The Sabres should be looking to sell next Monday, but not because they’re currently four points out of a playoff spot and have lost their last three games on home ice.
There is still a good chance that they can make the playoffs so dumping players and shedding salary when they still essentially control their own destiny doesn’t exactly make a ton of sense. After all, they’ve got three games left against eighth-place Carolina and the Sabres also have two games in hand.
However, when players like Mike Fisher, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kaberle are traded away for first round picks, the Sabres might want to think about acquiring assets that will benefit them in the long-term.
I’m not suggesting the Sabres give up on this season, but Terry Pegula is expected to assume control of the team tomorrow and he might be eager to begin re-shaping the team in his image as soon as possible. There are certainly players he can’t be crazy about, and maybe he nudges General Manager Darcy Regier to ship them out.
If a player like Chris Kelly can fetch a second-round draft pick, then Tim Connolly might be worth just as much, if not more.
With the Western Conference so tight (four points currently separate fifth from 10th place), a team looking to make a push might be willing to take a chance on a player like Connolly, who has an expiring contract and may not have a future in Buffalo. Find the new core and build around them. The team isn’t bad enough to blow it all up, but the Sabres can slowly start to move pieces now.
And what of that list of players that were deemed unmovable by Larry Quinn in his farewell press conference? What about it? Pegula is set to take over the team before the trade deadline. If he doesn’t like some of the players on that list, why should the ghost of Larry Quinn dictate who he can or can’t have on his team? It seems to me that this list is a non-factor come tomorrow.
That’s not to say the Sabres don’t take the hypothetical pick they get for a Connolly and parlay that into an asset they feel can better help them make a playoff run. And with a new owner in place, that asset doesn’t necessarily have to be up for a new contract on July 1.
If there’s an offer for a player that doesn’t fit into the future plans of the organization, it looks like this year’s market is the one to to deal away in.