Alright now to the non-competitive teams. Buffalo this year has dealt with some injuries, mainly to their young studs Eichel and O’Reilly. The Sabres are second to last in the division but suprisingly have 62 points (don’t get me started on the points system) giving the illusion that they are in the race, they are not. They have a -21 goal differential and throughout the whole rebuilding process they knew this is just another step, luckily in the right direction. The Sabres two years ago were the worst in the league with no stars, and really no assets at all. Now they have a nice little core of Reinhart/O’Reilly/Okposo/Eichel/Ristolainem. These guys are good with the younger guys getting better and the older guys not declining. It will be key not only for the young guys to develop but also for the older players to lead by example.
The future is bright for the Sabres but clearly not this year for the Sabres. They are 25th in goals per game which is somewhat misleading based on their 3rd rated power play. In today’s NHL 25th in goals per game combined with the -21 goal differential is really not going to cut it.
The Sabres need to develop their back-end more as their forwards have played decently well. Buffalo has the least amount of goals scored by their defenseman. In net Lehner is a fiery goalie who can steal a game or completely give it away. They are not in position to go out and get a goalie or sign one, but it would be interesting if they went after Fluery on the Penguins. The question is do they think Lehner is the goalie of the future or will they make a move. Either way if they make a move it will probably be after the season is over.
What are they? Sellers
Sell sell sell, load up on draft picks. Looking at the great tool, capfriendly,. we can see which players are UFA and who they can possibly trade.
Brian Gionta: What a career for Gionta who used to be part of those good Devils teams. He has a No Trade Clause and has expressed interest in staying in Buffalo so I doubt he moves. If ownership got a deal and brought it to him then maybe they move him and then re-sign him in the off season.
Dmitry Kulikov: Lebrun had a nice writeup on Kulikov (Source)
“I think the decision on the 26-year-old pending UFA will go right down to the wire next Wednesday and will depend on how the Sabres fare coming out of their break – as well as the quality of offers they get on Kulikov, who has a $4.33 million cap hit. If the Jets remain in the race, I would love for Winnipeg to take a look at him. The Jets and Sabres have gotten together before on a deal.”
Now I do not think the Sabres want to move him, I could see them resigning him after this year, but the Sabres are in asset-management mode right now. They are not going to compete for the playoffs and defenseman are going for a premium right now.
Evander Kane: Still having a year left on his contact after this one Kane is a dynamic young (25) winger even though its seems like he’s been in the league forever. Kane has his faults, mainly off the ice and sometimes a lack of focus on the ice.He has a lot of talent and seems to be maturing in Buffalo. I think he could be a really good top 6 winger and it would be wise to hold on to him. Like Kulikov if Buffalo gets an offer they can’t refuse then they will move him, but I think they will value him more than others.
Cody Franson: at 29 years old Franson is not a young buck but is a valuable member of the Sabres. He is a good defenseman who is signed only for this year and carrying a cheap 3.3MM cap hit. It would be wise for Buffalo to trade him now given the market for defenseman. They would want a defensive prospect or first round pick I would guess for him, weaker draft this year, and they may get it because of the market.