Sabres Trade Johansson to Wild for Staal

The Buffalo Sabres have traded forward Marcus Johansson to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for forward Eric Staal. As Elliotte Friedman would report, the deal was a straight-up swap of players without any sort of draft picks or salary retention involved.

Johansson signed a two-year, $9 million contract with the Sabres last offseason. The 29-year-old forward would score nine goals and 30 points in 60 games with the Sabres during the 2019-20 season and would provide versatility to a Buffalo team that still isn’t quite sure what their identity is. He’ll enter the final year of his contract next season.

The Swedish-born forward has been a solid point producer throughout his career and has even topped the 20-goal mark twice, once in 2014-15 and again in 2016-17, both times as a member of the Washington Capitals. Since then, he’d spend time with the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins, the latter stop seeing him flourish on the Bruins’ third line as the team competed in the Stanley Cup Final.

Marcus Johansson Buffalo Sabres
Marcus Johansson has been traded by the Buffalo Sabres to the Minnesota Wild. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Wild are paying a little more to Johansson than they would have to Staal as the 35-year-old center carried a cap hit of $3.25 million for the 2020-21 season. His contract, like Johansson’s, is also set to expire next offseason.

It’s an interesting deal because, though the Wild do get younger in the deal, the expiring-nature of the contract and the positional value doesn’t make much sense given the outlook on their current contention timeline. He is being acquired to play center for the team.

Staal would score 19 goals and 47 points in 66 games this past season. In his three prior seasons since signing with the Wild, Staal would score 28 goals, 42 goals and 22 goals in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively.

Staal is also a heart-and-soul player who could provide a spark to a Sabres team looking to make the transition from a young team with potential to an actual contender coming out of the Atlantic Division. Still, given the fact that Staal’s contract is expiring after this season, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be anything more than a stop-gap player for them barring some sort of extension.

Eric Staal #12 Minnesota Wild
Newly-acquired Buffalo Sabres’ forward Eric Staal #12, Philadelphia Flyers versus Minnesota Wild, January 14, 2019. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Sabres are in the midst of one of the longest playoff droughts in NHL history and acquiring a player of Staal’s pedigree can’t hurt. In the end, they probably came out on top in this deal, though it still feels like a weird one for both teams all things considered. Trades can’t be evaluated in a vacuum and the playoffs are still being played. For that reason, we need to wait and see what happens before forming some sort of concrete opinion either way.

The Wild have also been in the news recently after signing defender Jonas Brodin to a seven-year, $42.million extension that kicks in for the 2021-22 season. With this, the team is also reportedly shopping defender Mathew Dumba which certainly points to the fact that greater change could be on the horizon.

It’ll be an interesting offseason with a lot of change likely to occur. The first dominoes are only just now starting to topple over.