggestion to hold a clearance sale and get rid of everyone. It’s just a good idea to liquidate the expiring assets, because… well, they really aren’t going to make much difference this season. There are so many teams in the playoff chase right now, especially in the muddled Western Conference, there will be a desire to stock up. This is when prices are high, and if these players aren’t going to stick around, maximizing return is crucial.

When next Monday rolls around, the Sabres will have 21 games remaining. So, here’s a case-by-case explanation as to why each pending-UFA should be dealt.

Tim Connolly
Likely return: 1st round pick or depth/prospect + 2nd round pick
Why: The most valuable asset the Sabres have to deal. Would be a great addition to any contender with cap space, thanks to special teams contributions. If management truly feels that they need to make the playoffs, then keeping him is an option. The return may just be too good to keep him.
Who will step in: Paul Byron. He has already shown he can play in the NHL. His offensive instincts will fill some of the void Connolly would leave. It’d be a drop-off, but manageable for the time being.

Steve Montador
Likely return: 2nd or 3rd round pick
Why: Montador has had a very good year, and had an excellent first half before trailing off. He has not discussed an extension, and will likely walk. Gotta get something while you can. Low salary would be attractive to contending teams.
Who will step in: Chris Butler. Butler has struggled this year, but he won’t be stepping into the top-4, Mike Weber will.

Craig Rivet
Likely return:  Late round or conditional draft pick
Why: The captain hasn’t seen the ice, there’s no reason to keep him. Someone would be interested in the depth, maybe even Vancouver or Montreal, who are struggling with injuries on the back end. He’s done after this season.
Who will step in: He’s been a healthy scratch all year. No hole to fill.

Mike Grier
Likely return: 6th round pick
Why: Veteran leader with loads of playoff experience and relatively low salary would be attractive for any team looking for depth up front. Played very well in the playoffs last year. No reason to expect him back in Buffalo next season, so get something while you can and give Mike a chance to win.
Who will step in: Matt Ellis. The 4th line fixture from the division champions has been having a strong season in Portland. He’s good enough to fill the bottom-6 role he’d be asked to.

Rob Niedermayer
Likely return: 7th round or conditional draft pick
Why: It’s obvious that Niedermayer has not produced this season. He’s been so bad he was a healthy scratch last week. Why keep him around when he struggles to merit a spot in the lineup? The veteran presence and low salary could be attractive enough for someone to take a flier on him.
Who will step in: Luke Adam, or left unfilled. The team is carrying an extra forward, he doesn’t need to be replaced. Adam can definitely contribute if needed, though.

While the gentlemen mentioned above do fill special teams roles, there are players capable of taking their spots. Also keep in mind, the OHL regular season ends March 20th, so there’s a possibility Zack Kassian could be in Buffalo before the end of the NHL season.

It’s clear that this roster isn’t capable of winning a Cup. Why beat around the bush with a half-assed attempt to win when you can turn crap into potential? It’s the smart thing to do.

So do it.

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Posted on February 21, 2011, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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