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Will Buffalo and Ottawa Make Some Trade Noise at the Draft?

May 6, 2011, 1:03 PM ET [ Comments]
Travis Yost
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In the midst of the 2011 NHL Playoffs, the absolute last thing I want to be doing is writing out a trade rumor. Call me old school, but there's something about the post-season that has an expressed and implied importance over all other relevant news. It's the greatest time of the year for the sport, and unless the news is of real relevance to the sports world, it could and should take a backseat to the quest for the cup.

However, not reporting what comes through the wire would also be careless on my end, and after hearing the same rumor a couple of times from various people, I think it's finally relevant and worth getting out. In short: The Buffalo Sabres have a real interest in Nick Foligno, and that interest has only escalated with time.

The Sabres, already with one Foligno in their system in Marcus, have always liked the older brother and feel that his game could really take off in Lindy Ruff's system. Of course, a lot of that interest was tepid to begin with due to Ottawa's relevance in the standings and general displeasure with dealing one of their few young assets, but that's changed with the recent flip-flopping in the standings. Buffalo's still in love, and Ottawa's in a position of leverage for the first time in a while.

Nick Foligno, by all accounts, is still a player in his developmental stages, but the Ottawa Senators would kill - and I almost mean that in the literal way - to squeeze another first-round pick out of an NHL team. The Senators franchise is bent on rebuilding in a big way through the draft this year, and after the lottery balls failed to bounce their way, they're looking far and wide for potential trading partners.

The same names get inquired about - Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, and David Rundblad - time and time again. Ottawa has zero interest in moving any of these three pieces in the immediate or long-term, even though they obviously have maximum value and could bring in a number of real assets. Instead, Ottawa's hoping to deal one of their younger/talented players with room for growth in an effort to strengthen their draft.

Nick Foligno's started to come into his own as a player with the Senators, and right now, he certainly looks like a guy who's capable of scoring 40-45 points in a full season. He ended the 2010-2011 year with 32 points in 82 games(14G/20A), but played alongside some rather inferior talent for a decent portion of the season and struggled a bit with confidence issues in and around the net.

Could Buffalo fix Foligno's confidence issues and turn him into a 20+ goal scorer? It's not out of the question. What is out of the question, though, is Buffalo moving a first-round pick for a hit-or-miss type of player. No matter how much they love Foligno's game, he's not worth the 16th overall in any draft right now. His draft stock has teetered since being drafted 28th overall in the 2006 NHL Draft, so it'd be hard to imagine squeezing a first-rounder for the Buffalo native.

So, what's left is a real predicament - two teams agreeing that a player's change of scenery might be for the better, a Sabres team less-than-interested with its middle first-round pick, and a Senators team gunning for the best draft class in franchise history. And, that goes without mentioning a number of forwards coming off of the Sabres roster, including an RFA/UFA combination of Rob Niedermayer, Mike Grier, Tim Connolly, and Drew Stafford, among others. Some will return, some will not, but no matter how it unfolds, Buffalo's going to want to fill one of its vacated forward spots with a proven commodity. Foligno's not there just yet, but he's finally coming into his own as a reliable and quality third-line forward who can provide top-six minutes if needed.

Now: End rumor, begin speculation. All of the aforementioned is what I've heard, but rationalizing a deal out of it gets a little tricky. Would the Senators move their second-round pick alongside Foligno to grab the 16th overall? Probably, as long as the Sabres would move one of their middle-round picks back the other way. The value seems fair, and both teams get what they want. Could very well see Foligno and the third-round pick for the 16th overall, too. Remember, Buffalo isn't thrilled with their draft position, and Foligno does provide another (albeit no Brad Richards) immediate scoring presence up front.

Ottawa's position of strength comes through their less-than-spectacular finish. Through the NHL Draft, every pick after the 6th overall looks more like a low-level pick of the previous round. Simply put, their 2nd round pick has almost the exact same value as a low-level first-round pick. Would Buffalo move back nineteen spots for Nick Foligno? What if Ottawa dangled another one of their second or third-round picks? Does the deal sound sweeter for the B-Lo now?

Often times, when I post rumor blogs, the first question I'll get through the inbox is what I perceive to be a fair deal. Assuming this trade gets done at the draft(a big assumption), I'll say this is pretty damn close:

OTT gets:
1st-round pick(16th Overall)
3rd-round pick(76th Overall)

BUF gets:
Nick Foligno, LW
2nd-round pick(36th Overall)
3rd-round pick(66th Overall)

Essentially, the Senators move the Sabres up ten spots in the third-round - a very minimal upgrade - and flip a LW with 40+ point potential and a strong second round pick for a middle first-round pick.

The Senators fill a void and keep their draft status within reasonable strength, but more importantly get to go out and fill that glaring void down the middle. Now, the team has a ton of flexibility with two picks in the first sixteen. Should they choose, they can go and get - if available - Sean Couturier, Jon Huberdeau, or Ryan Strome with the first, and any one of Sven Baertschi, Joel Armia, Mark McNeill, Brandon Saad, or Tyler Biggs with the second.

Hell, they could flip one of those picks in another deal and make this entire second half of the blog moot. One thing's for sure - after last year's wheeling and dealing that brought David Rundblad to town, the front office has extreme confidence and won't be afraid to shake things up for a Senators franchise that's already showing signs of turning the corner.
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