Sabres’ Move for Montour Is Step in Right Direction

Not every move needs to be a blockbuster.

Adding Brandon Montour, a right-shot defenseman, from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenseman Brendan Guhle and a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft is a step in the right direction for the Buffalo Sabres.

Montour is exactly the type of player that Sabres general manager Jason Botterill has said he would pursue. Snagging a cost-controlled NHL-ready defenseman who can step in immediately for a question mark of a defenseman and a late first-rounder that is likely two to three years from contributing at the NHL level is a win.

Brandon Montour Ducks
Brandon Montour (26) is now a Buffalo Sabre. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

At 24 years old, Montour is still young and has the prime of his career ahead of him. He’s also more than a rental–he has one more year left on his contract that will pay him $3.3875 million, and even then will be a restricted free agent. Lastly, the price was right. The Ducks get the San Jose Sharks first-round pick in 2019 unless the St. Louis Blues pick (that the Sabres own) is between 21 and 30. If that’s the case, the Ducks get the higher pick.

The Sabres had three first-round picks, so they were trading from a position of strength. At worst, the deal is an acceptable risk.

Related: Sabres Face Tough Decision at Deadline

“Brandon is a young, offensive-minded defenseman who can play the up-tempo style we are looking to play,” said Botterill in a press statement. “He’s a right-shot defenseman that brings additional playoff experience to our club.”

Making Room for Montour

Montour, originally a 2014 second-round pick by the Ducks, is in his third season. He’s netted five goals and 20 assists for 25 points in 62 games, leading all Duck defensemen. Since he debuted in 2016-17 season, he’s played in 169 NHL games, chipping in 16 goals and 47 assists for 63 points. He’s also played in 21 playoff games, helping the Ducks reach the Western Conference Final in 2017.

No doubt Botterill is taken by Montour’s playmaking abilities and his ability to step in right away, perhaps to make a late-season push for a wild card spot. Regardless, the change of scenery will do him well.

Montour has a great shot and moves the puck out of his zone well, but his defense has at times been sketchy. In fact, many may be soured by his analytical numbers. However, consider the fact that the Ducks are a hot mess right now in the midst of a tank-like season. It’s hard to look good on a sinking ship.

The native of Brantford, Ontario was named the USHL Defenseman of the Year in 2014. He was named to the 2014-15 Hockey East All-Rookie Team during his only season at the University of Massachusetts before turning pro. He earned consecutive AHL All-Star Game appearances in 2016 and 2017 and was named to the AHL First All-Star Team in 2016.

Goodbye Guhle

Guhle, a highly-touted 2015 second-round pick by the Sabres, has only appeared in 23 NHL games and tallied five assists. He’s a great skater with terrific speed. At only 21 years old, Guhle has spent most of his time in Rochester, playing for the Americans. With Lawrence Pilut playing for the Sabres and Zach Redmond injured, Guhle represented the Amerks at the AHL All-Star Game this season.

Sabres defenseman Brendan Guhle
Brendan Guhle will pack up his potential and head to Anaheim. (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

He has regressed a bit this season and was passed on the depth chart by newcomer Pilut. While Guhle has potential. Montour is already way ahead of him in terms of development. He’s an NHL-caliber defenseman right now, averaging 22 minutes 40 seconds of ice time per game and is commonly used on the power play.

Botterill Mulling Other Moves

Botterill likely has all the left-shot defensemen he needs in Rasmus Dahlin, Pilut and Jake McCabe. The pairings could be Dahlin-Rasmus Ristolainen, McCabe-Montour and Pilut-Zach Bogosian.

Jason Botterill Buffalo Sabres
Sabres GM Jason Botterill may not be done making moves. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It’s possible the Sabres move a roster defenseman–Nathan Beaulieu, Ristolainen, Matt Hunwick, Marco Scandella and even Bogosian’s name have been rumored this week. The Sabres desperately need help at the center position and for that matter on wingers, too.

Related: Sabres Need More Than a Fired up Bogosian

The Sabres still have two first-round picks to use as currency should they consider making additional moves before Monday’s 3 p.m. NHL Trade Deadline.