BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — When the Anaheim Ducks came to KeyBank Center in late December, Sabres fans cheered when Brandon Montour touched the puck, knowing he was a player the team had rumored interest in. Two months later those rumors came true. On Sunday evening, less than 24 hours before the NHL trade deadline, the Sabres added the skilled 24-year-old defenseman from Anaheim in exchange for Brendan Guhle and a first-round pick [either from the Blues or Sharks].
Montour, a 2014 second round pick, has played in 169 games with the Ducks, scoring 16 goals and adding 47 assists [63 points]. This season, Montour has 25 points [5 goals, 20 assists] in 62 games.
“Brandon is a young, offensive-minded defenseman who can play the up-tempo style we are looking to play,” said General Manager Jason Botterill. “He’s a right-shot defenseman that brings additional playoff experience to our club.”
I love this move for the Sabres and general manager Jason Botterill. Despite improved play on the blue line this year, the Sabres have been inconsistent and looking to get younger.
Montour checks both of those boxes and carries a team friendly deal, with one year left on his current contract [$3.38 cap hit] before becoming a restricted free agent in 2020-2021.
Sabres get a terrific puck moving defenceman in Brandon Montour. Guy can move.— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyNHL) February 25, 2019
Top 3 among defencemen in even-strength zone entries, top 15 in zone exits.
Another full year left on a bargain deal at just under #3.4M. https://t.co/kLJ2UTthMb
To say this makes the Sabres a much better team right away might be a bit of a stretch. Montour has proven in his first few years to be a very capable and solid two-way defender. However, the real reason this deal should make Sabres fans excited is the potential of having a guy like Montour slotted on the right side for years to come.
For example -- these combinations next year look pretty good to me:
Dahlin - Montour
McCabe - Ristolainen
Pilut - Bogosian/Scandella
Don't get me wrong, Guhle was a solid prospect and could very well end up as an above average NHL defenseman. That said, Montour is already a little further along in his development and appears to be the safer bet to be a top-four guy for years to come.
I think Pilut made Guhle a piece the #Sabres were more willing to part ways with. Montour has one more year on current deal at $3.525M [$3.38 cap hit]. In 2020-2021 he’ll be an RFA.— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) February 25, 2019
As for Montour's style of play -- he's a smooth skater and has an offensive spark. According to The Point Hockey, an analytics website breaking down NHL advanced stats, Montour ranks fifth in the NHL amongst defenseman in zone entries per-game with 2.2. The only defenders with more entries per game are Roman Josi, Erik Karlsson, Nick Leddy and Thomas Chabot. If we've learned anything this year with the addition of Dahlin, this is an area that helps drive offense and Montour can help that.
The Brantford, Ontario native isn't a shut-down defenseman but his offensive upside and all-around game make him an asset that's worth acquiring.
Every trade comes with a risk and this deal is no different. That said, I think this is a smart move for the Sabres and will make them a better team not just this season but for years to come.