With the offseason in full swing for the Buffalo Sabres, the vision of general manager Tim Murray and the rest of the organization is starting to form for the team’s future. From the coaching search that has included past Stanley Cup winners to the upcoming NHL Draft that will see the team (likely) take Hobey Baker winner Jack Eichel, the Sabres’ plans are in motion to end the franchise’s longest playoff drought (four seasons) in team history.
But in addition to building the roster through the draft and free agency, Murray will almost certainly look to trade market to bring in some added help to the Sabres roster. From proven NHL forwards to a starting goaltender, the options for Murray are pretty endless on the trade front, provided he’s willing to pay to get the players he wants.
The aforementioned goaltender position is one that a lot of fans expect to be addressed via trade due to the free agent goaltending market being pretty weak as a whole. This post could easily be filled with nothing but goalies as trade targets, but that wouldn’t be fun. Instead, only a couple of names appear as trade targets for Murray this offseason, the first of which being someone touched on previously, Jimmy Howard.
The 31-year old Detroit Red Wings goaltender would have to be convinced to come to Buffalo via trade, but with Petr Mrazek seemingly pegged as the man of the future for the Red Wings, that may be a lot easier than expected. Howard would immediately become the Sabres’ number one guy between the pipes, and would really improve the team’s chances of turning things around mucher sooner than later. Should he not be available, another target that could be an option via trade is New York’s Cam Talbot.
When Henrik Lundqvist was hurt this season, Talbot stepped in and played admirably for the President’s Trophy-winning Rangers. In 36 games, Talbot posted a 2.21 goals against average and a .926 save percentage for the blue shirts. He doesn’t have a no-move clause in his contract, which makes a deal for him a bit easier to accomplish. However, he does have just one year left on his contract, so Murray would have to be sure he can be the guy before giving up a lot for him.
With the goaltending position addressed, what about the players who spend the game trying to put the puck into the net? There are a number of quality players that could be had for trade by the Sabres, but who are the most likely to be targeted?
The first name that comes to mind has been one linked to the Sabres for quite some time, and that’s Ryan O’Reilly of the Colorado Avalanche. O’Reilly is in the final year of a two-year, $6-million contract with the Avs, and will be looking to get at least that much with his next contract, no matter the team. Should Buffalo look to bring him aboard, a contract extension prior to a trade would have to be part of the deal the team makes. If not, he’s not really worth the risk to give up as much as it would take to get him in the first place just to see him walk after one season.
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Another player that could be had is Patrick Sharp. I know the Chicago Blackhawks player that Sabres fans want to take a run at is Brandon Saad, but that would require signing him to a hefty offer sheet that Chicago would have the opportunity to match which is a topic for another day. Sharp is a more likely candidate for acquisition due to the salary cap situation the Blackhawks are going to deal with as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews’ new contracts kick in. He’s a veteran, goal-scoring presence that could provide excellent second-line scoring for the Sabres as the push to return to the playoffs gets underway.
The final player to be touched on here is more of reach than any of the previous four when it comes to availability and probability, but he can certainly make this team instantly better. The San Jose Sharks are a team that is in major flux right now after missing the postseason and parting ways with coach Todd McLellan. That being said, a player that Murray could try and make a deal for is former Sharks captain Patrick Marleau.
Marleau has a no-movement clause in his contract, but if the Sharks are getting set to embark on a retooling on their own, the six-time All Star could be motivated to waive the clause to go to a team getting ready to be on the rise. He’s 35 and likely not going to hit the scoring totals he’s reached in previous seasons, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid point producer for the Sabres for the next few years. Buffalo is a one of the youngest teams in the league, and the addition of a player of Marleau’s stature could be just what they need to really turn things around. Again, this one was a pretty big reach when it comes to the targets, but crazier things have certainly happened in the NHL.
There are a number of other players that Murray could make a run at, especially with the second first-round pick he has as a bargaining chip. But no matter who the Sabres acquire via trade, the draft or free agency, this is a team ready to make a move and return to relevancy in 2015.
FROM THE MIND OF THE READERS:
“Who would your top Sabres trade target be this offseason? (LEAVE YOUR CHOICES IN THE COMMENT SECTION)
@MikeStrawWrites Jared Spurgeon. HMs to John Gibson & Patrik Berglund.
— Nico R (@UB_Opethian) May 25, 2015
@MikeStrawWrites well its the summer…. Its buffalo… I’m going to say Ryan O’Rilley. Let the rumors commence
— Chris Austin (@caustin588) May 25, 2015
@MikeStrawWrites Ryan o Reilly followed by tj oshie
— Cornelius Vandermort (@CaptPantalones) May 25, 2015
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.