The Buffalo Sabres trades for the deadline should have one focus: sell. They are far away from a playoff spot and, unless they can pull a miracle, that won’t change. Last season, they made some pretty big moves trading Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar, Eric Staal and Brandon Montour. Now, if they want to make moves, there are some tough decisions to be made.
Three Buffalo Sabres Trades To Make Before The Deadline
There’s one thing everyone knows to expect from Buffalo and Kevyn Adams: the unexpected. Last year’s trade deadline was a difficult one and the fans were not happy. Trading Hall and Lazar for only a second-round pick in the 2021 Draft and Anders Bjork were not close to enough. They did give him a no-move clause that complicated things. They got a third-round pick in the 2021 Draft for Montour, a third and fifth-round picks for Staal – and to be fair, those were not too bad. But trading a star player for a pick and a fourth-liner was a bad deal, no matter what led to it.
Now, eyes are looking at their general manager to see what comes next. They shouldn’t be buyers and should be looking to pile up some picks to help with the rebuild. This means they’ll have to look inside their roster and decide which of their players is worth sending away to get some reasonable return at the deadline.
Players The Sabres Could Trade
Henri Jokiharju (RD)
Possible return: second-round pick and a prospect
This is a tough one to write. Henri Jokiharju is only 22 and Buffalo seems to have plans for him. He is also one of the four right-handed defencemen on their roster. One of those is a pending UFA – which is a big problem. Trading away one of their RD’s leaves them shorthanded in that department, giving Adams another piece to add in the offseason. However, this season Jokiharju is not performing the way Buffalo fans and media expected him to perform.
Playing the majority of the time with Rasmus Dahlin, the top pair is no longer working as well as they were last season. Averaging 21:15 minutes, the 22-year-old is making mistakes that cost them a few games. However, his offensive game is a lot better than in the past season, having 13 points in 38 games.
Jokiharju is young and there’s still a long way to be a reliable defenceman, this being his fourth NHL season. None of those was an 82-game-season. This season, he got hurt on opening night and only returned a month later. It could be the reason why his game seems to be a little off since his return. But the truth is, Buffalo needs someone extremely reliable to help Dahlin work his magic. Jokiharju is simply not the one. Does this mean he will get traded? Honestly, it’s still unknown. But he could benefit from a change in scenario.
Mark Pysyk (RD/RW)
Possible return: thrid-round pick
Teams have been interested in Mark Pysyk for a while and his name is around the trade block. He was a healthy scratch on March 10 but returned for the Heritage Classic against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s having an up and down year but in the games he’s played well, he was great. Pysyk is also a right-handed defenceman and an incredible locker room presence if their social media tells any real stories. However, he’s also a pending unrestricted free agent and will require a bit of a raise from his $900,000 cap hit.
What makes him a good trade asset is his contract and the fact that he’s a reliable veteran player. That also makes him a good player to keep. On a team with not many veterans and not many LDs, trading him could take away a part of the balance they’ve found late in the season. But, as mentioned before, Buffalo is not even close to the playoffs and they could get a good return for him. Plus, Pysyk is the type of guy that would probably come back to Buffalo if they offer him a contract in the offseason. He did sign with them last year!
Craig Anderson (G)
Possible return: second-round pick
Trading Craig Anderson is a question mark for Buffalo because it depends on a few “what ifs” from the team – and that’s never a good idea. The truth is, Buffalo will only have another month left in their season and that barely equals 20 games. They could afford to trade their starter to have space to call goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Now, the problem is: Luukkonen has an injury history in the NHL. Every time he played in the big league, he left hurt after a couple of games. Trusting that he will stay healthy can be a long shot – and a risky one. But again, they have nothing to lose at this point.
Sending Anderson away to another team could also open a space for their NCAA star prospects Devon Levi and Erik Portillo to sign their contracts as soon as they’re done in college. That is if they want to sign now. Levi might want another season with Northeastern but Portillo could be ready to sign. Trading Anderson gives Buffalo a chance to call Luukkonen up, sign Portillo and put him in the AHL. If Luukkonen gets hurt, they would have a backup that is (way) more reliable than Aaron Dell.
Out of the 20 wins Buffalo has this season, Anderson is responsible for 10 of them. With a 2.96 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and a 10-8-0 record in 18 games, he becomes a player of interest. And that’s not even considering how bad goaltending has been for multiple teams this season. Everything leads to a goaltender trade for Buffalo – even though many fans might not be happy about it.
Embed from Getty Images