The early trade market in the NHL is focusing on defensemen, possibly because clubs have recognized that a strong blueline is a common thread for each of the four clubs that reached the Conference Finals.
DAMON SEVERSON WOW 😱
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 7, 2023
Earlier in the week, a three-team trade between Columbus, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles resulted in defenseman Ivan Provorov going to the Blue Jackets. On Friday, GM Jarmo Kekalainen pulled off his second deal of the week, acquiring Damon Severson from New Jersey for a 2023 third-round pick after the Devils had signed the 28-year-old defenseman to an eight-year max contract, worth $50 million ($6.25 million AAV). Severson played nine seasons in the Garden State and had 33 points (7 goals, 26 assists) in 81 games.
The Devils have young blueliners in Simon Nemec (2nd overall in 2022) and Luke Hughes (4th overall in 2021) pushing for playing time next season that made Severson expendable.
The pair of deals is changing the landscape and shortening the wish list of clubs like the Buffalo Sabres, who should be looking to make upgrades on defense. The Sabres are undoubtedly focused this summer on locking up All-Star blueliner Rasmus Dahlin and 2021 top overall pick Owen Power, but GM Kevyn Adams has to be looking to add on defense after Buffalo gave up 300 goals against last season.
Buffalo Blueline Options
The Sabres have an effective pairing with Dahlin and fellow Swede Mattias Samuelsson, but the club struggled when Samuelsson was injured and was forced to elevate defensemen like Henri Jokiharju or Jacob Bryson higher in the lineup. The scenario that Adams is likely looking for is a veteran right-handed blueliner to pair with Power, allowing the 20-year-old more defensive security and the ability to step up offensively. With Severson gone as an option, players like Scott Mayfield of the New York Islanders, Matt Dumba of the Minnesota Wild, or Radko Gudas of the Florida Panthers would seem to fit Buffalo’s needs, but that would assume that Adams would choose to dip into free agency.
The other possibility might be to trade one of the Sabres forwards for a defenseman since the likes of Jack Quinn and J-J Peterka might be ready for top-six roles. Winger Victor Olofsson is entering the final year of his contract after scoring a career-high 28 goals. With youngsters Jiri Kulich, Matthew Savoie, and Isak Rosen pushing for a roster spot, dealing Olofsson for a blueliner or to clear his $4.75 million salary to add a defenseman may be the way Buffalo goes over the next few weeks.