Monday, February 4, 2013

Expect Changes Sooner Rather Than Later In Buffalo

           The Buffalo Sabres are slumping. Again. Buffalo started out the year defeating two playoff hopeful teams in Toronto and Philadelphia, but since then have only won one game out of their last seven. Out of a possible 14 points over the last seven games, the Sabres have only collected three total points. In an 82 game season, fans would certainly be worried, but not in panic mode. In a shortened 48 game season, we’re officially in panic mode.
            Fans are already clamoring for Ruff or Regier to be fired. However owner Terry Pegula is firmly behind both his General Manager and Coach. In other words, Ruff and Regier are not going anywhere, at least not now. So the Sabres will probably just stand their ground and hope things work out, right? Not so fast.
            The Fourth Period magazine reported this morning that the Sabres are not only willing to make a trade, but are “actively pursuing a trade”. Darcy Regier realizes that his team is in trouble in this shortened season and is looking to make changes. The Fourth Period is also reporting that the Sabres are “in the market for a gritty, defensive-minded forward, who can play on the club's second or third line and a shutdown defenseman.”
            Two names immediately come to mind, one with a team that has been linked to Buffalo, and the other one is a little bit of a stretch, but let’s take a look.
            Option 1: Jarret Stoll. This one makes the most sense, and would not be shocking to anyone if it occurs. The Fourth Period reported on January 29th that Los Angeles is in the market for a top four defenseman. Matt Greene was injured early this season and is out for the year. Buffalo and Los Angeles have been speaking, but talks between the teams have cooled down. There were scouts from Los Angeles at yesterday’s Sabres and Panthers game. Jarret Stoll, like the rest of the Kings this year, is struggling mightily out of the gate. Stoll has just one point this season, but he fills the Sabres needs of a defensive gritty second or third line forward. Stoll does have some offensive flair, as he has generated at least 35 points in six of his eight seasons with Edmonton and Los Angeles. Stoll also helps in another area Buffalo desperately needs help in, which is at the faceoff dot. Stoll has a face-off percentage of 53.5% so far this year and finished with a 55% faceoff percentage last year. Stoll would be an immediate upgrade in the dot as the best regular faceoff percentage at center is Cody Hodgson at 42%. Yes, the Sabres highest face-off percentage from a regular center is 42%. The best part of all this is Stoll is not going to cost a fortunate to acquire. Andrej Sekera or Jordan Leopold with a low pick would be enough to pry Stoll from Los Angeles. Did I mention Stoll has a Stanley Cup ring?
Option 2: Ryan O’Reilly. This one is a little of a stretch bit of a stretch because Buffalo has not been tied to O’Reilly or Colorado. Ryan O’Reilly is still an unsigned RFA, meaning Buffalo would still have to sign him to a contract after acquiring him. However, The Fourth Period reported on January 27th that “with no resolution to contract negotiations between the Avalanche and restricted free agent Ryan O'Reilly, Colorado appears to be dangling the young center as trade bait.” Ryan O’Reilly led Colorado last year in points with 55, and also had a face-off percentage of 52.8%. According to The Fourth Period, Ryan O’Reilly is only asking for three to four million dollars a year in his new contract. The Fourth Period also reports that “The Ottawa Sun claims Avalanche GM Greg Sherman is asking for a young forward and a second-round draft pick in exchange for O'Reilly.” That’s not much to give up for someone who could tremendously improve your hockey team not only in the short term, but in the long term. Buffalo has a plethora of young forwards and can certainly part with a second round draft pick.
            So if you’re Darcy Regier, what do you do? If Darcy wants to improve his team in the short term and the long term, he makes both trades today. Will he? Stoll seems likely, but O’Reilly is a stretch. Ryan O’Reilly is a legitimate number two NHL center who can help add some secondary scoring, and can win face-offs. Jarret Stoll would be a perfect third line center in Buffalo who would be the responsible gritty third line center Ruff and Regier want and he too can win face-offs. Buffalo won’t have to sell the farm for either like teams are going to do for Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. 
           It’s two simple solutions. Get it done, Darcy.

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