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Sabres to trade Stafford to Flames, and other unlikely trades

Patience appears to be a virtue the Sabres front office possesses in spades these days. With new owner Terry Pegula's bankroll the Buffalo Sabres have the league's highest payroll and currently sit 3.6$ million over the salary cap. They have been over the cap for weeks yet they remain patient and are sitting pat awaiting the right offers to present themselves. In a recent Buffalo News article GM Darcy Regier indicated that he was looking to make trades in order to get the salary down before camp starts. Regier has also gone on record as saying he would prefer to make trades than bury players down in Rochester.

So as the days of the calender turn towards September the time to make a deal is getting closer and closer. Who will be moved, and for whom? It would not appear logical that the Sabres would look for NHL ready players in return, as the roster is already bloated, thus the impetus to trade. The only way they would take NHL players back is if they shocked everyone with a blockbuster deal trading a core player, and not a spare part. I don't see that happening.

The more likely scenario sees Buffalo moving players without a clear cut role, such as Ales Kotalik, Shaone Morrisonn, Brad Boyes, or even Andrej Sekera, and taking back prospects and/or picks in return. Rumors of which of these guys are being shipped out and where they are supposedly going are rampant on message boards across cyberspace. The truth is nobody knows who Darcy Regier is going to ship out, but we all know somebody has to go. So to break up the off-season rumor monotony here are my 3 darkhorse players to be moved that nobody is talking about.

1.)Paul Gaustad-
The Sabres homegrown center is entering the final year of his contract carrying a 2.3$mil cap hit and will be a UFA on July 1st 2012. His cap hit is economical and his proficiency in the face-off circle would make him a desirable target for a team needing a quality bottom 6 center. With Myers and Ennis expecting to get big raises after this season it is possible Gaustad could slip through the cracks if the Sabres are nearing the cap ceiling. However on a team devoid of true centers, and prospect Luke Adam still a work in progress, Gaustad's talents are very valuble to this Sabres squad. The only way I see him moved is if he is packaged with one of the aforementioned players, and the Sabres get a similar center at a lower hit back in return. So here's my deal, the Sabres send Paul Gaustad and Ales Kotalik to Nashville for Center Jerred Smithson in return. Smithson gives Buffalo a capable bottom 6 center who finished 6th in the league in face-offs (Gaustad was 3rd). Nashville gets a bit of an upgrade with Gaustad over Smithson and some added scoring depth with Kotalik. Total salary going out: 5.3$mil, total salary coming back: 800k, end result the Sabres shed 4.5$million and solidify the team long term as Smithson has 2 years left on his contract.

2.)Jordan Leopold-The Sabres just locked up Andrej Sekera and Marc Andre Gragnani to new deals. With Myers, Ehrhoff, Leopold, Sekera, and Gragnani Buffalo has a plethora of offensive minded defensemen and one of them will likely ride the pine for most of the season with Regehr, and Weber providing the physical presence in the top 6. Jordan Leopold is coming off a career best 35 point campaign and seemed to have found a home in Lindy Ruff's system. However he is a bit of a hired gun and doesn't seem to be part of the future plan with all the young defensive prospects in Buffalo's system. So with two years remaining at 3$mil per year I could see Darcy shipping Jordan out of town for a pick or some prospects. The Islanders could use both defensemen and salary, they would be the perfect fit for Leopold, with maybe a 3rd round pick coming back to the Sabres. Total salary going out would be 3$mil with no salary coming back saving Buffalo 3$ million dollars.

3.)Drew Stafford- No you aren't misreading that. There's an old adage, sell high and buy low. Nobody is higher right now that Stafford posting 31 goals in 62 games and signing a 4yr 16$mil contract. Stafford posted a career high 17.3% shooting percentage, a number he is unlikely to match in consecutive years. Yes Drew has the potential to score 25-35 goals annually, but prior to this past season Stafford had been more known for his maddening inconsistencies than his goal scoring prowess and he will bear the brunt of fan criticism if he gets off to a slow start this year. I'm not convinced he's finally turned the corner and it might be the perfect time to deal the former Fighting Sioux forward for a depth center, or to make room for Zack Kassian. The Sabres have a proclivity towards trading with Calgary, so send the power forward to the Flames for Paul Byron (irony?) and a 2nd round pick. Total salary going out 4$mil, total salary coming back 550k (if Byron plays in the NHL), with Buffalo saving roughly 3.5$million.

While it is unlikely that any of these three players will be moved, it is something to consider. While we all like to play GM and assume the obvious, if we have learned anything since Terry Pegula has taken over it's that the Sabres aren't the same old Sabres so assuming they wouldn't dare trade a Stafford or Leopold is a bit of underestimation.

-Brandon Hess

Follow Me on Twitter @SabreHess


  1. Trades 1 and 3 are absolutely terrible.

    I have no problem moving a core player if it makes our team better. But none of these deals make our team better.

    1. First Nashville doesn't have the budget to add salary. Second we don't have the depth at center to downgrade at the position. This deal makes sense for neither team.

    2. I wouldn't mind this trade, however we could deal Leopold at the deadline and still get a 3rd. Why not wait til then in case somebody gets hurt?

    3. I don't even want to justify all the things wrong with this trade.

    In every one of these deals you trade away a core player for nothing in return. Pegula came in to win cups. Not spend money on free agents to build a contender and then give away core players to put us right back where we started.

    If we are going to simply give players away to get under cap it will be the obvious Kotalik, Morrison and Boyes. If we are moving a core player like Stafford its not going to be to clear cap space, it's going to be to improve the team.

  2. Pretty sure we already have the flames 2nd round pick. Trade 3 wont work, and plus I would like to think he's worth more than byron and a 2nd... Dominic Moore fetched a 2nd round pick, with that comparison Stafford would get Iglina! haha just kidding, but really bad trades...

  3. I've never commented on here before but really these are just terrible. I generally enjoy your posts, but I'm guessing this post came 8 shots of vodka after the first one. But even drunk, I couldn't justify throwing our team away for nothing. Not to mention trading Stafford would take away all possibilities of us pursuing Parise, should he become a free agent next year as is expected. And, at that point, if we've lost Leopold, Boyes, Hecht, Kotalik, and Goose, we shouldn't have much problem making cap room. Hell, let's trade Kotalik for a 6th or 7th, I don't mind getting nothing in return for him. But again, your trades do nothing but hurt the Sabres, and I'd rather keep Leopold and trade Sekera. Sekera is inconsistent, and Lindy doesn't really bring the best out of those player (Afinogenov). His best days may well be ahead of him, but I doubt they are in Buffalo. Leopold, however, fits right in and is a veteran presence that works his ass off night in and night out.

  4. Thanks for the comments, though I was sober and If I had been drunk blogging it would either have been at the hands of some German micro-brew or Gin...certainly not vodka. The key word in my title was "unlikely" and aside from the Gaustad trade which I stand behind 100% as being a trade I would make, the Leopold and Stafford moves were facetious and mostly to get people riled up/talking...which apparently seemed to have worked. Thanks for reading!

  5. I highly doubt that we would trade a defensemen. That was what we sought out for in the offseason, and it was by far what we needed the most. I could see Leopold or another defensemen leave at the deadline or earlier. The player I think we could do without, that could also really help another team out is the Pominville. I know people love him, but him and a prospect, say TJ Brennan could open us on the cap and get us something really good in return. By doing that we could get Foligno or Kassian up sooner than toooooooooooo later.