As the N.H.L. trade deadline rapidly approaches the Buffalo Sabres find themselves in an interesting situation.
Will they buy or sell at the deadline? Who could be on the move if the Sabres are active?
These are some of the questions we'll address in the weeks leading up to the deadline while counting down five Sabres skaters that could be on the move.
Pending Free Agents:
UFA - RW - Brian Gionta -- 57GP: 12G, 15A, 27P (38-years-old)
UFA - D - Dmitry Kulikov -- 31GP: 1G, 1A, 2P (26-years-old)
UFA - D - Cody Franson -- 51GP: 3G, 13A, 16P (29-years-old)
UFA -C - Cal O'Reilly -- 11GP, 0G, 1A, 1P (30-years-old)
UFA - D - Taylor Fedun -- 25 GP, 0G, 7A, 7P (28-years-old)
UFA - G - Anders Nilsson -- 20GP -- 9-7-4, 2.67 GAA, .922 sv%
RFA - LW - Marcus Foligno -- 57GP: 9G, 7A, 16P (25-years-old)
RFA - C - Zemgus Girgensons -- 53GP: 6G, 7A, 13P (23-years-old)
RFA - C - Johan Larsson -- 36GP: 6G, 5A, 11P (24-years-old)
RFA - C - Evan Rodrigues -- 5GP, 0G, 1A, 1P (23-years-old)
RFA - G - Robin Lehner -- 39GP -- 15-16-6, 2.55 GAA, .924 sv% (25-years-old)
Sabres biggest needs:
Young players that can contribute beyond this season.
The Sabres desperately need help on the blue line and could benefit from adding two young defenders to round out their top-six next year.
On offense, the Sabres need another pure goal scorer to spread the wealth on their top-three lines. This season the Sabres have relied heavily on their first and second lines for scoring but good teams get contributions from at least their top three lines. Just look at the Pittsburgh Penguins last season.
On to our list of potential assets for the Sabres approaching the deadline:
#4 -- *TIE* Marcus Foligno and Zemgus Girgensons
At times both have impressed but I'll give the advantage to Foligno -- he's been more consistent and versatile in the Sabres first 60 games.
That being said, Foligno has had the luxury of playing with more talented linemates for the majority of the season. At the beginning of the year, Foligno lined up on the left with Johan Larsson and Brian Gionta, a group that had played well together dating back to last season.
When Larsson suffered a season-ending wrist injury Foligno started to see some time with Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel. For a while, it worked, but he was eventually moved back into a 'third' line role with Brian Gionta.
His game has declined a bit over the past few weeks, but he's still a valuable young asset to the team and could very well sign a new deal in the offseason.
Girgensons has shuffled up and down the lineup and hasn't played as consistent as Sabres fans hoped. In 2017 he has only three goals and only six on the season in 53 games.
After last season Girgensons (and Foligno) signed one-year 'prove it' deals, and so far this season Girgensons hasn't been much better than he was last year (71GP, 7G, 11A).
Why they could be moved:
Both players are so young and have potential to be solid role players on contending teams. Girgensons hasn't been great but he could play and contribute on almost any fourth-line in the league. Foligno, like Girgensons, could add a viable bottom-six option to a contending team.
I actually don't think either player is going anywhere, at least before the deadline. Since both players are free agents there's a chance it happens, but I'd expect one, if not both, back next season. If I could only pick one to return I'd bet the Sabres were more likely to bring back Foligno.
Since both are young I'd imagine General Manager Tim Murray would want more than a mid-round draft pick. If the Sabres could get a second round pick I think they'd be thrilled, I just don't see that happening.
If either player is dealt I'd imagine Murray would ask for a player in return. Maybe someone from a different team in a similar scenario. Sometimes changes of scenery actually work.