With the NHL’s annual trade deadline just five weeks away, the talk is who will go where and which assets what teams are willing to part ways with. According to TSN, the Los Angeles Kings are one of the eight teams who are in need of a top-six forward. Although Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams have all picked up their games in recent weeks, the Kings still haven’t done much to solve their goalless woes. Hopefully an addition at the deadline will help that.
While the Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets are all looking to sell, another team that Dean Lombardi and the Kings could be interested in is the Buffalo Sabres.
When Terry Pegula bought the Sabres last February, hopes were as high as ever in the Queen City. Pegula had the perfect combination: a hardcore Sabres fan with tons of money. However, what was looked at as a sure winner quickly turned into an epic blunder as last summer, Pegula went out and overpaid for free agents Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff.
In 36 games this season, Leino has just three goals and seven assists while in 37 games, Ehrhoff also has three goals but 14 assists. In addition to their underachieving free agents, goaltender Ryan Miller has struggled mightily and with a recent 11-game road losing streak on their hands, Buffalo’s playoff chances, although not mathematically done, are slim as they sit nine points out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the East. So, with that in addition to alleviating some of the cost of their two big off-season signings, the Sabres are looking to sell.
Three names the Sabres are looking to part ways with are Brad Boyes, Derek Roy and Drew Stafford, all great players but, if this season is any indication, most teams won’t be salivating at the thought of the services of these players as all three, like Leino and Ehrhoff, have vastly underachieved.
After registering 19 points in 49 games in his rookie season in 2003-04, the 28-year-old Roy has averaged just over 65 points in his next five seasons before collecting just 35 last season. In 45 games this season, Derek Roy has nine goals and 16 assists with a -10 rating. Although he has established as a solid top-six forward in recent years, he hasn’t shown many flashes of brilliances within the last two seasons and that may be enough for Lombardi to look elsewhere.
After a successful five-year stint in St. Louis where he scored a career-high 43 goals in 2007-08 and a career-high 72 points the following season, Brad Boyes’ time in Buffalo hasn’t been anything to write home about. Boyes, who turns 30 in April, has just three goals and eight assists to go along with a -6 rating in 34 games with the Sabres this season. Like Roy, Boyes has established himself as a solid goal- and point-scorer but that hasn’t been recent, which may discourage the goal-depleted Kings from landing the veteran.
At 26, Drew Stafford is a bit younger than the latter two and in his first five years in Buffalo, he’s averaged just under 19 goals and 39 points. In fact, Stafford is just one season removed from career-highs in goals (31), points (52) and plus-minus (+13). This season, unfortunately like many of his teammates, Stafford has fallen on tough times. In 46 games, Stafford has just eight goals and 15 assists to go with a -7 rating.
If I was Dean Lombardi and I had a choice between any of the three, I would go with the latter. Stafford is the younger of the three, plus he had a great season just last year whereas Roy and Boyes are a few years removed from having solid years. Of course, there’s the question of whether Lombardi will acquire someone from the Sabres or any team for that matter. Given that Buffalo won’t likely be contending for the playoffs this season, they’d likely be unloading talent without much in return. Even with that, though, I’m not convinced that Lombardi is willing to part with a draft pick or two to acquire the services of Stafford’s or Roy’s or anyone’s.
This is all just speculation as there is still a lot of time until the February 27th deadline. A lot can happen during that time and you never know what the Kings will do should they even decide to do anything.
One theory is that last year, they acquired Dustin Penner with the highest of expectations only to be disappointed by his play in Los Angeles. With none of the three aforementioned Sabres having reached double-digits in goals this season, expectations are lower – and with low expectations comes a nothing to lose attitude that can benefit the Kings for the coming weeks and months.
If only Dean Lombardi felt the same way. Only time will tell if he does.
Photo: Courtesy of Spector's Hockey