The Sabres Observer
by @DaveDavisHockey on 02/23/17 at 09:21 AM ET
The NHL trade deadline is six days from today, and there's a strong likelihood it won't be much of a big deal in Buffalo.
Hey, you can never totally count out Tim Murray from having something secretive up his sleeve, but the list of prominent Sabres who could be dealt is looking pretty weak right about now.
Captain Brian Gionta is having a pleasantly surprising campaign with 12 goals and 27 points playing mostly on the third line. He hasn't surpassed 18 goals since way back in 2010-11 with Montreal. He's shown great durability for a 39-year-old in having played all 60 games, and he has plenty of respect in the room as the only Sabre with a Stanley Cup ring.
But, as was reported by Elliotte Friedman and confirmed by Gionta himself, he doesn't want to leave. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising to see him back in Buffalo on a short-term deal next season.
Would Gionta be open to spending a few months on a contender chasing a Cup and then coming back to the Sabres afterwards? Doesn't sound like it, but we'll see.
Evander Kane has given notice to the NHL that he can be a major force when healthy. Playing like a true power forward, Kane leads the NHL in even strength goals since December 1st (20) and has netted 21 in his last 36 games.
It's hard at this point to imagine Kane being dealt. Murray's going to ask a king's ransom for him, and it'll be a tough fit for many top teams to get his contract, which runs through 2017-18, under their cap without giving a lot up.
One player who very well could be on his way is Dmitry Kulikov, although there are even questions there because of his inability to get in the swing of things this season due to injuries and inconsistent play.
The problem is that Buffalo's defense is severly lacking in depth. You also have another pending unrestricted free agent defenseman in Cody Franson who could draw some interest. It would be tough to trade away both of them without getting an NHL-ready blueliner back.
Tyler Ennis is spending time on the fourth line and you'd think has very little value right now. It would be better to play out the season with him and hope that he performs well enough to get the Sabres better offers during the summer. It could be tough with a $4.6M annual cap hit through 2019.
A possible darkhorse who could be traded? Don't bet even money on it but perhaps Marcus Foligno, who will likely hit his career high in goals. A few contending teams have stated their need to upgrade their bottom-six, and the Sabres could decide to make room for their younger forwards while avoiding having to pay Foligno close to $3M next season. It's not much, but in a year where the cap isn't expected to increase, every bit would help.
I think the most likely move for the Sabres will be to trade either Kulikov or Franson, but not both unless a defenseman comes back the other way. Anything major besides that would be a surprise.
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About The Sabres Observer
Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003. He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene. Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.
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