The Sabres dealt defenseman Jordan Leopold to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday in exchange for second and fifth round draft picks. There will likely be more moves made by Wednesday's NHL trade deadline... and as well there should be.
At the time of the deal Saturday afternoon, the Sabres were four points behind the New York Rangers for the 8th and final playoff spot, but in 14th place in the Eastern Conference with 14 games to go. After a three game win streak, they dropped a couple of road games to two more Eastern Conference bottom dwellers, Tampa Bay, and Florida in a shootout on Thursday.
It's long past the time where enough has been enough. Sabres president Ted Black and General Manager Darcy Regier have indicated there are "no untouchables" in the organization, and I'm told that's the message that's been floated in league circles as well.
There has been constant trade speculation surrounding goaltender Ryan Miller. The latest came from Sportsnet in Canada this week suggesting the Lightning and Sabres were talking trade, and that Miller was in play. As for this specific report, I have no doubt that Regier is gauging what he can get for Miller and others, but I would highly doubt the Lightning will be the destination for Miller given the fact he's got a year left no his contract, and under the league's new realignment plan, the Lightning and Sabres will be in the same division next season.
Having said that, true to what the Sabres have indicated publicly, I have been told the Sabres continue to shop Miller and others. Whether Miller get's traded before Wednesday's deadline very much remains to be seen, but I certainly expect the Sabres to make more moves beyond Leopold as they look long term as sellers at the trade deadline.
The core issue is that managment seems to have come to the realization, later than many, that the core of the team that owner Terry Pegula inherited and spent a great deal of money to try to improve, does not measure up to championship standards.
The results clearly tell that story.
In terms of that core, Miller, captain Jason Pominville, and top forward Thomas Vanek all have a year left on their current contracts. With the salary cap going down, the Sabres have decisions to make on the futures of the big three. To me, Vanek is a guy I'd be more hesitant to part with. I'd certainly be willing to deal Miller ($6.25-million next season), and Pominville ($5.5-million next season). Both Miller and Pominville have limited movement clauses where they can submit a list of eight teams they do not want to be traded to.
Leopold was an obvious trade candidate since he was set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Defenseman Robyn Regehr also fits that description.
It's no secret the struggling Drew Stafford would like a fresh start, and the Sabres would like to grant him one. He's got two years left at $4-million per, and I think there are teams that would take a chance on him despite the fact he's got just five goals and eight assists in 32-games this season.
The most significant move to date of course was the firing of head coach Lindy Ruff February 20th. Interim coach Ron Rolston has done some positive things, but he's got to have players that are both willing and talented enough to execute a winning game plan.
Pardon the repetition, but the results speak for themselves.
This is a group that to me has been over-valued for a great deal of time. Finally it seems Regier and the Sabre brass have reached that conclusion.
Let the changes continue.