For the Buffalo Sabres, June 27 could be a franchise-defining day. They own the second overall selection and plenty of assets to move.
One of the biggest questions as we approach draft day will be whether the Sabres should trade current roster players for draft picks, prospects or established players. But who should GM Tim Murray consider trading? Who are the most likely players to be dealt?
Here, we examine the five most likely players to be moved:
1) Tyler Myers
The Sabres’ enigmatic defenseman showed flashes of improvement in 2014, but still had fell short of expectations. The previous GM talked over and over about having patience with a 6-foot-7 defenseman – the new GM may see things a different way. While Myers profiles as the type of puck-carrying D-man Murray likes, his lows may just be too low to keep around, especially with Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov on the rise.
Now that we have moved past, “maybe he will be Chara or Pronger,” the focus can be on what Myers’ value is on the market. There is gluttony of teams in search of a defenseman with a high ceiling and somewhat reasonable cap hit at $5.5M (assuming the cap goes up). Could Edmonton or Florida be interested in boosting their blueline in exchange for a young forward or draft pick? The Sabres will probably look for both to get Myers away.
If Murray is not sold on the former first-round pick, the clock is ticking. Myers’ full no trade clause kicks in in 2016.
2) Christian Ehrhoff
Speaking of no trade clauses, Ehrhoff can select eight teams where he cannot be traded. The 31-year-old defenseman is a quality top four and is one of the best puck possession D-men in the NHL, but his age and value make him a candidate to be moved. You could reasonably see half the teams in the league needing or wanting a blueliner of his ilk – so there will be offers on the table.
The question is Murray’s price point. At the trade deadline, no teams were able to come close to offering enough to get Ehrhoff away from the Sabres. Will the price increase at the draft? Could Buffalo get another 2015 first-round pick from a team who expects to compete?
With a $4 million cap hit, the German defender is not the type the Sabres will let walk for cheap. At 31, he still has a lot in the tank as many similar D-men play deep into their 30s. He could be the veteran presence on a blueline with young talent aplenty.
3) Cody Hodgson
We may find out on draft day whether Murray believes Hodgson is a part of the long-term plan. After moving to wing, the 24-year-old seemed to be a better fit – especially when along side Zemgus Girgensons. But, down the road, the Sabres may expect to have players with a higher ceiling playing next to their Latvian center. There is also a chance Murray is designing his team like the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings: With big players who can play at both ends and score. As a one-dimensional player, Hodgson does not exactly fit the bill.
Will anyone be interested in his contract? If another team sees him as a legitimate top six forward, $4.5 million cap hit is far from too much to take on in a trade. Murray could also wait until the deadline or down the road – by no means does he have to move a player penciled into next year’s power play time and top minutes.
4) Drew Stafford
The 2015 UFA forward found some chemistry with Ted Nolan, playing noticeably better down the stretch. However, his scoring has drifted downward since receiving a long-term contract. It seems very unlikely that the Sabres will want to keep him long term considering his fading scoring touch and age.
He could also be a classic “change of scenery” player, who could take off under different circumstances, but will struggle when carrying the hardest minutes on a bad team. If he was playing with a more skilled set of forwards, he might thrive as a finisher around the net.
Murray has another option: Hoping Stafford has a big year and trading him at the deadline. The low deadline prices for scorers (see: Vanek, Thomas) of last year may scare him from doing so.
5) Mikhail Grigorenko
The Sabres’ former first-round pick showed improvement when assigned to Rochester last year, but he could be one of the more valuable chips that the team is willing to part ways with. They are not trading Rasmus Ristolainen or Zemgus Girgensons for the moon. Nikita Zadorov is probably close to the same class.
Grigorenko is still considered an elite prospect, despite his struggles in the NHL. He has top-level offensive ability and could be the final piece to a bigger trade.
The holdup is the Russian forward’s ceiling. If everything goes perfectly in his development, he could be a Joe Thornton-esque point producer. Even though the chances of that are looking slimmer, it would be a black eye if he was traded away and became the superstar we once expected him to be.