Bulldog: DEALS! (insert thunder)

February 28, 2017

The NHL Trade Deadline is Wednesday and as of this writing some big deals have already gone down. I feel some risk in even mentioning them now for fear that by the time I get to the bottom of this page more deals will have been made. Doubtful though that any of them will top Kevin Shattenkirk going from St. Louis to Washington or Ben Bishop being shipped from Tampa Bay to Los Angeles.

The Sabres role in all of this feels very much like a guest appearance, barely anything more. There was very little reason to think of them as a buyer in the traditional rental sense even if they hadn't blown their games over the weekend coming out of the bye week. Of course they did lose back to back to the two worst teams in the league so it looks pretty clear that they'll be in sell mode.

But even sell mode isn't really that interesting. Not that many years ago the Sabres were looking to move cornerstone veterans like Jason Pomminville and eventually Ryan Miller. While that was a sign of some dark days ahead in the standings, it made for interesting if not flat out exciting trade deadlines.  

Now, the Sabres sit with Dmitry Kulikov, who we've barely gotten to know at all, and Cody Franson to shop as UFA's to be. Brian Gionta is also playing out his existing contract but has said he'd prefer not to leave. Perhaps that changes by 3 p.m. Wednesday. Maybe Tim Murray will be ruthless about accumulating assets and not care about Gionta's preference. I doubt it though. A player of Gionta's stature has likely earned Murray's respect to enough of an extent that shipping him out against his wishes and how that would be perceived isn't worth the pick you get back.

The Kulikov trade could net you a second round pick and Franson most likely something less than that and maybe that's it. The possibility of a 'hockey trade' is there too with names like Marcus Foligno and Zemgus Girgensons to be talked about by fans if not GM's and that could be interesting to at least think about.

The exception to all of this is Evander Kane. The one player that fans have the strongest opinions about. Kane has been on a tear, playing like the power forward the Sabres traded for during the tank year and looking every bit like a player you'd be crazy to trade. But there are valid reasons to consider trading Kane.

His contract is up after next season and production like this likely means a raise, maybe a hearty one. Can the Sabres afford him and all of the other young players they are already paying and are about to have to pay? I'm not saying they definitely can't make it work financially but it's worth consideration.

Even if the Sabres think they fit a pricey Kane contract in with all the others, does Kane want to be on the Sabres? Again, I'm not pretending to know the answer to this question but it matters a great deal to how you handle him at the trade deadline, this summer and into next year, which without an extension would become his walk year.

Then there is trying to figure out how the Sabres are supposed to go about bolstering their sorry defense core. They need a serious upgrade on the back end. How do they acquire such a player? Can I count on free agency? Yikes!  Brandon Guhle looks very promising and I'm already counting on him to help the Sabres next season. I still believe they need another top end talent for the blue line. Is Kane the piece that needs to move to make that happen?  

Finally, do they trust that Kane has put his off ice missteps behind him? It's certainly possible that he has but it is worth considering that just last June, Kane was likely considered unmovable because of his off ice issues. The goals have a way of making that seem longer ago than it actually is and I doubt the team has forgotten.