June 26th is right around the corner. If you are a fan of the Edmonton Oilers (still absolutely incredible) or the Buffalo Sabres, it will be a monumental day for those franchises. Since the beginning of this past season, the end game for the Buffalo Sabres never changed: tank. Cave for Connor, Savin’ for McDavid, whatever you like for your tanking phrase. But, of course, the ultimate prize of finishing in last place was the fact that the Sabres guaranteed themselves no worse (or better) than the 2nd overall pick in June’s draft – that pick likely (99.9999999%) being Jack Eichel. What if I told you that the Sabres may have an opportunity at both the 2nd and 3rd overall pick in this upcoming draft? It is very possible folks, so gear up for the ride.
According to a report from NHL.com, last night, the Arizona Coyotes, a fierce competitor in the Tankapalooza Sweepstakes and holder of that 3rd pick, is in fact fielding offers. Some may wonder why the Sabres would be in the discussion since they already have pick number 2, but it may happen.
A source close to Hard Foul Sports has confirmed to us previous reports that talks are happening between Sabre and Coyote brass, and a deal, while not imminent, is certainly potentially on the table. Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Cody Hodgson and the 21st pick in the draft for the 3rd overall pick. Credible? Maybe. Realistic? Kinda. Should the Sabres do it? Absolutely. Whether this is just chatter or not doesn’t matter. A phone call is a phone call so if talks are happening let’s break down a potential trade.
The centerpiece of a potential deal would be Sabres’ young defenseman Nikita Zadorov. Zadorov, 20, has all star potential, but attitude issues and maturity concerns make him a piece the Sabres could potentially think about moving if the right deal is in place. Grigorenko is tricky. He is only 21 and will be 21 throughout the ’15-’16 campaign. He’s young and skilled, but twice now in NHL call-ups has underwhelmed impatient Sabre fans who expected him to be a big producer right away. As unrealistic as it was to think that (again he’s 21), he is a piece I would be willing to part ways with in return for the 3rd overall pick. Hodgson is the best part of this potential deal. Darcy Regier had an admiration for Hodgson that was hard to understand. This past season, Ted Nolan and Co. didn’t have the same love for Cody – his playing time dipped, and he played insignificant minutes on the worst team in hockey. No surprise, Regier is now in Arizona’s front office, so the connection makes sense. Lastly, the 21st pick means nothing to me. The chance to have picks 2 and 3 is something that may never come up again in our lifetimes, seriously.
The Pick: Noah Hanifin, Defenseman, Boston College
Hanifin has stood out as probably the best defensive prospect in this draft. This draft is really all about McDavid and Eichel to most fans, but in reality, there is some serious depth in the top 5-8 players. Dylan Strome, Hanifin, Mitch Marner, to name a few, are all nice players. If the Sabres were able to pull this deal off, it makes sense to take the best defensive prospect off the board rather than taking another center. Ironically, the Sabres, it seems, have not really filled the void Briere and Drury left at the center position back in the late 2000’s. Now, they may have the chance to have Eichel, Sam Reinhart, last year’s number 2 overall pick, AND Zegmus Girgensons to fill the top 3 center spots for years to come. That is some really impressive depth.
Of course this is all speculation, but hey, why not? It makes sense for the Sabres. Zadorov is a tough loss, but can be instantly replaced with a top line potential defenseman. Parting ways with Grigorenko is manageable because he already seems to be being buried on the depth chart in Buffalo. Hodgson may likely be bought out if a trading partner is not found.
What do you think, Sabres fans? Drop a comment and let me know your thoughts.