It’s not everyday that you see as strong a reaction to a player purportedly being placed on the trading block as you did when Ryan Callahan was yesterday.

Pierre LeBrun of TSN/ESPN reported yesterday that the New York Rangers‘ general manager Glen Sather was open to moving Callahan, the team’s captain, if a new contract was not had prior to the March 5 trade deadline. 

Following LeBrun‘s report, you could just imagine the remaining 29 GMs in the NHL racing to the phone to see what Sather wanted in return. Callahan is not your typical player, and very few guys in the NHL right now can even be remotely compared to him. 

Callahan is a top-six forward on every NHL team and is consistently in the conversation for the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the league. He kills penalties as well as anyone in the NHL and can score 25 goals on top of it.

Simply put: Callahan is a player any NHL team would dream of having.

So it isn’t a stretch to learn that the Buffalo Sabres are reportedly very interested in obtaining the Rochester, N.Y. native’s services. In his article, Larry Brooks backs up what LeBrun reported yesterday, while also stating two important new pieces of information to Sabres fans: Callahan wants a seven-year, $42 million deal, and he tops the Sabres’ “wish list.”

Now, one shouldn’t need Brooks’ report to know the Sabres are interested. The 29 teams who aren’t the Rangers are interested.

The question instead is what would the Sabres be willing to give up to get Callahan?

First, it needs to be acknowledged that the events of the past 24 hours closely mirror that of the Dustin Brown saga of 2012.

Right around the 2011-12 season’s trade deadline, the Los Angeles Kings were on the outside of the playoffs looking in. They had just acquired Mike Richards from the Philadelphia Flyers the preceding offseason for a hefty price tag and many believed that the front office wanted to move forward with him as their captain instead of Brown. That, plus the acquisition of Jeff Carter, led to reports that Brown was on the trading block and, much like today’s situation, the other 29 teams raced to their phones.

A few nights later, Brown scored a hat trick and blew his name off the trading block almost as fast as it got there. A few months later the Kings won the Stanley Cup.

The Rangers are in a similar position this year (sixth place in the Eastern Conference), so this could all blow over very quickly.

However, if it does not, the Sabres definitely will be among those trying to acquire Callahan.

The question around the league will then turn to whether or not trading for Callahan is even necessary. 

If the LeBrun and Brooks reports are accurate, the Rangers and Callahan are light years apart in negotiations, with Callahan wanting $6 million a year and the Rangers simply being in no place salary cap-wise to pay him anything close to that.

That leaves the very real possibility that Callahan will hit the open market come July 1 when free agency begins.

While it is a crapshoot, one would have to assume playing for his hometown team would hold at least some allure for Callahan. It’s not a coincidence that Ryan Suter and Zach Parise ended up in Minnesota.

The Sabres will also not have any issue paying the man. With an estimated $42 million-plus in cap space for next season as of this moment (via CapGeek), the Sabres have some work to do to even reach the $52 million salary cap floor.

But what if Tim Murray really wants Callahan and he isn’t a betting man?

There hasn’t been much in terms of Sather‘s asking price out there quite yet, but one would have to assume the cost would be substantial.

It likely isn’t a fruitful exercise to speculate on packages that would secure a deal because Sather‘s idea of Callahan’s worth is likely well beyond any other GM’s, but at least one of the Sabres’ first- or second-round picks this year would be included for sure.

Beyond that it would seem that Sather would want an experienced player to put into the lineup immediately with some offensive punch (see Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson, Drew Stafford).

Essentially what it boils down to is whether or not Murray is willing to part with some valuable assets in order to ensure himself of Callahan’s services. As of right now, all signs lead to him hitting the free-agent market, so is giving up a top-60 pick and Ennis good asset management? Even more important in all of this is whether or not Callahan wants to sign in Buffalo in the first place.

So, while Callahan is the type of player Buffalo hasn’t seen since Chris Drury left in 2008, the asking price should drive whether or not Murray decides to make a deal to bring him in. He cannot and should not trade away substantial assets for a guy they could have potentially gotten for “free.”

