The NHL trade deadline started early for the Buffalo Sabres. The last-place club made a blockbuster deal with the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday. The Sabres acquired Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdrof from the Jets in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a first-round draft pick. However, Buffalo wasn't finished after the seven-player deal, as they shipped goalie Jhonas Enroth to Dallas for Anders Lindback and a conditional third rounder.
It's been a while since we've seen a good "hockey deal" and both teams should benefit from the transaction. Winnipeg received players to help with their playoff push and they added some good prospects to their already impressive stable. Buffalo appears to be targeting a top-two pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, but Kane and Bogosian are very good players who were in need of fresh starts and they should be key parts of the organization during the rebuild.
Evander Kane won't help the Sabres this season after he underwent shoulder surgery, but in 2015-16 he will be a top-line winger. Kane could be a candidate to play with Tyler Ennis or perhaps he can help get Cody Hodgson, who is having a disastrous season, back on track. Of course that will depend on whether or not Hodgson is still a member of the team going into next year. Kane might also get a chance to play alongside whoever the Sabres end up getting in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and it seems likely that that will be either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Buffalo has been a disaster offensively, but fantasy owners should have a positive outlook for Kane moving forward. He will be given every opportunity to succeed with the Sabres.
I like the potential value of Zach Bogosian in Buffalo as well. He has shown flashes before, but he was always behind Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom in the pecking order. The emergence of Jacob Trouba cut into his time on the power play as well. With the Sabres, he will likely get a chance on the top unit. He's averaged just 1:06 with the man advantage so far this year. It's easy to forget that Bogosian is just 24 years of age and he's currently playing in his seventh NHL season. Injuries have been a stumbling block for him as well, but if he can healthy then he has a chance to live up to his potential as the third overall pick in the 2008 draft.
Tyler Myers was in need of a change of scenery, just like Kane, Bogosian and Stafford. Myers has seen his statistics and his play drop off each year since he won the Calder Trophy in 2009-10. The good news for him is that he's moving to a stronger team with better offensive weapons and that will help him out tremendously. Getting accustomed to the Western Conference will be a major adjustment for him and he'll need time to get used to the Jets' system, but the move should prove to be beneficial for him in the long run. Unfortunately, he could find himself in a similar situation to Bogosian where he's used sparingly on the power play. He should get time on the second unit at the very least and a pairing with Enstrom may stabilize him during even strength situations.
Dustin Byfuglien is expected to return to the back end after the deal. Winnipeg will insert Drew Stafford into their forward group to take his place. Byfuglien was shifted back to the wing after Kane went out of the lineup. He's been tremendous on defense, where he prefers to play and fantasy owners will be pleased to see him back there again. Stafford projects to be a third liner for the Jets, so I' m expecting that much from him. Winnipeg has received solid production from their second line of Mark Scheifele, Mathieu Perreault and Michael Frolik and the top line won't be broken up either. Stafford may be worth looking at if he gets a promotion, but right now he's not worth recommending.
Joel Armia made his NHL debut with the Sabres on Dec. 23 and he didn't do much on the stat sheet in 14:47 of ice time. The 16th overall pick in the 2011 draft has 10 goals and 25 points in 33 games with Rochester in the AHL this campaign. He will join the St. John's IceCaps. Armia's puck skills make him an intriguing prospect and he joins a talented crop of Winnipeg prospects with Josh Morrissey, Nikolaj Ehlers and Nic Petan in the fold.
Brendan Lemieux, who was the 31st overall pick in the 2014 draft, is playing in his third season with the OHL's Barrie Colts. He has racked up 35 goals, 51 points and 120 penalty minutes in 47 games this season. The son of former NHLer Claude Lemieux plays a lot like his father. He can agitate the opposition and score, which could make him a valuable fantasy hockey contributor in the future. Lemieux made a positive first impression with the Sabres at training camp and he'll look to do the same next fall with the Jets.
Jhonas Enroth arrives to Dallas when plenty of doubters are circling number one netminder Kari Lehtonen. The Stars puck stopper has looked good for the majority of his 23 victories, but soft goals at inopportune times and some inconsistencies have pundits wondering and Dallas management worrying if he can lead them into the playoffs. The acquisition of Enroth should put him on notice that he may not get as long as a leash as he's been afforded in the past. The move has the potential to raise Enroth's profile or it could motivate Lehtonen to be better than he's been. Enroth had his best stretch of the season from Nov. 18-Dec. 15 when he piled up nine of his 13 wins in 11 outings. If Lehtonen falters then Enroth could be given a bit of a run to work with. The Stars could use a goalie to steal some games as they battle for a playoff spot and Enroth showed that he's capable of doing that while playing for a much weaker team.
Anders Lindback has been brutal in Dallas, so he'll probably be Michal Neuvirth's backup in Buffalo. He has posted a 2-8-0 record with an .875 save percentage and a 3.71 goals-against average this campaign. He didn't see much action behind Kari Lehtonen and went down to the minors on a conditioning stint earlier this month. Lindback will be given a chance by the Sabres, but don't be surprised if it's a short one. Buffalo's goalies face plenty of shots and it's doubtful that Lindback will be able to rise to the occasion. Neuvirth owns a 3-14-1 record this year to go with a .907 save percentage and a 3.37 GAA. However, it may surprise you to learn that he has an impressive .927 save percentage during even strength situations. He has piled up nine straight losses and hasn't won since Nov. 15, but I like his chances of being Buffalo's starter much more than Lindback.