It is no secret the Buffalo Sabres’ forward group needs a spark. The secondary scoring group of Casey Mittelstadt, Conor Sheary, Kyle Okposo, Tage Thompson and company are just not cutting it. And while the top line continues to make things irrationally top-heavy, moves will have to be made in the new year to balance out the seesaw.
While it is pretty apparent the Sabres will dip into the farm to see what C.J. Smith, Alex Nylander, and/or Victor Olofsson may provide, the reality is that some proven NHL scoring needs to be acquired to resolve the club’s secondary scoring woes.
Trades are tricky to predict. What we do know is GM Jason Botterill is not willing to sacrifice the future for immediate needs. This likely rules out high picks and prospects being shipped out for a rental player, and leans the Sabres in the direction of acquiring a younger player with some term left on the contract.
While it is easy to say the Sabres should target this or that guy, it takes two to tango, as they say. So who are some of Botterill’s potential dance partners? Who are their best gems available? Let’s take a peek:
Nino Niederreiter, LW/RW, Minnesota Wild
Why potentially available?
The Minnesota Wild are unraveling. A strong start for the team has been compromised with poor play as of late, sending them racing the Buffalo Sabres down the double-slide at the playground. Unlike Buffalo, however, the Wild are currently out of a playoff spot and falling farther and farther down the Western Conference standings.
As for Niederreiter’s availability, the Swiss forward has consistently found himself playing on the Wild’s 3rd line this year. With a 5.25 million-a-year cap hit, not a lot of cap space, and Eric Staal’s steal-of-a-contract up at the end of the season, the Wild may tempted to clear Niederreiter’s contract off the books.
He’s 26-years-old. Despite having three years left on his deal after this season, Nino is young enough that his contract and production should remain a match. He’s been a strong corsi player since arriving in Minnesota, with a 53 Corsi-for percentage. The Sabres would also be adding .52 point-per-game player in that time, and one that is a plus-48 in expected goals for minus expected goals against when he is on the ice during his time in Minnesota.
Where does he fit?
Niederreiter would slot right in immediately in the Sabres middle-six, as he would immediately be an upgrade on the right wing over Kyle Okposo, Jason Pominville, and Tage Thompson. Niederreiter is a complete player that can also contribute to the second powerplay unit and the penalty kill. Sabres fans may remember him well, as his only two career hat-tricks have come against the club.
What will it cost?
A player of Nino’s caliber will not come cheap. A good prospect and a 2nd or 3rd round pick would be my best guess.
Tyler Toffoli, RW, Los Angeles Kings
Why potentially available?
A change is needed in Los Angeles. The team’s stars have aged, and the team’s pace of play is amongst the slowest in the NHL. The once corsi powerhouse has now found themselves bringing up the rear in the Western Conference. As another 26-year-old, Toffoli is the lone piece on the Kings roster currently that could be dangled for a pretty decent return. His $4.6 million a year cap hit for this season and next would help clear up things for a Kings team that is in a tough bind cap-wise.