BUFFALO, NY -- The NHL trade deadline is right around the corner. For the Buffalo Sabres, they'll likely head into the trading season as sellers for the third time under General Manager Tim Murray.
The month of February is jam packed with games for the hockey club, but they've proven through 50 games that they don't have the ability to put together a considerable winning streak.
While the Sabres will fall into the seller category, that doesn't mean they wouldn't look to acquire players who can help them moving forward. Murray won't be on the search for a rental player, but he'll certainly be on the lookout for "hockey trades."
Murray said during a recent radio interview on WGR 550 in Buffalo that the team was "not going to sell the farm for a one-off playoff playoff shot." He went on to say that "we could still be buyers and still get a young player that fits going forward."
The Sabres don't have any big pieces that they could offer teams as rentals to help with a playoff push. However, they do have players that would fall into the second tier for teams who miss out on the big fish.
Here is my guide to the 2017 trade deadline for the Buffalo Sabres:
Needs: Top four defenseman, bottom six forward and fourth line center
Deadline Cap Space: $7.55 Million (via Cap Friendly)
Current 2017 Draft Picks: 1st, 2nd (2), 3rd (2), 4th, 6th and 7th
Buffalo has a few players that are on expiring contracts that teams around the League could be interested in acquiring.
Brian Gionta, Anders Nilsson, Cody Franson and Dmitry Kulikov will all be unrestricted free agents come July. All four should draw significant interest around the League.
BRIAN GIONTA -- Gionta is perhaps the Sabres' biggest piece they could move as a rental in terms of return. The Sabres captain is 38-years old and on pace for a 20 goal season as he continues to be a very capable player. He's by no means a lock to move prior to the deadline.
First off, he would need to approve a trade with a limited no-trade clause. The organization would also give Gionta the option of staying with the team or finding a team that could give him the chance to make another Stanley Cup run.
Possible return: Mid-round pick
CODY FRANSON -- The big defenseman is in the final year of a two-year contract that carries a $3.33 Million cap hit. The 29-year-old has 15 points through 47 games with the Sabres. He's the type of player a team could target to add depth to their team for a playoff run. Franson has his defensive liabilities with his speed, but can also provide offense in a special team role.
Possible return: Mid to late-round pick
DMITRY KULIKOV -- The Russian blueliner is an interesting player to consider as the deadline approaches. The Sabres acquired Kulikov during the NHL Draft back in June hoping he could fulfill a need as a top-four defenseman. Unfortunately, the 26-year-old has only played in 24 games as he's struggled through a back injury suffered in the preseason. He indicated prior to returning to the lineup a few weeks ago that this is the best he's felt all season.
The back injury could scare some teams off or lower is value on the market. Kulikov is still young and can be part of a team beyond this season if he plays well for them. The Sabres themselves may not be so inclined to move him and instead get an extended look at the former first round pick to see if they'd like to re-sign him.
Possible return: Mid to late-round pick
ANDERS NILSSON -- The 26-year-old Swede has been a pleasant surprise for the Sabres this season. In 19 appearances, Nilsson has a 2.60 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. He could be an interesting option to teams seeking goaltending help that don't want to pay the steep asking price for big names like Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Possible return: Late-round pick
JOSH GORGES -- Gorges still has one more year left on his contract after this season a $3.9 Million cap hit. He's nearing a return from a mid-body injury that has caused the veteran defender to miss close to a month. Like Gionta, the Sabres will likely leave the option up to Gorges if he wants to move on. The 32-year-old also carries a limited no-trade clause allowing him to provide a 14 team no-trade list.
Possible return: Late-round pick
The Sabres do have to other players that can be had at the right price, with Evander Kane bring biggest name.
Kane has been red hot over the last two months; he's playing like the player the Sabres thought they were acquiring back in February of 2015. Unless the right deal comes along, it's unlikely the 25-year-old will be traded by the deadline. The Sabres would likely seek a proven top-four defenseman in return for the speedy winger. With how well Kane has played, the team may be more inclined to keep him as part of their future moving forward.
Zemgus Girgensons could also be moved if the right deal presented itself. The former first-round pick will be a restricted free agent come July. If he's dealt, it'll likely be a piece in a bigger trade.
The Sabres have struggled to find a spot for Girgensons in the lineup over the past two seasons. He hasn't played like the guy we saw scoring nearly 20 goals and was an All-Star during the 2014-15 season. The Latvian is playing some of the best hockey we've seen from him over the past few years and has stepped into the third line center role vacated by a Johan Larsson injury and has become a factor again for the Sabres.
The Sabres will be looking for young assets that will be part of the future in any trade in which they bring back players.
Colorado Avalanche forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene are the biggest names on the market, but the asking price for both appears to be way above what the Sabres would be willing to pay. A player the team could target could be a guy like Ryan Spooner from the Boston Bruins. He's been rumored to be on the block for the Bruins all season and is a 25-year-old center with upside.
Murray will also be searching for a young top-four defenseman. Cam Fowler and Jacob Trouba are two big names, however, with the Anaheim Ducks in the midst of a playing for a division title, the off-season seems like a more likely scenario in a Fowler trade -- though the Ducks may opt to keep the All-Star and decide to take calls on Sami Vataanen.
Trouba could be an option, but the Jets were looking for another top young defenseman back in return earlier this season. Sending a player like Jake McCabe to the Jets in return for Trouba seems counterproductive.
The big name to keep an eye on with the Sabres is Kevin Shattenkirk. If he'd be willing to accept a trade to Buffalo, they could be a dark horse team that could swoop in on the sweepstakes. The 28-year-old could be more inclined to look for a contending team for the remainder of the season and then head into the summer as an unrestricted free agent.
Murray will definitely be active leading up to the March 1st deadline. With how the standings look right now, the market is setting up to favor the sellers. Only the Arizona Coyotes and Avalanche are out of any realistic playoff hopes.
If the Sabres are one of only a handful of teams looking to deal off players, they could see some higher than anticipated returns for their assets.
Chad DeDominicis is the Buffalo Correspondent for The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.