The Buffalo Sabres in 2005-06 didn't make any significant additions at the All-Star Break. Last season, they acquired Dainius Zubrus who brought a bigger body to the team and who proved to be a great asset. But what the Sabres will do this year is a mystery. The trade deadline is just three days away and a lot of questions will be asked leading up to Tuesday's deadline.
The first (and obvious) question is what the Sabres will do with defenseman Brian Campbell. Campbell will an unrestricted free agent after this season and has been in negotiations with the Sabres for months now. The latest deal, which Campbell reportedly rejected, was for three years at $5.5 or $5.75 million per season. The money, apparently, wasn't the stumbling block there. It was the length of the deal.
Keep in mind that Campbell offered the team before the season started five years for $25 million. That was the exact contract Daniel Briere said that, if he was offered that early last season, he would have taken it.
But Campbell is not the only player who will be impacted by the trade deadline. While you never know what the Sabres could pull this time around, there should be a few players on that shortlist of players to trade to get something this team needs - a gritty forward with a scoring touch, a puck moving defenseman should Campbell be jettisoned out of town or a first or second line forward who could add another scorer to this team.
Here's my shortlist players who could be traded.
D Brian Campbell. I don't want to see Campbell go. I would hate to see what that would do to this team, both offensively and defensively. Campbell has quarterbacked the power play to success this season and he has lifted the play of defense partner Jaroslav Spacek.
But we must face facts and history. If the Sabres can't reach a deal with Campbell before the deadline and if it appears they are too far apart to get a deal done before Campbell becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, it would be better to get something in return for Campbell than to let him slip away to another team. A lot of teams would be interested in Campbell and what we could get in return would be huge.
In the end though, we should be in the business of keeping him here. Throw him a contract with five or six years on it worth about $30 million. That should keep him here.
D Dmitri Kalinin. Kalinin isn't having the season he had last year, when he scored 7 goals and was one of the better Sabres defensemen during the regular season. But he's having a quiet, consistent year and could be traded. He, too, becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season and the Sabres may or may not keep him around. So why not get something for him while you still can? He might be worth a prospect or a draft pick, or a comparable player at the most. But at least you will get something in return for a player that the Sabres haven't talked with about a contract.
RW Ales Kotalik. When Kotalik scored two goals against Toronto Thursday night, it was his first goals scored since Jan. 18 versus Atlanta, a span of 14 games. After he scored seven goals in December, he has cooled off by scoring only four goals after the New Year. He's got size and a power shot that teams would be attracted to. He might be a player to package in a deal with Campbell or Kalinin to increase your return.
RW Maxim Afinogenov. Afinogenov will be hard to move with his injury and the uncertainty about the severity of that injury and when he will return. At first, he was set to return and then suffered a setback which has kept him out of every game since the Winter Classic. But a lot of teams would love to have a player like Afinogenov who can move the puck, create space and is a bonafide playmaker. Plus, a change of scenery might be what Afinogenov needs.
Now, the better question to ask is what players should the Sabres pursue. The four players above (plus the rest of the Sabres roster) is loaded with talent. Who could the Sabres be targeting? I have no idea. But here's a few players that might be on their radar.
C Olli Jokinen, Florida. Jokinen would be a reasonable pickup. His salary isn't enormous ($5.25 million this year) and he would bring an instant 30 goal scorer to the team (he has 29 this year) and someone to complement Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, et. al. Jokinen would come with a price in a trade though. Someone like Campbell, and possibly an extra player (not prospect) would have to be packaged in the deal.
LW Erik Cole, Carolina. Cole is having an off year with Carolina, but could still net 20 goals this season. A player like Cole would fit in well with this team. Not too flashy but brings size (6'2" 205 lbs) to the rink. He's gritty and he's a player that the Sabres would welcome. Trading Kotalik and a pick or prospect for him might suffice.
RW Brian Gionta, New Jersey. New Jersey was one of the teams rumored to be interest in a trade involving Brian Campbell. If that is the case, we would want a proven player in return. Gionta is that guy. He is on pace to score 20 goals with a team that is not known for scoring goals. Entering Saturday, New Jersey has 164 goals this season, the fourth-lowest total among Eastern Conference teams. If Gionta joined the Sabres, he would thrive with the players around him.
D Steve Staios, Edmonton. Staios is a gritty blueliner who can score goals, tallying six this season. He was being talked about in trade rumors in 2005-06 as a possible Sabre-to-be. Staios seems to be always on the block when the Sabres need added depth on defense. Staios would be a welcomed addition.
C Patrick Marleau, San Jose. Marleau has been one of the more talked about players as the trade deadline nears. Some experts think that a change of scenery would help Marleau, who is having an off year in San Jose. Marleau is a player capable of scoring 20 or 30 goals a season and is only 28 years old, meaning he still has time to shine. He's another player that is on a more defensive minded team (San Jose is tied for the second fewest goals in the West with 159) and he would really open up in a more offensive environment.
Keep in mind, those are just ideas. They aren't necessarily what the Sabres may or may not be looking for. Surely, if you move Campbell, you'd want one of those players on the list above or another top-notch player in the league. But moving Campbell should not be in the cards. A deal should be made, keeping him in Buffalo for a long time. If that doesn't happen, however, I wouldn't doubt seeing Campbell waving goodbye to Buffalo.
The trade deadline will be interesting. Hopefully if we lose anything, we gain more from acquisitions. We shall see.