The focus at the deadline was on rental players, but the limited amount of trades should set up for a rather busy summer.
The Sabres were able to trade long time defenseman Mike Weber and forward Jamie McGinn. Weber was sent to the NHL’s top team the Washington Capitals for a 3rd round pick in 2017. The return for Weber was a bit higher than I expected, but he should fit in nicely as a depth defenseman with the Capitals as they prepare for a deep playoff run. Weber was having perhaps the best season of his career and the Caps were wise to bring him in for his size and physical play.
McGinn was dealt right near the 3pm ET deadline. He was sent to the red hot Anaheim Ducks for a conditional 3rd round pick in 2016. If McGinn plays in 50% of the games and the Ducks make it to the Western Conference Finals the 3rd round pick then changes to a 2nd round pick in 2017. The 27-year-old will fit in well and provide some depth scoring for the Ducks. If he continues to score in Anaheim McGinn should be due a decent pay day come July 1st.
On the Sabres end they were able to add for the moment two more 3rd round picks to their already impressive collection of draft picks. Buffalo now holds 20 picks in the next two drafts including 4 3rd round picks in this upcoming draft if the conditional pick from the Ducks remains a 3rd. Murray won’t be looking to make all 20 selections; some picks will be used as currency in trade discussions.
Murray went into the deadline open for business and ready to deal. However, to his displeasure other GM’s around the league were not ready to make the big moves at this time.
He did say he received some calls from GM’s willing to make a “hockey trade”, but the potential offers were not what he was looking for. Other General Managers told Murray and the Sabres to circle back with them in the summer.
Sure, the deadline was slow and boring this year for most, if not, all fans. The good news is that the summer should bring about a lot of movement around the league. In the case of the Sabres, they could be among the most active. They have plenty of cap space and the draft picks to deal. Next season is a big season for Buffalo and Murray, who’ll be in his 3rd full season as GM.
The Sabres will need to be in the discussion of earning a playoff spot next season around the time of the trade deadline or the pressure could really start to mount for Murray.
Murray knows the position his team is in and will need to be aggressive this summer. Buffalo needs to upgrade their blueline and find more scoring on the wing to play with young star Jack Eichel. Many options will be available come draft day or in free agency.
The Sabres will certainly be in the race for star forward Steven Stamkos if he does indeed hit the open market. The most action for the Sabres though will likely come in the trade market. A lot of big names could be available in a trade including Edmonton Oilers forwards Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. Also, Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathon Drouin and Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. Any of those players would fit what Buffalo will be in search for and provide a big boost to the lineup.
The Sabres had brief discussions with Tampa Bay on Drouin, but choose to pass. The price was too high and they were not sold on Drouin as an impact player, according to sources. We’ll see if Buffalo decides to circle back with the Lightning on Drouin come June.
Ducks blueliner Fowler continues to be highly coveted by Murray. The Sabres and Ducks will re-open discussions in the summer. Anaheim will be looking to move out one of their young defenders as Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen will be restricted free agents and due a big pay day. Fowler still seems like the odd man out on the blue line.
Get ready, it’s going to be a wild summer.