Regardless, it would be nice to see No. 24 suit up in the blue and gold for the long term.

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season long: @SwordPlay18

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The Buffalo Sabres have ridden the struggle bus most of the season, and due to that, they will likely be “rewarded” with a top pick in the 2014 NHL draft. 

As it stands right now, the Sabres are in last place in the NHL with 31 points, four behind the Edmonton Oilers in 29th place and seven points behind the Calgary Flames in 28th place. However, the Sabres have four games in-hand on the Oilers and two in-hand on the Flames, so that order could be jostled a bit when they even out. 

Regardless, the Sabres will almost certainly not improve their position too much in the next 37 games. Sports Club Stats, via millions of simulations of the remaining NHL season, gives the Sabres a 63 percent chance of remaining in last place, a 26 percent chance at finishing 29th and only a 9 percent chance at finishing 28th. 

That amounts to a 98 percent chance at finishing in the bottom three this season, which is about as close to a sure thing as it gets in the sporting world. 

So what does this mean for the Sabres moving forward, especially in regard to the 2014 entry draft?

First, the Sabres have a 98 percent chance of picking in the top four and an 89 percent chance of picking in the top three. 

With the new modified lottery rules going into place at last year’s draft, the Sabres, and every other lottery team, are assured a draft slot no more than one pick below where they would have picked if the order was based on pure standings. That means if the Sabres do in fact finish 30th (which would give them the first overall pick based on pure standings), the lowest they can pick is 29th if they do not win the lottery. 

This does not even consider the possibility of the New York Islanders not deferring their first-round selection obtained in the Thomas Vanek trade to next year or the very real possibility of Matt Moulson and/or Ryan Miller netting more first-rounders. 

Armed with that statistical assurance, the Sabres also can expect that they are going to get an excellent player with their top pick. 

While this year’s draft does not seem to have the same overall top-end talent that last year’s offered, the top prospects this year are still skilled. 

The Central Scouting Service (CSS) released its midterm rankings earlier this week, and while there was somewhat of a shake-up at the top, the top five had no surprises. 

CSS has its top five as Samuel Bennett, a center for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL; Leon Draisaitl, a center for the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL; Aaron Ekblad, a defenseman for the Barrie Colts in the OHL; Sam Reinhart, a center for the Kootenay Ice of the WHL; and Michael Dal Colle, a center/left wing for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.

While Bennett topping the rankings was a bit of a surprise, his inclusion in the top five is not. A physical but offensively gifted center, he is a great skater and can find space on the ice quickly. At 6’0″, he is not physically enormous but has the size to make plays in the open ice and on the forecheck. He also possesses a bit of a mean streak, as he is likely to eclipse 100 penalty minutes this year with Kingston. 

Draisaitl was one of the few bright spots on Germany’s World Junior Championship roster this year and has made a name for himself in the WHL. What impresses about him is his nose around the net, quick release and his ability to forecheck. While not the fastest skater, he moves well and can also play wing if necessary. If his skating improves, he can become a true three-zone force. 

Ekblad has a lot in common with next year’s darling Connor McDavid, as he too was granted an exemption to play in the OHL as a 15-year-old. Ekblad is big at 6’3″ and can skate well. A defenseman’s best friend is the first pass, and his is excellent, as is his shot. While he’s not going to light up the scoreboard from the point, he is arguably the player with the highest ceiling in the draft. 

Reinhart has gotten a lot of attention in the early part of the season and rightfully so. He sees the ice as well as anyone in the 2014 class and has the skating and puck-handling skills to boot. He isn’t the biggest guy at 6’1″, but he uses his size effectively and can push the play through the neutral zone. His performance at this year’s World Juniors was not mind-blowing, but he played a solid tournament by scoring five points in seven games. 

Finally, Dal Colle is not going to impress with his finesse, but he can score. A big-bodied center/wing, he can push the puck effectively and has a nose for the net. His skating needs some work, but he is one of the younger players eligible for this year’s draft. 

