This does not appear to be the Buffalo Sabres’ year. Their attitude heading toward Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline will reflect that.
“The things that we will look to add will focus on things beyond this year,” General Manager Darcy Regier said by phone Friday evening. “It may include this year, but the focus is going to be on next year and maybe even beyond that. So things that we do are going to be with that light in mind.”
It’s little surprise the Sabres will begin looking toward the future. They are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference heading into back-to-back home games, with visits by Washington tonight and Boston on Sunday. They are 4-4-4 in their last 12 games and 13-16-5 overall, meaning they don’t qualify as buyers.
Instead, Regier will focus on the buyers, but he figures draft picks might be tough to acquire.
“With the cap going down and the new contracts on the other side that have been signed, I think it’s added value to draft picks,” he said. “In some ways, it’s going to be harder to acquire draft picks for players in the event you’re trying to trade a player to get draft picks.”
This week, though, three significant trades made by Pittsburgh involved picks. The Penguins included a first-rounder in their deal with Calgary for Jarome Iginla; sent two second-round selections to San Jose for defenseman Douglas Murray; and received a third-round pick along with Brendan Morrow in a trade with Dallas.
“I believe what we gave up for Douglas Murray is the market for defensemen, rental defensemen,” Pens GM Ray Shero said at a news conference. “It’s what you pay, and it’s what the price has been over the last year.”
By that logic, the Sabres should be in position to acquire picks. Blue-liners Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr are pending unrestricted free agents who fit the criteria as trade targets.
“Right now what I’m really trying to think about is my game and our team,” Regehr said following practice in Northtown Center at Amherst. “But to say that I didn’t think about it a little bit? I’d be lying to you. That’s just the reality of the situation.”
Regehr is among several prominent Sabres with full or partial no-trade clauses. The list also includes goaltender Ryan Miller and Jason Pominville, who can submit a list of eight teams to which they do not want to be traded.
“I haven’t been asked anything. I’m not worried about it,” said Pominville, who nonetheless was visibly agitated by the trade talk. “You hear your name, and I think you hear your name from people that want more followers on Twitter.”
It’s significant that Pominville says he has not yet been asked for a list. Pominville’s agent rebuffed a report that such a list was required at the beginning of the season.
“The team has to ask Jason for the list if they have interest of dealing him,” Normand Dupont said via email.
Regier declined comment on his players with clauses.
While Pittsburgh has made an early splash in the trade pool, activity elsewhere has been minimal. That should change.
“Teams generally have an order in which they would like to acquire players, so the players in front have to drop before the other moves take place,” Regier said. “It’s bottlenecked right now, but I think it’ll open up as we get closer to Wednesday.”
Part of the reason for the standstill is the number of teams still near a playoff spot. Entering Friday’s schedule, the 14th-place team in both conferences was six points out of eighth.
“It’s usually supply and demand as we say, but Economics 101 in this case is demand and supply,” Shero told reporters in Pittsburgh. “The demand is greater than the supply.”
The closer to the trade deadline it gets, the better it might be for sellers like the Sabres. For evidence they need to look back only to last year. Buffalo wanted a first-round pick for third-line center Paul Gaustad, and in the final hours it finally shipped him and a fourth-round pick to Nashville for an opening-round selection.
“The pressure builds until the buyers and sellers match and agree on a price,” Regier said. “The closer you get to the deadline the prices can go up.”