Buffalo Sabres: What Does the Trade Deadline Mean for the Future?


What could be one of the most talked about days in the Buffalo Sabres‘ history has come and gone, and probably with a lot less fanfare than many had hoped for or expected.

Even if that is true, the Sabres ended up shipping out four roster players and an NHL-ready prospect over the course of the past few days in various moves that will change the makeup of the franchise in the short term for sure.

Last Friday’s deal with St. Louis for Ryan Miller and Steve Ott was the biggest for general manager Tim Murray and the Sabres, but three more deals came on Wednesday. 

The first was a bit of a surprise as Murray moved Brayden McNabb, Johnathan Parker and a pair of second-round picks to the Los Angeles Kings for wingers Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslaurier. 

The second and third deals were announced after the 3 p.m., deadline. One saw Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick head to the Minnesota Wild for two second-round picks and Torrey Mitchell, with the other seeing Jaroslav Halak and a third-round pick swapped with the Washington Capitals for Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla. 

Many have scoffed at the return for Moulson, and it is lower than what many had predicted in the weeks leading up to Wednesday. Yet, as a number of writers have pointed out, including Sean Gentille of the Sporting News and Travis Hughes of SB Nation, this was not the seller’s market it was touted to be. 

This is almost certainly why, as Hughes also pointed out, that other big names on the Sabres roster like Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers, Chris Stewart and Drew Stafford also stayed put. All of those players have at least one more year left on their current contract, and there was no pressure on Murray to trade them for the sake of trading them. 

Simply put, it’s going to take a huge package or a very good, very established player to pry Ehrhoff or Myers away from the Sabres, and Stewart and Stafford will likely require a good prospect a few years into his development. 

Those were not the prices rival GMs were willing to pay Wednesday, something that typically changes around the draft. 

So, where does all of this leave the Sabres moving forward?

In the immediate short term, meaning the final 21 games of the regular season, the Sabres may be spectacularly bad. The loss of Miller hasn’t been felt yet with Jhonas Enroth playing well, but neither he or Neuvirth are going to steal games the way Miller did this year.

Moulson was the team’s third-best goal scorer in his time here and was technically its leader if you count his six New York Islanders tallies. 

The six-point lead the Edmonton Oilers have on the Sabres for 29th place as of Thursday afternoon is looking more and more solid, isn’t it?

Even with the three-game winning streak in their corner, the Sabres still have an 84 percent chance at finishing in last place, according to Sports Club Stats, with the next closest being the Oilers at a 12 percent.

With the guaranteed top-two pick last place gives them, the Sabres are able to address their thin forward corps with a player that should factor in immediately. 

The only question is who the Sabres will take with that pick, and the answer may be getting a bit clearer. 

The consensus is that the Sabres will look to Sam Reinhart, and Murray’s moves at the deadline may show his hand a bit as to the type of team he is creating, with the acquisitions of Fasching and Deslaurier speaking the loudest. 

Fasching was a first-round talent that slipped into the fourth round because of a poorly-timed down year leading up to the 2013 draft. He is a beast on the walls and has a scoring touch, as shown by his excellent freshman year at the University of Minnesota.

He also was easily one of the best players for the United States at this year’s World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden. 

Deslaurier is a bit further along in his development having played three years in the AHL with Manchester, but a recent switch from defense to wing has catapulted him ahead. At the time of Wednesday’s trade, he led the Monarchs in goals with 18 and is seen as a power forward-type wing that can help push the play into the attacking zone. 

With the arrival of those two, plus a similarly suited William Carrier in the Miller deal, Murray seems to be building his team from the wing with big, skilled guys that can forecheck as well as score. 

But skilled wings need skilled centers, and it looks more and more like Murray will look to address the pivot in the draft. Reinhart is the easy choice, but Leon Draisaitl fits the mold as well. Both stand at 6’1″, with Draisaitl outweighing Reinhart by about 25 pounds, but both have the puck moving abilities the skilled wings will need. Sam Bennett will also be in the conversation. 

But, realistically, this part of the discussion is only addressing one of the four, possibly five, first-round selections that Murray has to work with in the next two drafts. There has been a huge influx of talent the past few days, and that trend looks like it will have no choice but to continue. 

But, right now, it comes down to this: The Sabres will likely pick first or second in June’s draft. Beyond that, there is some uncertainty, but the Islanders’ failure to acquire a first rounder for Thomas Vanek likely means they will keep their 2014 first rounder and the Sabres will have the rights to their 2015 first rounder. 

Couple that with the first-round pick the Sabres already own from St. Louis and next year’s draft may be even more important than this year’s despite the high pick. 

But Murray seems to have a plan, and while the team certainly did not get better Wednesday, no one really expected that to happen. This team will get better piece-by-piece over time, and Murray was impressive in his first deadline. 

Now let’s just get this draft over with so we can obsess about this guy a bit more.

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



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