The NHL Trade Deadline is upon us at 3 p.m. on Monday league-wide.
The Buffalo Sabres could be a team that will be somewhat active as sellers leading up to the deadline with a number of pieces on expiring contracts heading into the offseason. Players like forwards Conor Sheary, Jimmy Vesey, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Michael Frolik are all set to become unrestricted free agents as of July 1, while other players like forward Evan Rodrigues or defenseman Brandon Montour will be restricted free agents at the season's end.
The team currently sits on the outside looking in of the playoff picture in the Atlantic Division, trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs by 10 points for the third and final playoff spot. In the Wild Card picture, Buffalo currently sits 10 points back of the Carolina Hurricanes for the final playoff spot and 11 points back of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the top Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
With Buffalo's current outlook for the rest of the season, it is likely that the team will miss the postseason for a ninth consecutive year, extending the franchise-long drought another year.
The current build of the Sabres' roster lacks in a number of different ways, including a lack of a second-line center, as well as some quality depth scorers. Sabres general manager Jason Botterill has reportedly been active trying to make something happen on the trade market all season, but has been unsuccessful in making his team a better product on the ice.
TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger has been keyed in on the Sabres for a majority of the 2019-20 season, and has been tracking Buffalo's efforts of making that coveted trade throughout the year. He joined Andrew Peters and Martin Biron on The Instigators for his weekly Friday visit on WGR to talk about Buffalo's plans heading into Monday's deadline, about the move to place defenseman Zach Bogosian on unconditional waivers to terminate his contract, and more.
Here is some of what he had to say:
"He still wants to add a player, a forward with term. He's had so many conversations with a number of different clubs, and we've speculated on the possibility of [Vincent] Trocheck of the Florida [Panthers] or maybe Kyle Palmieri of [the New Jersey Devils]. That makes more sense, to me, in the offseason than it does right now, but I still think Botterill needs that financial flexibility (with terminating Bogosian's contract). If something surfaces between now and Monday, he's going to want to be in a position, from a cap perspective, to be able to do it."
"It's a tough read on the Buffalo Sabres right now. How disappointed would the fanbase be if Jason Botterill didn't do much of anything? If the answer to that is very disappointed, then I think the fans are missing the bigger picture here.
"I can tell you that Botterill has no interest in rental players. That would make no sense. Why would you spend assets? It's pretty much a forgone conclusion for this season anyway. The best time annually to make a meaningful, impactful organizational deal is always in the offseason, and normally on the draft floor.
"If he does a couple of little things, that's not going to appease the market, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't have a bigger picture of what he wants to do. I think, frankly, that if he doesn't do something impactful between now and Monday, the Buffalo Sabres team that we're talking about today is not going to be the same team we're talking about next year. He is going to do something, if not between now and the deadline then in the offseason, that is going to shake up this organization in some way, shape of form."
"The Buffalo Sabres were trying to utilize as much time as possible to trade Zach Bogosian. That's what Zach Bogosian wanted. He wanted to be traded, and in fact, my sources indicate that the Buffalo Sabres were willing to retain as much as 50% of his remaining salary to make that happen. That's a fairly significant enticement from Jason Botterill's perspective. So you want to wait until the last second. By doing that, also his salary eventually drags down to a point where maybe a team says, 'Ok. We'll give you an asset for Zach Bogosian as long as you're willing to retain and we can live with the rest. It's not that big of a deal.' But even though the Sabres were willing to do that, there still wasn't enough interest to close on a trade with another club."
"It's best case scenario because there are teams looking for right-shot defensemen, even depth guys like Zach Bogosian. I'd be surprised if a team like the Calgary Flames isn't looking for depth there. I'd be surprised if Carolina [Hurricanes] isn't looking for depth. Maybe the Toronto Maple Leafs. Rather than blow out an asset like Kasperi Kapanen, if you can get a player like Zach Bogosian who you still believe has at least some game left and can help you on that right side, why wouldn't you do it?"
You can listen to the entire interview below: