Buffalo Sabres: Eric Staal trade provides much-needed boost at center

Eric Staal #12 of the Minnesota Wild plays against the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Eric Staal #12 of the Minnesota Wild plays against the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Buffalo Sabres acquired Eric Staal from the Minnesota Wild for Marcus Johansson as the team addressed a crucial void in the lineup.

Going into this off-season, the Buffalo Sabres have many things on their to-do list and their acquisition of Eric Staal checks an important thing off their list.

This is the first trade for recently promoted general manager Kevyn Adams and there is some history between him and Staal as they won a Stanley Cup as teammates on the Carolina Hurricanes.

If there is one thing we have seen from new general managers is the desire to get some familiarity both on and off the ice and you can tell this was something Adams wanted. Not only that but he realized that what Staal can bring to the team is something they desperately need.

"“There’s very few players in the league that just from what they’ve done on and off the ice command the respect and have the presence that an Eric Staal does,” Adams explained to reporters. “I’ve seen that up close and personal. We added a phenomenal player and person that I’m very excited about.”"

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It’s hard to find a lot of criticism with this trade considering Johansson will save $1.25 million in cap space and get an upgrade at center. Sure, Staal is six years older than Johansson but he still had 16 goals and 47 points in 66 games.

The team has struggled to find a capable No. 2 center behind Jack Eichel and this move ensures that Dylan Cozens can make a smooth transition to professional hockey, either in the AHL or lower in the lineup. It also means that Casey Mittlestadt can take the third-line center spot or play on the wing if that is the better fit for him.

Another player who should hopefully benefit from Staal’s arrival is Jeff Skinner who will reunite with his former Carolina teammate. Skinner had a disastrous first season with his new deal scoring only 14 goals so Staal should hopefully be able to get him back on track.

For next season, this move should at least make Buffalo more competitive since they are getting a proven top-six center and have the flexibility to make more moves. Since Staal is on a one-year deal there is little risk involved as well.

The team will likely need to seek an improvement in goal and there will be plenty of options to consider in free agency and the trade market. While the Sabres still have a long way to go to get the team in a competitive position, this move certainly puts them in the right direction.

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What do you think about the addition of Staal? What other moves should the Sabres be looking to make this offseason? Let us know in the comments below.