BUFFALO (LGS) — After extending Jochen Hecht's contract a few weeks ago, Darcy Regier might have to reconsider another one of his rules: never make a shakeup trade.
While the NHL Trade Deadline is still months away, an early-season trade shouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for the the team's general manager.
The Buffalo Sabres have played very average through the first 12 games of the season thanks in part to a slew of players that have also been average at best. Now some of these players could and should be considered for trading block status.
Obviously, what the team gets in return is the deciding factor in whether or not they would trade a particular player. Many potential trades would warrant the Sabres getting a very solid player in return, but in some cases, a decent draft pick would do as the Sabres have shown to be very successful with the draft.
Here are five players who would be on my trading block if I were the team's GM:
♦ Maxim Afinogenov – I remember after last season's NHL Trade Deadline, Schopp and The Bulldog on WGR suggested that Afinogenov should be traded if he didn't prove himself during the playoff run. I thought they were crazy at the time, but now I actually agree. Through 12 games this season, Afinogenov has five points and a minus-6 rating. Trading him would certainly net a good player or players in return, so why not? He's done very little this season and he would probably benefit from a change of scenery as well.
♦ Ales Kotalik – I would give Kotalik until February to see what type of player he wants to be. If he plays like he did last season, he deserves to be shipped to another team. But if he plays like he did in 2005-06, he's worth keeping. It's that simple in regard to Kotalik. He can decide his own destiny. Does he want to show up to play night in and night out or does he want to be jettisoned out of town?
♦ Dmitri Kalinin – Why would the Sabres sign a veteran blueliner to a one-year deal with Kalinin only expected to miss a few more weeks? It seems a bit peculiar to me. Mike Weber showed that he can play at the NHL level and while Andrej Sekera can be shaky, he could still grow into a top six NHL defenseman. Kalinin, who has played well so far this season, showed in the past he just isn't consistent enough.
♦ Michael Ryan – This would be the only one that I would be reluctant to give up. If Ryan gets a shot to play with highly skilled players on this team, the Sabres could better gauge where he's headed. He deserves a shot in the NHL but so does Clarke MacArthur who was leading the AHL in scoring earlier this week. MacArthur is the better player in my opinion and if Ryan doesn't show promise, Ryan could be trading places with MacArthur rather quickly. But we'll never know if Ryan is any decent if he continues to be scratched so Andrew Peters can play less than two minutes a game.
♦ Drew Stafford – Okay, so I'm reluctant about this one too. The problem is that Stafford isn't showing us what he did last season. If he does that and plays to his skill level, he won't be on the block and would probably be considered an untouchable player. But if he continues to struggle, the Sabres will have to question his role with this team. Again, he needs to play with highly skilled players to get the best idea of where he stands. If he still struggles then, I don't think it would be out of the question.
These are all hypothetical of course. To avoid any hate mail saying, "Trading Drew Stafford? Are you crazy!", I must say that these are all players that need to show great improvements. While Kalinin is hurt now, he wasn't showing much in terms of consistency before his injury. He would be great one night and unreliable the next.
Mike Ryan is the exception on this list. He deserves a legitimate shot, but really hasn't received one. So I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Stafford simply needs to find his game. If it's not working in Buffalo, maybe he needs more time in Rochester.
However, if I was Darcy Regier, I wouldn't hesitate on trading Maxim Afinogenov and Ales Kotalik. I'd look into getting another power forward and a veteran player that can contribute 20 goals a year on a regular basis. Possibly a center than can actually win most of the draws he takes.
While it's still early, it sure looks like the Sabres need some sort of shakeup before it's too late.