It is officially trading season in the National Hockey League, and the Buffalo Sabres are starting their fire sale, having dealt center, Eric Staal, to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for 2021 third- and fifth-round draft picks. Although Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin stated that the team was unlikely to make a move before the trade deadline, the opportunity presented itself.
Earlier in the season, Staal had the Canadiens on his no-trade list, however, he waived it to allow this trade to occur. The discussion surrounding potential Staal deals had been taking place, so this move comes as no surprise.
Habs Acquire Veteran Center
TSN’s Frank Seravalli initially reported the trade details, and after an hour of waiting, the official Canadiens Twitter account confirmed the news. In addition to dealing Staal, the Sabres retained $1.625 million of his cap hit, as the Habs would be over the salary cap if they took on the entirety of the remaining cap hit.
Staal was acquired by the Sabres from the Minnesota Wild on Sep. 16, 2020, in exchange for Marcus Johansson. According to Pierre Lebrun of TSN and The Athletic, the 36-year-old center waived his no-trade clause, as they were among the 10 teams on his no-trade list. This season, Staal has had a tough time producing offensively, only scoring three goals and 10 points in 33 games played.
Staal will likely play in Montreal’s bottom-six, beating out a player, like Jake Evans, for a spot in the lineup. It was just two seasons ago that Staal scored 19 goals as a member of the Wild, so increasing his current production is a possibility. A change of scenery could do wonders for this player, and on a team that could make the playoffs, he will be hungry to prove himself.
Sabres Acquire Draft Capital
The Sabres now have eight picks in the upcoming draft and have acquired three selections in the past week from the Jonas Johansson and Staal deals. The team traded their original third-round pick in the Jimmy Vesey deal two years ago, so they recuperated one in that round. They also traded their fifth-rounder in the Wayne Simmonds deal at last year’s trade deadline and now have one pick or more in every round for the 2021 Draft.
This opens up an opportunity for younger players to battle for that second-line center spot. Artuu Ruotsalainen, currently playing for the Rochester Americans of the AHL, is a player who could be called up to get an extended look. In a season where the team is currently on a 16-game losing streak, anything is on the table.
This is likely just the beginning of the Sabres trades, as many of their players are rumored to be on the market. With the team is currently in last place in the NHL, acquiring draft picks and prospects will be the main focus for this organization as they look to stabilize the culture and atmosphere surrounding the franchise.