With the NHL expanding to 31 teams next year and the playoff race being so close down the stretch, a lot of teams have been hesitant to make any big moves so far. It seems likely that more “hockey” deals will happen once the season concludes. Teams will be looking to acquire an asset instead of losing a player in the expansion draft for nothing. There are a few defenseman that could be left unprotected unless they are dealt. The Sabres have a couple of RFAs in Marcus Foligno and Zemgus Girgensons that could be used as trade bait in any deal acquiring a defenseman. To go along with Foligno and Girgensons the Sabres have two second round picks and two third round picks in 2017.
Younger defenseman aren’t usually readily available but the expansion draft makes things interesting. Guys like Brandon Davidson, Josh Manson, and Nate Schmidt could all be exposed in the expansion draft this summer. Vancouver has made it known that they could possibly trade a defenseman to shore up some forward scoring and Minnesota has a log jam of defenders that may be available. The options are there for Tim Murray’s taking.
It’s been said that the Oilers do not want to lose Brandon Davidson for nothing. Although Davidson isn’t necessarily an offensive player, his play in the defensive zone is something every team looks for. He would solidify the Sabres bottom pairing and can fill in the top four when needed. Davidson is a left handed defenseman but can play both sides. At the age of 25 he’s also a on a cap friendly deal with a cap hit of only $1,425,000 million that runs until the end of the 2017-2018 season.
Josh Manson is a personal favorite of mine. He plays a gritty game and moves the puck well. With Anaheim having an influx of young defenseman like Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour, and Jacob Larsson it could leave 25 year old Manson available via trade, especially considering that he could be a player exposed in the expansion draft as well. Manson is a right handed defenseman and would fit well in Buffalo as top four defenseman. He has 13 points so far this season and is on a cap friendly deal with a cap hit of $825,000 dollars that runs until the end of the 2017-2018 season.
Washington will be in an interesting situation this summer. They will likely protect Matt Niskanen and John Carlson. Brooks Orpik at the age of 36 will likely be left unprotected along with UFA Karl Alzner. That leaves the Capitals to decide between protecting Dimitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt. Orlov seems like the guy they will protect, leaving Schmidt to be unprotected. Schmidt is a left handed defenseman and can play both sides. He’s a solid puck mover and would be a steady hand as a 4th or 5th defenseman. Schmidt is 25 years old and is an RFA at the seasons end.
Other defenseman like Vancouver’s Ben Hutton, Nashville’s Matthias Ekholm, or Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella would all be great additions for the Sabres. If the Sabres could add two young defenseman via trade it would give the team a solid foundation on the back end going forward. Having Josh Gorges play regular minutes is not going to cut it come next year when the expectation is playoffs or bust. Ideally you want Gorges out of the line up and Zach Bogosian as a bottom pairing defenseman. Dimitry Kulikov and Cody Franson look to be on there way out in the next few days at the trade deadline. So that’s three spots available on the blue line next season. Brendan Guhle should make the team and if we can fill in the other two spots with a couple of young defenseman via trade then we’re pretty set. Murray is an aggressive GM and I have no doubt he’ll be swooping around these teams like a vulture.
Thanks for reading and follow me @Sabres_Talk!