With just only three days left until the 2017 NHL trade deadline, it looks like the Sabres will be sellers for yet another season. Sabres general manager Tim Murray will have a few tough choices to make by Wednesday’s 3:00 deadline. Does Tim Murray want to keep his pending unrestricted free agents such as Dmitry Kulikov, Cody Franson, Brian Gionta, and Anders Nilsson and go for a push for a playoff spot? Or will he look to sell those players off for draft picks and prospects? Ever since Tim Murray was hired by Pat LaFontaine in the 2013-2014 season, he’s been very open that he isn’t too fond of losing his players for nothing. Murray has stated multiple times on his regular appearances with Mike Schopp and the Bulldog that he really doesn’t know whether or not he’ll’ be buying or selling but I don’t believe that for a second. The Sabres will be sellers unless there’s a 22-26-year-old defenseman that becomes available for trade. But trades like that don’t happen very often during the season so I think Murray would have to wait to make a trade like that in the offseason. Buffalo will not be looking at the rental market at all this season. In this part of the trade deadline preview, I will be going over a handful of Sabres players that will more likely than not be moved.
Kulikov has been nothing short of a disappointment this season. His season has been riddled with injuries going back to his first preseason game with the Sabres when he fell into an open bench door. He’s been playing much since he returned from his lower back injury and it looks like he’ll be moved at the trade deadline. Defensemen are a hot commodity right now and the is a lack of good defensemen on the trade market as of right now. Kulikov is the 2nd highest rated defenseman on TSN’s trade bait board. The only defenseman that is ranked higher than him is none other than St. Louis Blues defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk. I think the Sabres could be looking at a return of at least a 2nd round pick in return for Kulikov. A couple days ago, Ron Hainsey was traded by the Hurricanes to Pittsburgh for a 2nd round pick and an AHL player. I think if a team gets desperate the Sabres might even be able to land a 1st round pick in return for the Russian defenseman if a team gets desperate enough for a defenseman who can help them on a playoff run. The Sabres could also retain some of his $4,333,333 cap hit to up his value even more. Tim Murray loves to make trades where there is a condition on the draft pick so that may also help the Sabres fetch a 1st round pick for Dmitry Kulikov. Some potential destinations for Dmitry Kulikov include the Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins, and the New York Rangers.
Cody Franson is a guy that I can see being moved at the deadline to add depth to a playoff team’s blueline similarly to the Mike Weber trade last season. Franson is the 33rd ranked player on TSN’s trade bait board and he’s the 7th ranked defenseman. Defensemen are really coveted at the moment and Franson is right handed and that will make him even more valuable. In the event that Franson is traded I expect that the Sabres will retain some of his $3,325,000 cap hit. Ideally, I’d like the Sabres to get at least a 3rd or even 4th round pick for Franson and if you’re getting anything less than that the Sabres might as well keep him to try and continue their push for the playoffs. Some fits for Franson include the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers, and the Edmonton Oilers.
Brian Gionta is having his best season as a Sabre and he’s already let Tim Murray know that he would like to remain in the Buffalo Sabres organization through the rest of the season and not be traded. I expect Tim Murray to honor Gionta’s request to not be traded unless he gets an offer that he cannot refuse. Gionta is a guy that I can envision the Sabres bringing back during the offseason on a one or two-year contract at a drastically reduced cap hit from his current cap hit of $4,250,000.
Anders Nilsson was a great addition to the Sabres after they missed out on Jeff Zatkoff in the offseason. Buffalo acquired Nilsson from the St. Louis Blues for a 2017 5th round draft pick and Anders has done way better than expected this season. He’s been in the top ten in save percentage for most of the season but he has been slipping in his play as of late. I don’t see the need to keep Anders Nilsson beyond this season because Linus Ullmark looks like he’s ready to be Robin Lehner’s backup for next season. There’s a ton of goalies on the trade market this year but I think a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets or the San Jose Sharks could throw a dart at Nilsson to upgrade their backup goalie position. I’d like to see a return of at least a 5th round pick for Nilsson in the event that he is traded.
Stay tuned for the next part of the trade deadline preview tomorrow. I will be addressing what the Sabres should do with Evander Kane.
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