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Who could the Sabres target in late-1st round trade?

Buffalo Sabres’ general manager Tim Murray has repeatedly said the Sabres would like to trade back into the first round. They have currency to deal with three second-round picks to work with and oodles of cap space.

In the past, the late first round has been a place to grab underrated prospects – some of which have turned into the league’s stars.

Here are some of the best picks in the first between the 20th and 30th selection between 2003-2008

2003: Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, Corey Perry
2004: Travis Zajac, Cory Schneider, Mike Green
2005: Tuukka Rask, T.J. Oshie
2006: Claude Giroux, Semyon Varlamov
2007: Max Pacioretty, David Perron
2008: Tyler Ennis, John Carlson

Some promising current NHL prospects and young players have been picked there as well. Marcus Johansson, Mark Pysyk, Charlie Coyle, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Brock Nelson, Oli Maatta, Tanner Pearson and so on…

So it is worth it to move up and increase the chances of grabbing a quality-to-star player late in the first.

Which teams could they trade with?

Minnesota (18th)

A team built to win now, the Wild could be looking to improve their depth around stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. While Minnesota has plenty of cap room to work with, they could also look to get out from under goalie Niklas Backstrom’s $3.4M hit. The Wild would be interested in at least getting current roster player and second rounder.

Tampa Bay (19th, 28th)

The Lightning have a barrel of young forwards who are NHL ready, including two of the top rookies in the NHL this year Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. That means they could part ways with one of their two late-round picks for a player who fits a specific role on next year’s team. The Lightning lack depth on defense and severely lack a backup goaltender.

San Jose (20th)

The Sabres have stated they are willing to take on bad contracts to get to the cap floor. Sabres, meet Martin Havlat. The veteran forward is on the Sharks’ cap for $5.5 million next season. They have the fourth highest current cap number and they likely want to spend in free agency.. Taking his contract alone won’t be enough to get to 20th but with picks and prospects abound, the Sabres could make it happen.

St. Louis (21st)

The Blues do not have a contract the Sabres could take off their hand, but they are looking to stock up on depth to make a run toward the Cup next season. St. Louis made several bone-headed signings last off-season in Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow and may be looking for a younger player to fill out their lineup.

Pittsburgh (22nd)

Problem No. 1 for the Penguins during the post-season was depth. The Sabres have a group of forwards and defenseman who are either established NHL depth players or have potential to be a quality role player. There are also contracts the Sabres could take, such as Rob Scuderi’s $3.375M hit.

Colorado (23rd)

The Avs were one of the top teams in the NHL last year and are thinking Cup next season, but they are far from a perfect team. Colorado lacks defensive depth, which the Sabres have. Would they be willing to move down to the second round in exchange for a young defenseman?

Anaheim (24th)

The Ducks have two first-round picks and might be willing to part ways with their later pick to add more picks for the future or a young player. They are looking to win next year, but proved to be a notch below the LA Kings.

Which draft picks could they be targeting?

Jake Virtanen (Calgary Hitmen)

The power forward scored 45 goals in 71 games for Calgary. He is known as a smart player with speed and has been projected as a mid-round pick.

Alex Tuch (US National U18 Team)

With size at 6-foot-3, 215-pounds, Tuch plays below the circles and protects the puck well. He has been called “much more than a power forward” because of his quality makeup.

Ivan Barbashev (Moncton Wildcats)

The two-way winger has playmaking skills and projects as a forward who will be difficult to play against at both ends. He played a big role for Team Russia in the U-18 in 2012-13 and scored 68 points in 48 games for Moncton.

Brendan Lemieux (Barrie Colts)

A teammate of Aaron Ekblad’s, Lemieux projects as a hard worker who is not afraid to play a physical role. He was a secondary scorer for Barrie with 53 points in 65 games, it is the intangibles that make him a likely late first-round pick.

Sonny Milano (US U18 National)

TMilano is a terrific puck handler, who plays with potential 2015 top pick Jack Eichel. He has good speed and is elusive, making him a potential top six forward in the NHL.

Josh HoSang (Windsor Spitfires)

The top-end skater lit up the OHL for 85 points in 67 games. He has been ranked as high as nine and low as 33. Has “natural offensive ability” but there are question marks about his all-around game. Could be a late-round find.

3rd overall

The Sabres could be looking to get back into the first round to ultimately move up into the top five. While it does not happen often, pundits have said there is a good chance of trades toward the top of the draft this year. Could Buffalo move Tyler Myers and picks to get to No. 3? It seems anything is possible with Buffalo’s pool of assets to trade.