The OT: As trade chatter builds, where do the Sabres fit in?

January 1, 2018

Due to the holiday and some personal scheduling oddities, The OT is going to lump two weeks worth of 31 Thoughts into one. The last two editions of 31 Thoughts didn’t feature too much in the way of Sabres news but had plenty of nuggets which should be of interest to Sabres fans.

We’ll start with 31 Thoughts two weeks ago and then move on to this week’s edition.

  1. A few opposing executives on Pittsburgh’s trades for Michael Leighton and Jamie Oleksiak: “The tip of the iceberg.”

I think the Penguins are a darkhorse landing spot for Evander Kane. They’d need to massage their cap a bit, but they’re looking to repeat as Cup champs and Jim Rutherford hasn’t been shy about making splashy deals. I think it’s worth keeping an eye on as the deadline inches closer.

  1. Fresh Start Number Three: Have to think Edmonton moves Anton Slepyshev, too.

Buffalo’s struggles make them a prime landing spot for fresh start candidates, and while rolling the dice on a cheap deal involving Slepyshev would be worth it from a high-ceiling perspective, there are other names on the market who would offer more to the Sabres in that type of deal.

  1. I think teams have asked Montreal GM Marc Bergevin what his plans are for Charlie Lindgren. (Have to think Florida was one.) Bergevin does not discuss trade possibilities, so it’s difficult to know. But the fact nothing’s happened tells you something.

The Habs are a mess right now, so it’s hard to figure out what exactly Marc Bergevin is going to do through the rest of the season. Lindgren has been a terrific find for them as a college free agent and after signing Carey Price to a monster contract, the Habs could be in position to capitalize on Lindgren’s hot start.

  1. During the 2010 Pittsburgh/Ottawa series, Melnyk tried to enter the team’s dressing room during an intermission — only to be intercepted by then-GM Bryan Murray. I was inches away, trying to do an interview at the time, as Murray prevented Melnyk from getting in. Whether the manager or an advisor to current GM Pierre Dorion, Murray found a way to keep the owner in check. It’s another reminder of how much he is missed.

I can’t get enough of these Eugene Melnyk stories. It’s amazing to know he meddles as much as he does while complaining about his team’s budget almost equally as much.

  1. One owner at the Board of Governors’ meetings on Las Vegas: “They’ve upped the pressure on struggling teams. It’s tough to explain why you’re going badly when they’re winning the division.”

Vegas’ success has surprised just about every hockey observer on the planet, and apparently that includes owners. Entering expansion, it was expected that Vegas would only wind up with castoffs from other teams, but they wound up with more than a few quality NHLers.

A couple of those bodies were indeed castoffs, players their former teams were happy to move on from. Namely James Neal (17 goals, 27 points), David Perron (20 assists) and William Karlsson (17 goals, 29 points). Karlsson in particular has been a surprise, failing to replicate the play that made him a second round pick. His sudden emergence has been a boon for Vegas.

The rest of Vegas’ leaders came to the expansion squad thanks to roster crushes elsewhere in the league. Erik Haula (13 goals, 25 points) was exposed in order to protect Minnesota’s strong blueline. Reilly Smith (19 assists), who has enjoyed a resurgence of his own, came as a package deal with Jonathan Marchessault (34 points) in an inexplicable decision by the Florida Panthers, who haven’t been able to figure out what they’re doing for going on 18 months now.

So, while Vegas has defied expectations, they’ve done so with contributions from players who have stronger resumes than some expected Vegas to wind up with when the expansion process was initially introduced.

  1. One very intriguing name has surfaced out of Pittsburgh: Kris Letang, who won’t play Wednesday against Columbus and is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Letang rumors have since had cold water tossed on them, but now that his name is in the water supply, you have to think things will heat up over the next couple of months. Let’s just rule out the Sabres acquiring Letang right now because there’s no way that’s happening. However, dealing Letang would give the Pens a great deal of cap flexibility and assets with which to shore up the holes on their roster. If Evander Kane was indeed on their radar, they could flip a couple of assets they acquire for Letang to the Sabres in a potential trade for Kane. Pittsburgh might just be the one team to watch closest when it comes to the trade market.

  1. Sounds like Arizona is working to find Anthony Duclair a fresh start. At 22, have to think someone takes a shot.

Of all the names who have been floated about getting a fresh start, Duclair is far and away the most attractive from a Sabres perspective. He hasn’t come close to matching his 20-goal rookie campaign, but he’d add a great deal of speed to the middle of Buffalo’s lineup, making some of the Sabres’ underperforming bottom six wingers that much more expendable.

  1. I worry about writing this kind of sentence because things change and it blows up in my face, but it doesn’t seem like there’s an Edmonton-Ottawa match for Mike Hoffman – curious to see if a Carolina or a St. Louis looks at him.

The Sens tumultuous campaign looks to be destined for a trade deadline fire sale and while the Sabres are past the sell everything stage of 2014, they still have assets with which they can get quite a bit of return. Hoffman’s saga will be worth tracking as he fills a similar need as Evander Kane and may come at a slightly lower ask in a trade.

  1. Anonymous quote of the week comes from a Western Conference coach, who said, “Once Connor McDavid starts shooting on the power play we’re all dead. Edmonton’s man advantage is 22nd — up a little from last week — but it’s the one area where McDavid hasn’t exerted full dominance.

Buffalo’s power play woes are a little more complicated than simply getting Jack Eichel to shoot the puck but I can’t help but connect the two with that comment. Eichel’s been on fire recently and his numbers have come up as a result. If he — or the team in general — was producing more on the power play then I can only imagine what numbers would look like.

Chris Ostrander
About Chris Ostrander

Chris Ostrander is a contributor to The Buffalo Star and also runs the Sabres and Buffalo-focused blog Two in the Box and The Instigator Podcast. Fascinated by design, gear and fan engagement, Chris is a goaltending fanatic with a passion for Buffalo development.

Browse more articles by Chris Ostrander.

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