The Buffalo Sabres are currently struggling to make any headway towards a playoff spot this season, and it is largely in part to their defense being inexperienced. The only defensemen that they have on the roster with more than a season’s worth of games are Rasmus Dahlin (304), Henri Jokiharju (229), Ilya Lyubushkin (228), and Jacob Bryson (135), and on top of that, they continue to need to insert fringe NHL defenders when any of the aforementioned players goes down with an injury. For a team that is trying to gain momentum and use the scoring weapons they have to make a playoff push, they need to add a veteran defenseman that knows what it takes to win key games.
The defenseman that comes to mind is the Anaheim Ducks’ John Klingberg. While Buffalo may not have been the most desirable destination at the start of this season, the offensive prowess they have shown makes them much more appealing to a veteran like Klingberg now. If the Sabres wait too long, then the Ducks will hold on to the 30-year-old defender until the trade deadline and move him at an inflated price.
Klingberg Brings Leadership & Scoring
The Sabres are not having any issues scoring in general, but they do lack offensive firepower from their blue line. Other than Dahlin, their most offensive defender is rookie Owen Power, who still has not scored a goal this season. Klingberg would provide a needed offensive boost from the back end and would also act as a mentor for a young player like Power. Dahlin and Mattias Samuelsson form a very reliable top defensive pairing, but Power has yet to find a partner that he meshes well with. Inserting Klingberg onto the second pair with Power would give the Sabres two very large pairings and a very dangerous top-end defensive group.
Klingberg is not known for his incredible defensive ability, but his scoring abilities have always offset that problem. This season, he is having a rough time finding the back of the net for the Ducks despite the hype surrounding him when he signed there. In Buffalo, he would be a part of a team that can finish the chances he creates, and he would have more opportunities to score himself. He boasts a career 382 points, and 151 of those have been on the power-play, so he would also be a significant boost to the Sabres’ struggling second unit. Overall, his offensive contributions would enhance what Buffalo already does well.
Klingberg Gains as Much as Buffalo Accepting This Trade
Klingberg signed a one-year deal this past offseason with the Ducks for $7 million and negotiated a modified no-trade clause (NTC) into it as well. The clause is a full NTC until Jan. 2023, and then it changes to a 10-team no-trade list that he would need to submit. At any time, he can waive this clause to be traded, and with how poor the Ducks’ season is going, he should be willing to do so. Being moved from a team that has no stability to one looking to compete should be a no-brainer for him.
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For the Ducks, moving a $7 million contract would normally be a hassle, but fortunately, Buffalo has almost $17 million in cap space this season. They can absolutely afford to take on the full contract without needing the Ducks to retain anything at all. This will make the asking price for Klingberg very reasonable, and the Sabres have the player/draft stock to make a deal happen now. They are only seven points out of a playoff spot, and it is early enough in the season for them to get back into the race. Making the move to upgrade their defense now will be one of the smartest things they do.
Klingberg’s Value Is Not Currently High
Due to his below-average performance this season, the Ducks will be selling low on Klingberg, but since he will walk in free agency regardless, they need to get something for him. The Sabres have plenty to offer as far as mid-tier roster players go, and they have multiple draft picks in the upcoming draft that they can move. With how good this draft is supposed to be, general managers will be hesitant to move first or second-round picks. So if the Sabres want to make a good offer to the Ducks, it would have to look something like one of the following:
- Sabres trade 2023 second-round pick (from Vegas Golden Knights) for John Klingberg
- Sabres trade Victor Olofsson and a 2023 fifth-round pick for John Klingberg
The Ducks have traded away most of their top defensemen in recent years, and they need a return that maximizes their draft stock, or gives them a young promising player to develop. Many teams add conditions to trades like this for rental players, and this one could be similar in that regard. The Sabres could be inclined to keep Klingberg around for more than the remainder of this season, and if they do so, the Ducks would want additional draft capital in return. Should a condition be placed on a trade like this, the Ducks could either acquire an additional second-round pick from the first scenario listed, or they could have the fifth-round pick be elevated to Buffalo’s second-round pick in 2023.
Nobody Loses from Klingberg Coming to Buffalo
Every scenario plays out as a win-win-win for all parties involved as the Ducks get younger, Buffalo gets more experience, and Klingberg gets to use his talents in a meaningful way. The Ducks have the worst record in the NHL right now, and the sooner they get on board with the tanking process, the sooner things will look better for them. Buffalo needs to make an adjustment to their roster in order to improve their chances of competing for a playoff position, and Klingberg is a cheap option to make that happen.
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The Sabres still need help in other areas of their game, but until they get that improvement, this would be a big step towards outscoring their problems. Right now, their offense is the only reason that their record isn’t worse, and adding Klingberg to the mix just enhances their best strength, while also improving one of their weaknesses. Ultimately the decision would come down to Klingberg himself whether the trade happens or not, but this is an opportunity that he should not pass up.