As the NHL trade deadline approaches, the Buffalo Sabres are reportedly taking calls regarding several defensemen including Colin Miller and Will Butcher.
The NHL trade deadline is now just over two weeks away, which should lead to an increase in speculation around the league. In terms of the Buffalo Sabres, they are expected to be a seller.
Irrespective of the Sabres’ current two-game winning streak, they are well on course to extend their NHL-worst active playoff drought to 11 seasons. As a knock-on effect they are open to receiving offers for players, especially as they focus on developing their young talent.
In this respect, David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reports that the Sabres are taking calls for several members of their blue line. More specially, the names mentioned include Colin Miller, Will Butcher, Mark Pysyk and Robert Hagg.
All four players are set to become unrestricted free agents at the conclusion of the current season. Pagnotta said:
"“They have four guys on expiring contracts that can come in as a third-pair or a No.7 guy going into the post-season. So, certainly something to watch in Buffalo … from a defensive market perspective, if you’re looking for depth guys, Buffalo has a few of them, and there’s a good chance at least two will be moved.”"
The Sabres are working from a position of strength, in respect of having no pressure to get any deals done. Their focus will be on accruing more draft picks and young prospects ahead of the March 21 trade deadline.
In this respect, critics may argue about how much value the Sabres’ depth blue-liners offer. However, it would seem there is at least some interest in the four players mentioned.
Buffalo could also take on bad contracts from teams as part of any potential trade, in order to improve their chances of receiving better draft picks and/or young prospects. At the time of posting they have just under $48.36 million cap space for this season, which is most in the NHL.
Sticking with the financial implications, Miller has the highest cap hit for the Sabres, at $3.875 million. Butcher is just over $2.82 million, Hagg is $1.6 million and Pysyk is $900,000.
Miller and Butcher are both currently on injured reserve, albeit with nothing long-term. Miller has returned to practice, while Butcher is skating again and listed as day-to-day.
Want your voice heard? Join the Tip Of The Tower team!
Of the four blue-liners, Miller has had the most productive career to date. This includes the 2017-18 season, when he had a single-season best 41 points as part of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights side which went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
The 29-year-old hasn’t been anywhere near as productive during his time in Buffalo, but this says more about the team as a whole rather than him specifically. Overall, he is a solid and experienced defenseman who should benefit any playoff contender.
Butcher’s value comes in offering the best offensive threat of the four players. However, the 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner’s defensive play — particularly in zone coverage — still needs to improve significantly.
Pysyk is a Sabres’ 2010 first round draft pick who returned to Buffalo after signing a one-year deal for this season. To this day his lack of physicality has been a challenge, but he is versatile, while also being durable in respect of being able to log major minutes.
Finally, Hagg is a solid defenseman who handles the puck well. He has never been much of an offensive threat, but he doesn’t shy away from the physical side of the game and like Pysyk, he can log major minutes.
Teams looking for defensive depth as part of their playoff push, include the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, New York Rangers and Florida Panthers. Their need should in turn benefit the Buffalo Sabres.
Pending any respective return packages, are you fine with the Buffalo Sabres moving the four blue-liners referenced, or is there any of them you would prefer they keep hold of? Let us know in the comments section below.