If firing parts of the coaching staff is not in the cards for Buffalo Sabres’ general manager Kevyn Adams’ plans to improve this team, then it is about time that he realizes that there is something wrong with the players instead. Yes, several core players have shiny new contracts but others have value that do not have long-term extensions in place. Weeding out the issue in the team lineup has to be Adams’ number-one priority right now since the progress that is so frequently brought up has been stymied by multiple sources.
There isn’t a need to trade top young stars like Rasmus Dahlin, Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens, or Alex Tuch, and there are even fewer reasons to trade budding young talents like JJ Peterka, Zach Benson, and Jack Quinn. The players that should be on the block (based on their current value) are Victor Olofsson, Casey Mittelstadt, Zemgus Girgensons, Jordan Greenway, Connor Clifton, Henri Jokiharju, and Jacob Bryson. Every single one of these players is expendable and should be considered trade bait as soon as possible. While Adams made a meager move for Eric Robinson that has paid off in a decent way, trading for fourth-line players is not going to fix the core issues this team has. It starts with moving out pieces around the core, and here are a few ideas on how this can be done.
Sabres Can Improve Their Offense
I have already suggested that the Sabres could make a trade with the San Jose Sharks for Anthony Duclair in a prior discussion of their poor efforts, so I am going to leave that idea off the table for this one. Instead, there is another move that could be made for a scoring forward which would cost the price of Mittelstadt, as well as a couple of other assets. The forward in question has great scoring ability, net-front experience, and a physical quality that would boost the energy of any line they played on. That forward would be Philadelphia Flyers’ Travis Konecny.
Konecny has this season and next season left on his contract, but what makes this trade a possibility is that he does not have a movement or trade clause in the contract. The Flyers have shown that they are willing to move big pieces for big returns, so if Buffalo were to make an offer for him, it would have to look something like this:
Buffalo would get their physical scoring forward that would boost players like Peterka and Cozens, and he would help their power play greatly. The Flyers would get a budding young playmaking center along with a top-tier center prospect that is showing flashes of brilliance on a regular basis. The first-round pick would be to sweeten the pot and give the Flyers the future assets they are collecting.
A Defensive Trade to Improve Sabres’ Top 4
If Adams could not swing a move for the offense, it would be time to look at the horrendous defense that has been plaguing this team all season. The glaring hole in their top-four group (most notably alongside Owen Power) needed to be addressed in the offseason, but since Adams failed to do so then, he needs to make some moves there now. Yes, Ryan Johnson looks to be the candidate to take that spot in future years, but right now he is better served as a third-pair defender rotating in. Buffalo needs a reliable, stay-at-home defender to put with Power to compensate for his mistake-ridden season.
The defender in mind would be Rasmus Andersson of the Calgary Flames. His two-way abilities are top-notch, and he has a manageable cap hit of $4.5 million until 2026. The Sabres have plenty of cap space to make that work, and he would be an immediate upgrade to their defensive core. The price would be a little high, but the steady hand he would bring to the back end would be worth it. The trade would look something like this:
With this move, the Sabres fill their need on the defensive side while the Flames get a roster defenseman to take Andersson’s spot, a top forward prospect who would fit well in their system, a defensive prospect with some good upside, and an additional pick to keep the future assets on the move. The Sabres have plenty of draft capital and prospects to move, so making this happen would not hurt their long-term plans to keep young talent on the roster.
Getting Depth and Additional Leadership
The final move would be to get a player that has a high compete level, and the ability to play a leadership role on a regular basis. The clearest choice to me would be Columbus Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner. He did recently get put on the injured reserve, and will be there for around six weeks, but as the Blue Jackets continue to struggle in games, they will be more likely to move out any pieces possible for the best return. Jenner does have a modified no-trade clause in his contract, but as long as he does not have Buffalo on his list of eight teams, the following deal can go through:
In this trade, the Sabres get their energy player that can still contribute everywhere on the ice, and the Blue Jackets get two younger wingers to replace his offensive output, and a second-round pick to continue their rebuild. Olofsson needs a change of scenery, and being given an opportunity in Columbus may reinvigorate his career. Jenner, once healthy, would be a solid top-nine addition to move up and down the lineup as needed to fill the role that is the most pressing. He is a hard-nose, pressure player that can ignite a team on any given night, and the Sabres desperately need that right now.
Making Moves Can Save Sabres’ Season
Inconsistency is the name of the game for the Sabres right now, and until they can find a way to string some wins together, any and all options to improve should be on the table. Adams needs to take a hard look at this roster and see that there are softer players that need to be moved, prospects playing well that deserve to be played, and young assets that can be great bargaining chips to get what he needs. The season is slowly slipping away, and a failure to act sooner than later will only be their demise come April.
If he truly believes that Don Granato is the right coach for this team, then he needs to make a move and get him some different players, because right now the entire team outside Zach Benson, Devon Levi, and JJ Peterka look flat. The league is adapting and progressing without the Sabres once again…Your move Kevyn Adams.