Those five players would all fight for a spot immediately with the Sabres, with Reinhart likely starting on the team from Day 1. 

The most interesting decision to be made leading up to the draft—especially if the Sabres end up picking firstwould be whether or not to take Ekblad. While he may be the player with the highest ceiling, he also plays at a position that the Sabres seem well-equipped for in the future, especially with offensive talents like Bennett and Reinhart available. 

So, while the Sabres may continue to struggle the rest of the season, as it stands right now they have a 98 percent chance at landing a player who will be a big piece in making them a Stanley Cup contender again.


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The Buffalo Sabres used their position as last-place team in the National Hockey League to their advantage Friday, snatching Zenon Konopka off waivers from the Minnesota Wild with their top position on the wire.

Konopka is an enforcer of the classic type, with 1,049 career penalty minutes in 323 games. So far in the 2013-14 season, he is among the NHL‘s leaders in fighting majors, with seven. In past seasons he’s gone hog-wild with fisticuffs, with 76 total fights in the last three full NHL seasons.

Now he joins a team that already features two enforcers in the form of Cody McCormick (seven fights so far this year) and John Scott (two). There isn’t room for them all—and it should be obvious which one is the odd man out.

Scott is the only one out of the three who has no other value on the team besides fighting. His recent goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs was his only point in 57 games with the Sabres and was his first goal in more than four calendar years, as the Buffalo Sabres Twitter feed was kind enough to point out:

Neither McCormick (10 goals, 19 assists in 164 games with Buffalo) nor Konopka (12 goals, 17 assists in his 323 games) is going to light up the scoreboard either, but at least they have the potential to make something happen in the offensive zone.

Konopka also has one very important skill the Sabres desperately need: talent in the faceoff circle. He’s not only good in there—he’s the best.

The Sabres currently rank 27th in the NHL, winning 46.4 percent of their faceoffs.

So McCormick is established as an enforcer who works hard in the offensive zone. The new guy is an enforcer who is a beast in the faceoff circle. What does enforcer No. 3, Scott, bring to the table as his secondary ability?

Taking dumb penalties? Scott managed to play two consecutive games this season (Dec. 12 against Ottawa and Dec. 14 against Calgary) in which, through minor penalties alone, he spent more time in the penalty box than on the ice.

Getting suspended for foolish hits? Just ask Loui Eriksson about that.

Or Mike Milbury.

This guy is a predator. He was put out there to seek and destroy, and in this case, with his team down two goals [Boston led 4-2 at the time], he destroyed a pretty good player well after he’d released the puck. He was looking for trouble; he’s been looking for trouble every shift he’s been on the ice because he can’t do much of anything else.

Konopka, despite the tough game he plays, has never been suspended during his eight-year career. He’s considered pesky, not dirty.

Along with his pet rabbit Hoppy, Konopka should be embraced by Sabres fans. And he’s already shown he is excited to arrive.

As excited as he is to get to Buffalo, the Sabres should be as excited to show John Scott the door. Once the team’s injury situation (which currently includes McCormick, along with Drew Stafford and Cody Hodgson) clears up, it should happen swiftly.

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The Buffalo Sabres hit the midpoint of their 2013-14 season last night with an embarrassing loss to the Minnesota Wild and former captain Jason Pominville

To say that the Sabres have struggled lately is potentially the understatement of the year. As it stands right now, the Sabres are on pace for 52 points, which would be the lowest total for a full season since the overtime loss point was added after the 2004-05 lockout. 

The Sabres may have safely eclipsed the 1974-75 Washington Capitals‘ record for fewest points (21), but they certainly have a chance at futility in the goals scored department. The 1953-54 Chicago Blackhawks own that record right now, having scored only 133 goals. The Sabres are on pace to score 142 right now, so that record isn’t too far out of the question. 

The funny thing about the 1953-54 Blackhawks? They only played 70 games. 

So with quite possibly the worst season in franchise history half finished, what will the rest of the season bring for the Sabres? 

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season long: @SwordPlay18

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