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General manager Jason Botterill was under some pressure to make moves before Monday’s trade deadline and, although he didn’t make any earth-shattering trades, he made some moves that at the very least left Sabres fans feeling content. Questions still remain however post deadline but for now here’s a look at the moves he made and the one’s he didn’t, which may have just as much of an impact long term.
Sabres acquire: Wayne Simmonds
Devils acquire: 5th round pick 2021
Those who followed the live blog know my initial reaction to this was not great. Simmonds hasn’t produced positive on ice results in a few years now and although the price was just a fifth rounder, you have to wonder if his impact down the stretch will actually help the team.
It’s clear that what little he has left in the tank appears to be on the defensive side, which in general is valuable, but the Sabres are already rocking one of the best defensive systems in the NHL. Nobody’s questioning their ability to defend, it’s the ability to generate any sustainable offense that’s been under fire all year. While Simmonds may bring a veteran presence, leadership and above average defense, he doesn’t really move the needle when it comes to the Sabres glaring need.
Sabres acquire: Dominik Kahun
Penguins acquire: Evan Rodrigues and Conor Sheary
This deal caught me by surprise, at least partly. I think everyone and their grandmothers knew Sheary was headed back to Pittsburgh, but the assumption was that it would be a cap saving, pick collecting move. Credit where it’s due, Botterill did well here to turn two pending free agents with one foot out the door, into a younger top 9 forward with upside who better fits the new timeline.
Kahun’s career so far reads like your typical #7 forward. He’ll chip in offensively, creating some of his own, and appears to be solid in his own end, so in other words a potentially better version of Sheary. There’s a chance he could become a top six mainstay if the Sabres find the right centre for him (he spent a lot of time on Evgeni Malkin’s wing) but for now Kahun should slot in where Sheary was.
It will be interesting to see if Rodrigues can continue to turn his game around in Pittsburgh. At his best, Rodrigues provides a lot of upside as a top 9 forward, but the Sabres never really got that version of him under Krueger. It does seem a safe bet that he’d be able to re discover that in a high-octane offensive set up like the one the Penguins have.
Third deal falls through
There was a rumour right at the deadline that the Sabres were working towards a last-minute deal for Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson. He’s struggled badly this year, largely due to his shooting percentage plummeting from a career 10.5% to 1.6%. Anderson put up a career high 27 goals last season so you know the upside is there which may have kept his price tag a little too high for the Sabres. Columbus is still very much in the playoff hunt so an educated guess would be that this was an attempted hockey trade, one that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was revisited on draft day.
Johan Larsson and Jimmy Vesey Stay Put
For most fans Vesey sticking past the deadline isn’t much of a surprise, it’s always appeared as though management likes him as part of their long-term plans. However, it was a bit of a surprise to me that Johan Larsson wasn’t moved before 3 PM. We haven’t heard much in terms of contract talks which is what led me to believe he’d get dealt but Larsson is exactly the type of player the Sabres need moving forward.
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Centre’s with high defensive upside aren’t usually overvalued in the free agent market so there’s a good chance the Sabres can re-sign him to a reasonable deal. He’s clearly got some underappreciated offensive upside too so if they can get him some upgrades on his wing it could be a steal of a contract moving forward.
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