The Buffalo Sabres were finally able to snap their 18-game losing skid last week, but what they do in the week leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline will be more important to the future of the club. GM Kevyn Adams began the teardown of their roster late last month with a deal that sent center Eric Staal to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2021 third-round and fifth-round pick, but the club has as many as six pending unrestricted free agents that could be headed elsewhere prior to April 12.
With so few sellers entering the final week, Adams could be in a good position to get a significant price for players with expiring contracts, but the return received for Staal and retaining 50% of the 36-year-old’s $3.25 million cap hit is considered fairly underwhelming.
Here are the players that could be moved and what the Sabres are hoping to get in return:
Hall’s season (two goals, 17 assists in 37 games) has been a nightmare for the former Hart Trophy winner and could cost him millions as a free agent this summer, but that hasn’t stopped contending teams from being interested. Various reports have indicated that Adams is looking for a first-round pick to start in any deal for Hall, but the winger’s mediocre play has not inspired a bidding war for the 29-year-old’s services.
The Sabres will have to retain half of the $8 million cap hit to allow contending teams to fit in Hall’s salary, but the winger’s no-movement clause may prevent Adams from getting more than a second-rounder.
The 26-year-old blueliner has played better since the dismissal of Ralph Krueger, and his skating, offensive tools and being right-handed should attract enough interest with few quality defenseman available to get a second-round pick or a good prospect in return, but after retaining money with Staal and likely having to do so with Hall, the Sabres will likely have to take back a salary to enable most clubs to fit Montour’s $3.85 million cap hit.
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The 27-year-old goalie has a winning record (7-5-3) and a remarkable goals-against and save percentage (2.44 GAA, .921 SV %) for bottom-dwelling Buffalo, and along with his reasonable $2.6 million cap hit could make him very attractive for clubs like Carolina, Colorado, Washington, Boston or Toronto who potentially may be looking for goaltending depth, but unless there is a club that is desperate for a stop-gap #1, the highest return the Sabres can expect is a second-round pick.
Matt Irwin, Tobias Rieder, Riley Sheahan
Each veteran is making the league-minimum $700,000 NHL salary, which should make them attractive as depth players at the deadline with most contenders right up against the cap, but the return for each at most will be a mid-round pick.