The NHL draft this weekend is the first opportunity for the Sabres to improve its roster that finished ninth in the Eastern Conference last season. They have four picks in the top 44 selections, including two in the first round: the 12th overall pick and the 21st overall pick from Nashville in the Paul Gaustad trade. Buffalo has the 42nd and 44th overall picks in the second round.
With extra picks and couple of players that would serve Buffalo better on other teams, like Drew Stafford and Derek Roy, look for the Sabres to be aggressive in the trade market this weekend. But don’t take my word; take Sabres GM Darcy Regier’s word.
“We are very active as it relates to improving our hockey team,” Regier said at a pre-draft press conference. “Some of the names are out there and we’ve had conversations with those teams.”
Regier didn’t tip his hand and said it was too early to tell if something would happen. He also said center would be the position to add.
“If there’s one position we’re focused on, it’s in the middle,” said Regier. “You can look at a size factor and that’s certainly one area we’re looking at.”
Regier has a point. The Sabres could use more size at the center position. But a trade for a center might be harder to find than trading for a winger. As of now, Buffalo’s first line is Roy, Thomas Vanek, and Jason Pominville. Two of those players on the first line could work, but Buffalo needs to add a player that can start on the top line so the others can be slotted on lines they should be playing on.
The largest name on the trade market right now is Rick Nash. Columbus is going nowhere and they need to trade Nash for as many future assets as they can get. With four picks in the first two rounds, the Sabres might have what Columbus is looking for.
The Sabres also have Jhonas Enroth as trade bait. He had a 2.70 goals against average and .917 save percentage. In comparison, Ryan Miller had a 2.55 goals against average with .916 save percentage last season. When Enroth was in the net last year, he showed enough talent that another team could see him as a starter.
The newest name that’s become available is Bobby Ryan of Anaheim. The 25-year-old had 57 points last season, which was down from 71 in 2010. After a disappointing season, the Ducks look like they are willing to unload Ryan to the right bidder.
At least Regier can see the roster still needs tweaking. It’s not enough to say injuries made the team struggle and with everyone healthy, they should be better. They are still a top player or two away from being contenders for a title.