Buffalo Sabres fans were waiting for the first big, bold move from new general manager Jason Botterill, who was hired just over a month ago. His first significant trade didn’t disappoint, and takes a huge step forward in solidifying the weakest area of the team.
The Sabres acquired defenseman Marco Scandella, winger (and old friend) Jason Pominville and a fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Minnesota Wild for center Tyler Ennis, winger Marcus Foligno and a third-round pick in 2018.
Scandella, 27, is an essential second-pairing defense-first defenseman. He’s not getting you points. He’s more positional than physical. He can play over 20 minutes a night if given the chance. While he’s been sub-50 percent in Corsi the last two seasons, he’s played against tough competition for the Wild. The Sabres’ blue line was Priority No. 1 for Botterill. This is a smart play.
The beautiful thing about this trade is the term: Three more years at $4 million annually for Scandella. Simply put, there’s zero chance they find a player this good for that contract in unrestricted free agency.
In the swap of forwards, the Sabres lose two good soldiers in Foligno (25) and Tyler Ennis (27), the mighty mite fan favorite who’s been there since 2009.
They reacquire a 34-year-old Jason Pominville, and this is no doubt a major facet of the deal: The Wild wanted him off their cap at $5.6 million over the next two seasons, and he had trade protection. No doubt Buffalo was one of his preferred destinations, and the Wild finally bid farewell to a player who is three years removed from his last highly productive season even though it feels like 30 years.
It’s not a bad gamble from the Sabres that he can find his game again, or play an effective role, back in Buffalo. They have the space to absorb his hit, and Scandella is worth that gamble.
As for the Wild, Ennis can certainly help offensively if this change in scenery does him well. But the crux of the deal is that save $5 million on their cap this season, giving them over $18 million this offseason to sign Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter, figure out what they want to do with RFA Foligno and then seek out one more center for this lineup. Plus in trading Scandella they probably hang onto Matt Dumba, which is what they wanted anyway.
On The Milbury Scale, we’ll give this one:
It’s close to three, as the Sabres made it with the best player in the trade at this point in Marco Scandella. But if this flexibility allows the Wild to make a move or two to improve, then it’s more of a win/win. Or, more to the point: If this trade is seen as “Scandella was the only way to make the population of Pominville decrease by one, and that ended up being a very good thing for Minnesota.”
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