The Sabres aren't a good team this year. That's not to say they're as bad as some would have you think, but they need changes. This season is the prime opportunity for a retool, which GM Darcy Regier has intimated as the strategy. They will be sellers at the deadline and have pieces that would be attractive to contenders. In all likelihood there will not be a firesale of major players (Miller, Vanek, Myers, Pominville). If it does happen, it won't be until the offseason.
II: THE NEEDS, IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE
1) A two way center. The Sabres have a well-stocked cupboard of young, skilled centers in Hodgson/Ennis/Grigorenko. Their checking center lineup is sufficiently less impressive. Outside of Girgensons, who won't be up for a few years barring impressive development, it's a need in the pipeline and a huge need at the NHL level. Sabres would look for either a home-run swing Couturier type or settle for a player of Dominic Moore's ilk. In my mind this is the most pressing need for the team.
2) Defense. Myers has Norris potential but is experiencing growing pains. Ehrhoff is a good top-pair guy. Sekera a high-end second-pair, passable abover that. Outside of that, Leopold and Regehr will be gone next year. Weber is a fine 6/7. Pysyk/McNabb are young but promising. Still, next year looks like
Myers - X
I don't believe Regier will slot Pysyk and McNabb in. At most, one will make it.
The need is top-4, but a younger, dependable bottom-6 guy will pass. A cheaper option might be a stopgap 5/6 veteran. Sabres can eat some salary.
3) Young speed at forward. Among the Sabres forward lineup is a distinct lack of speed. That's not to say the team can't skate, but there's not a top-gear guy who can stretch the ice, as it were. Catenacci is probably the best at this in the system and he's not ready.
Prospects who could crack the NHL in the next two years would be acceptable, but more developed players would be ideal. They don't need prime Gaborik, but something a little more substantive than Michel Ryan et al.
4) Goaltending. Miller is probably (I say probably) not in the long-term plans. Enroth has shown flashes but he's not ready to be a #1 if he ever will be. Makarov/Ullmark look promising but are far off from NHL play. Sabres might be willing to pay the price for a promising young goalie a la Lindback last year, but I'd bet on them going toward platooning Enroth with a cheap, capable veteran. In any case, this would be more likely to occur in the offseason.
III: Likely Available at the Deadline
Leopold (Rental): obviously not enough to garner top-flight compensation, but perhaps a fellow who needs a change of scenery?
Regehr (Rental): The most valuable of those likely to be traded. Would expect a good prospect in return, a bit more than the value received for Douglas Murray.
Stafford (Exp 2015): An enigma, but a 20 goal scorer per average over his career. Probably won't be traded short of overpayment.
Hecht (Rental): He's a good option for a checking/possession line. Should be relatively cheap.
IV: Possibly Available at the Deadline / Likely Available in the Offseason
Miller (Exp 2014): He's a great goalie in terms of consistency and workload. Put him behind a top-10 defense and he'd be remembered for his skill. Expect for some combination of youth (perhaps at goaltending) and at least one 1st round pick in return.
Pominville (Exp 2014): He's a top-30 scorer who's slumping this year. Competent defensively, but you wouldn't know it from 2012-13. Captain, would require a bit of overpayment in a package similar to Miller's.
V: Players You Might Want
Ott (Exp 2014): No, he's not untouchable. But he is uniquely valuable.
Ennis (RFA 2014): Probably the prime piece in acquiring a young two way center.
VI: Unlikely to Be Available
Vanek (Exp 2014): Doubt it. Sabres would look for a package befitting a player of his caliber (less than Kovalchuk/Hossa, more than Stewart).
VII: Will Almost Certainly Not Be Traded for Good Reasons
VIII: Won't Be Traded for Other Reasons
Leino/Gerbe: Trading at minimum value is bad business.
Flynn/Kaleta/Porter/Weber/Enroth: You want these guys? What?
I don't particularly disagree, but I have a feeling the former offer is what Regier would first pursue.
I'm down. Then again I'm also down on Stafford, so...
I hope that Canucks get the Stafford deal done. I think it's good value for both considering production + contract + term. Connauton was on AHL all star team last year, winning hardest shot competition I believe.