Despite the Buffalo Sabres’ victory on Tuesday, they remain dead last in the league’s overall standings. General manager Jason Botterill has apparently seen enough, making a couple of moves in what could be an ongoing shakeup for his floundering roster.
On Monday, the Sabres acquired winger Scott Wilson from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a fifth-round selection in the 2019 NHL draft. Wilson, 25, played for the Pittsburgh Penguins when Botterill was their assistant GM. Botterill also placed veteran winger Matt Moulson on waivers. A former 30-goal scorer, the 34-year-old Moulson was a frequent healthy scratch who was held pointless in 14 games this season. He’s signed through 2018-19 with an annual cap hit of $5 million.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday the Sabres appear to be sending signals that they’re open for business. Botterill is apparently willing to listen to offers for anyone except center Jack Eichel.
Evander Kane will likely attract the most interest. An unrestricted free agent in July, the 26-year-old left winger is a constant subject of trade speculation. With 13 goals and 25 points in 28 games, he’s the Sabres leading scorer and on pace for 38 goals and 73 points.
Friedman said he asked a couple of teams what type of return Kane could fetch. They drew comparables to what the Winnipeg Jets received from the Chicago Blackhawks for Andrew Ladd at the 2016 trade deadline (winger Marko Dano, a first-rounder pick and a conditional pick) and what the Arizona Coyotes got for Martin Hanzal (first, second and fourth-round picks) from the Minnesota Wild last season. However, he believes the Sabres will seek more for Kane.
Prior to Friedman’s report, John Vogl of the Buffalo News reported Botterill was undecided over re-signing Kane or moving him by the Feb. 26 trade deadline. He’s very pleased with the winger’s performance this season. Given the Sabres’ ongoing struggles, however, perhaps Botterill is leaning more toward moving him.
Friedman believes it’ll take a great offer to pry blueliners Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella or winger Sam Reinhart out of Buffalo. Moving Ristolainen or Scandella would further weaken the Sabres’ porous blueline. Reinhart, however, recently surfaced as a possible trade candidate. If Botterill is unhappy with the 22-year-old’s development, maybe he’ll swap him for a top-four rearguard.
Meanwhile, TSN’s Darren Dreger reports teams are looking into the availability of goaltenders Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson. No word if Botterill intends to move one of them. That could depend upon the play of Linus Ullmark, who’s currently toiling in Rochester.
SPECULATION SURROUNDS SIMMONDS AMIDST FLYERS’ STRUGGLES
Like Botterill in Buffalo, Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall could face make some difficult decisions soon. With a 5-2 win over Calgary on Monday, his club snapped a ten-game losing skid that sent them tumbling down the Eastern Conference standings.
Hextall is facing pressure from Flyers followers to replace head coach Dave Hakstol, but he’s standing by his embattled bench boss. He could consider some player moves if his club fails to significantly improve soon.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos believes Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds could come up in the rumor mill as the trade deadline approaches. While Kypreos doesn’t think Hextall wants to move the 29-year-old winger, he could become their best trade chip. Simmonds has one more season left on his contract and is eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2019. With forwards Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek each carrying annual salary-cap hits of over $8 million, Kypreos doubts the Flyers can afford to re-sign Simmonds. He suggests this could be the best time to move him to maximize the return.
There’s no doubt Simmonds would attract considerable interest in the trade market. A hardworking, physical two-way forward, he’s reached 20 goals and 50 points in every season stretching back to 2013-14. He carries a cap-friendly $3.975-million cap hit, but has a 12-team no-trade list that will limit the number of possible suitors.
The Flyers have nearly $37 million invested in just eight players for 2019-20. But if the salary cap ceiling rises to over $80 million by the summer of 2019, Hextall will have sufficient room to re-sign Simmonds.
Should Hextall decide to trade Simmonds, he could wait until the off-season to make that move. That’s when teams are flush with extra salary-cap dollars and amenable to swinging major deals.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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