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Deadline day: Six Sabres that could be traded

Deadline day: Six Sabres that could be traded
Posted at 8:12 AM, Mar 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-01 08:49:14-05

Happy trade deadline day Buffalo Sabres fans. Wednesday will surely be filled with rumors and speculation, just remember to watch out for fake Twitter accounts!

Here's six players that could be dealt before Wednesday's 3:00 p.m. deadline.

***Note: List is based off potential return, not probability of getting dealt***

#5 -- Cody Franson

Season summary:

Everyone seems to have a stance on Cody Franson and it's amazing how different those opinions can be. A few weeks ago someone who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs tweeted that Franson was the Sabres best defenseman. Twitter basically exploded.

What makes Franson so polarizing is his impressive numbers. In 56 games Franson has 17 points, the second most from a defender on the Sabres. What's even crazier is his -1 plus/minus rating. By no means is this a perfect stat, but Franson actually has a better plus/minus than Ristolainen (-6), Kulikov (-15), Zach Bogosian (-12) and Josh Gorges (-3).

Personally, I think he's played better as the year has gone on, but he really had nowhere to go but up. His best hockey came when paired with Jake McCabe, but the McCabe and Ristolainen pairing is just too solid to be messed with.

It's no secret that Franson has his flaws, but he's also been asked to do a lot more than expected due to all the injuries on the blue line. If Franson played in a more limited role I'd imagine the criticism and takes wouldn't be nearly as hot when his name is brought up.

Why he could be moved:

Franson could be an attractive addition to a team with an already solid blue line in the case of an injury. He can step in and play 18 minutes a night without issue and help most teams second power play unit.

Remember when the Sabres traded Mike Weber to the Washington Capitals? It was a move by a good team to add some depth for a playoff run. I can absolutely see something similar happening with Franson.

Possible return:

Don't expect a king's ransom if the Sabres send Cody Franson to greener pastures. I'd bet General Manager Tim Murray would be content with a third round pick. Weber was traded for a third, but the Sabres retained some of his salary. If Franson isn't part of the plan for next year then the Sabres should get something for him, instead of just letting him walk in July.

#4 -- *TIE* Marcus Foligno and Zemgus Girgensons

Season summary:

At times both have impressed but I'll give the advantage to Foligno -- he's been more consistent and versatile in the Sabres first 63 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 56 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.

Possible return:

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.

#3 -- Brian Gionta

Season Summary:

Gionta has exceeded expectations and has already surpassed his goal total from last season [13] and is only four points behind his point total from last year [33] with 19 games left in the regular season.  Not bad timing for the deadline to come a day after Gionta scored a goal and added an assist.

He's not a top-six forward, but he's a nice third line winger that plays a responsible game at both ends of the ice.

The Sabres captain is a leader on and off the ice and that's what makes his future so particularly tricky.

Gionta has said multiple times that he'd like to stay in Buffalo and not be moved at the deadline. That being said, he may be one of the Sabres most attractive players at the deadline because of the aforementioned qualities.

Why he could be moved:

Teams that are primed to make a run for the Stanley Cup want to surround their young players with guys who have been there before. Gionta has won a cup and played in this league since gas was less than $1.50 a gallon.

He's the perfect addition to a contending team because of his versatility. He'll play a bottom-six role if moved but can also chip in on special teams.

The potential return:

Gionta has a no-trade clause, which certainly complicates things. However, there's a small catch -- Gionta can be traded to five teams that he has hand selected. I don't know for sure, but you'd imagine at least one of those teams would be interested in adding Gionta. If the Sabres think they have a deal with another team, Gionta needs to approve the move before the deal is made.

If that happens, Gionta would likely be traded for a second or third round pick. I would lean towards a third round pick as a potential return, but you never know.

Before you say or tweet  "The Sabres got a first for Paul Gaustad" --- Remember, that was a long time ago and Darcy Regier got away with highway robbery.

If Gionta decides he wants to keep playing after this year the Sabres could do something similar to what they did with Matt Moulson -- trade him and then resign him in the offseason. Making a move like this could ruffle some feathers in the locker room, and if the Sabres keep winning games it may not be a bad idea to keep Gionta around unless the return is 'worth' it.

#2 - Dmitry Kulikov

Season Summary:

The 2016-2017 season has not been kind to Dmitry Kulikov, and that may be putting things lightly. Kulikov, 26, has played in 37 games and has only two points and a -15 plus/minus rating, the worst on the team.

Ouch.

Kulikov was acquired in a trade at the draft last year that sent former Sabres defender Mark Pysyk to the Florida Panthers. The teams also swapped second-round picks in the deal [Buffalo selected Rasmus Asplund].

When the deal was made the Sabres thought they were trading for a reliable, physical defender who could log top-four minutes. Instead, they got a player that has been incredibly inconsistent and at times made some really head-scratching plays.

In Kulikov's defense, it's not easy to come to a new team and immediately deal with a lingering injury. At times he's looked like the player that General Manager Tim Murray envisioned in the Sabres lineup, but that hasn't been the case very often. That likely has a lot to do with Kulikov's health, but with an expiring contract in the summer, it makes sense to move him now unless he's part of the long term plan.

Why he could be moved:

This hasn't been a good year for the young defender, but you can tell he's a talented player. With the playoffs right around the corner, plenty of teams are looking to add a big defenseman, and Kulikov may just be one of the most attractive options.

There's no denying that Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues will be the most sought-after blueliner, but for teams who miss out on Shattenkirk, Kulikov may make sense.

According to TSN, Kulikov is the highest rated defenseman (remaining) at this year's deadline. He hasn't had a good year, but come playoff time Kulikov could be a nice piece for a team in either their second or third pairing.

Potential return:

Not to sound like a broken record, but I'd imagine Kulikov could be moved for a second round pick based on how the market has played out.

The big question with Kulikov is his health. If a team thinks he's good to go then maybe the return will be greater than expected.

#1 -- LW Evander Kane

Season Summary:

Since December 1, Kane has 22 goals, 21 of which have been scored at even strength, the most in the league during that span. His 21 even strength goals are also tied for the fifth most in the league this season.

When you consider that Kane didn't score in his first 12 games of his injury-shortened season, his numbers look even more impressive. In 51 games Kane has 33 points (22G, 11A).

Why he could be moved:

Now is the time for playoff contenders to make a splash and bolster their lineups for a run at the Stanley Cup. Adding Kane to any team would do just that.

The 25-year-old winger has a knack for finding the back of the net and can play solid top-six minutes on most teams. Last year the Pittsburgh Penguins proved that having three viable scoring lines can be the difference between coming up short and winning it all. For many teams, Kane may be the final piece to their three-line puzzle.

Kane is also under contract next season, and with a $5.25M cap hit, he could be an attractive option for teams trying to win this season or next year. In the grand scheme of things, that's not a bad cap hit. Zach Bogosian, for example, will make more next season. Who do you think deserves more?

Potential return:

Your guess is as good as mine. So many Sabres fans want to see Kane dealt because his value is sky-high, or at least so we think. His return will all depend on how desperately a team needs a scoring winger and how much they trust Kane with his history of off-ice issues.