Time will tell if the Minnesota Wild or the Buffalo Sabres got the best of their recent deal. Both teams’ fans have claimed it a win for them, which usually means it’s a pretty fair deal. While that may be the case, the deeper one digs into the deal right now, the better it looks for the blue and gold. In fact, the word fleeced comes to mind.
The June 30 trade sent Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis and a third-round pick to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for defenseman Marco Scandella, Jason Pominville and a fourth rounder.
The big get of the trade for the Sabres is of course Scandella. He represents another solid top-four defenseman, shoring up their woefully deficient back line. Even better, his contract is a cap-friendly $4 million for three more seasons.
When he’s on his game, the puck-moving, left-shot defenseman can play equally well on both ends of the ice and has decent possession stats. He struggled when paired with Matt Dumba last season leading many to speculate he was victim to Dumba’s aggressive play. However, a few years ago, when paired with Jared Spurgeon–he played great hockey–the kind of play that earned him his current contract.
With the Sabres, Scandella, nicknamed ‘Pizza’ in Minnesota, gets the opportunity to show he’s a top pairing guy while having a second pairing contract. He’ll also help on the penalty kill–an area the Sabres are desperate to improve. Though he has size (6’3”, 208 pounds), he only has five career fighting majors and is not credited with winning one of them.
Bringing back the mayor of Pominville is also a plus. The leader and long-time fan favorite put up 47 points last year for the Wild, more than Foligno (23) and Ennis (13) combined. He’ll likely see time on the second or third line as well as the second power play unit. With his role defined, the Sabres can benefit with a smart, defensively reliable winger. Listening to Sabres’ play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret belt out Pominville’s name is also a nice reward for fans.
Trading Ennis’ contract for Pominville’s is well worth it. Ennis has two years at $4.6 million per year. Pominville has two years left at $5.6 million. In a sense, the Sabres added roughly $2 million of salary in the trade. It was a small price to land two pieces that could help them immediately.
After losing William Carrier to the Vegas Golden Knights at the expansion draft, and now trading Foligno, the gaping hole on the left side has grown even bigger. For a short-term solution, new head coach Phil Housley may decide to put Sam Reinhart on the left wing, with Ryan O’Reilly at center and Kyle Okposo on the right. The three played on a line to start last season.
Zemgus Girgensons, a left-hand shot, could also slide to left wing. And there’s a chance some of the Sabres’ right wing prospects could switch to the left side and play on their off wing. That means in time, Justin Bailey, Nicholas Baptiste and/or Alexander Nylander could plug the hole. Further down the road, 2017 first-round draft pick, Casey Mittlestadt, now a center, may join them as well.
Salary Caps off to Minnesota
By trading Pominville and the two years remaining on his hefty $5.6 million annual deal, Minnesota got the salary cap space they desperately needed. But, there was a price to pay for getting a team to take it.
The extra cap room means the Wild won’t have to trade someone like Matt Dumba, who is in the last year of his contract in 2017-18. The Wild have Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin inked for the next three years at just under $17 million. That’s a lot of dough committed for three defensemen.
Scandella was not factoring into the Wild’s budget, especially with restricted free agents Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund left to sign. The Wild may have been able to get more for Scandella but as the saying goes, you gotta give up something to get something. They got two serviceable pieces in return.
The two players they got–Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno–are spare parts that may thrive under Boudreau’s system. Ennis may see some time on the second line, but Foligno is destined for grinding away on the third or fourth line.
Tyler Ennis will have an opportunity to start afresh. The oft-sidelined winger needs to re-establish himself as a healthy, productive player 20-goal scorer rather than the fragile, made-of-glass one of the past two seasons. Concussions have hurt him. In a fast-paced league where there’s a slight bit of hesitancy to take a hit in order to make a play, he’s a bit of a gamble. The cap room saved is the tradeoff to that. He remains the big (or tiny) question mark in the deal. If he rediscovers his game, it could be a major win for the Wild.
Foligno brings much-needed grit and toughness to the Wild. And for the lady fan, there’s his hair and chiseled jaw, too. He uses his body well, isn’t afraid to hit or drop the gloves for his teammates and will chip in ten or fifteen goals, most of them of the garbage variety.
Fresh Starts & Well Wishes
Fans in Buffalo wish nothing but the best for Foligno and Ennis. Foligno, a heart and soul guy never took a shift off. Ennis was among the Sabres’ leading scorers during some of their darkest years. Hopefully, a change of scenery will do him well.
No More Blue Line Blues
With the addition of Antipin, Beaulieu and now Scandella, the Sabres blue line suddenly has some viable options for Housley to work with. Not only are Gorges and Bogosian likely pushed out of the top four, 19-year-old defenseman Brendan Guhle gets time to marinate in the minors.
There are plenty of mix-n-match possibilities:
Scandella – Ristolainen
McCabe – Antipin
Beaulieu – Bogosian
Down the I-90 in Rochester, the Amerks will have Justin Falk, Taylor Fedun and Guhle. All more than serviceable callups.
Who Won the Trade?
Judging by past performance, Scandella and Pominville are just plain better than Foligno and Ennis. It’s a clear win for Buffalo in terms of manpower. Minnesota’s value came from the cap savings and the mini-draft pick swap.
General manager Jason Botterill should be applauded for using spare parts to bring in a positional player the Sabres sorely needed. Between this move, and signing Viktor Antipin and Nathan Beaulieu, the newbie manager is killing it.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Sabres snap their postseason drought in part due to the addition of Pominville–the very player that was traded and accelerating the tank in April 2013?
Jeff has been covering the NHL for over a decade for various sites. He’s been with The Hockey Writers as a lead Sabres writer three years, while also writing a satire column called “Off the Crossbar.”