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Could Sabres Be In On Marner, Guentzel, Necas, Zegras

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Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs Jake Guentzel Carolina Hurricanes Martin Necas Trevor Zegras Anaheim Ducks

Adding offense should be a priority for the Buffalo Sabres this offseason, and plenty of big names are circling the rumor mill. Toronto’s Mitch Marner has one year left on his current deal, with many wondering if this is the time to break up the Maple Leafs’ core. Carolina has two prominent forwards, Jake Guentzel and Martin Necas, set to hit free agency in different capacities. Trevor Zegras has two years remaining on his contract but could be pushed out by a younger core.

The Sabres come armed with cap space. They also have this draft’s 11th overall selection and a handful of top prospects on the verge of being NHL-ready. Whether that’s enough to initiate a trade or contract talks is a separate topic. Instead, let’s focus on whether the Sabres might be interested in Marner, Guentzel, Necas, or Zegras.

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Mitch Marner

Verdict: Buy

Adding a playmaking, play-driving winger could instantly boost the team. An acquisition of Mitch Marner would take the Sabres to new heights.

With the Toronto Maple Leafs unable to get over the hump in the playoffs, speculation is building. Likely, it’s Marner or John Tavares dangled on the trade market. The Leafs have to figure out their cap allocation issue. The core four, including Auston Matthews and William Nylander, account for over 53% of the allotted cap space.

With Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, Ilya Samsonov, and TJ Brodie set to become unrestricted free agents, Toronto only has about $19.38 million in cap space per PuckPedia. The Maple Leafs also have unsigned restricted free agents and other holes that need to be filled.

Buffalo has about $23.19 million in cap space with only Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to pay and the bottom of their roster to fill out. The Sabres have the space to take on Marner and his nearly $11 million cap hit. They also have the room to extend him.

A long-term deal might tighten the cap situation in the long run, but, the juice is worth the squeeze for a player of Marner’s caliber.

Will Brad Treliving and the Leafs axe the core? With the Leafs’ recent playoff exit, all options, including trading Marner, are on the table.

Jake Guentzel

Verdict: Sell

The Sabres weaponizing cap space on an elite 27-year-old in Marner is one thing. Jake Guentzel is turning 30 this year and is an unrestricted free agent. The advanced numbers, including PuckLuck’s new WAR metric, love the former Pittsburgh Penguins scorer. However, post-30 long-term contracts are usually disastrous after a few seasons.

Evolving-Hockey projects a seven-year, $9.645 million contract coming this offseason for Guentzel, which would take him up to his age 37 season. If you think the Jeff Skinner contract is bad at 32, wait until you see an aged-out Guentzel.

It’s hard to say no to a two-time 40-goal scorer with great underlying stats, but the Sabres should do just that.

Martin Necas

Verdict: Sell

Martin Necas is younger and more attainable than Marner and Guentzel, but he’s another Hurricanes forward who is likely overpriced. He’s scored 28 and 24 goals in the past two seasons and seems primed for a bigger opportunity with another team. As a restricted free agent, his rights must be traded to find it.

Carolina, reportedly, is willing to oblige in finding a trade, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on 32 Thoughts: The Podcast.

Evolving-Hockey has Necas’ most likely deal projected at eight years with a $8.79 million cap hit. The right-handed shooter would have to establish a consistent top-six role to justify that paycheck. With the Sabres, that would mean he’d have to outplay one of either Dylan Cozens, or Jack Quinn.

With Quinn scoring at a better rate than him over the past couple of seasons, it can’t be said with certainty that he would.

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Trevor Zegras

Verdict: TBD

Anaheim is up in the air about their expected utilization of Trevor Zegras going forward. The flashy center has been forced to the wing by Leo Carlsson and Mason McTavish, two younger pivotmen and higher draft picks.

The Ducks have plenty of cap space, so his $5.75 million cap hit over the next two seasons is not the issue. There’s also room for him to contribute on the wing, so Anaheim is fine there as well.

So why is he included here?

Well, Zegras’ name just can’t stay out of rumors. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported Monday that the Ducks are listening to offers and “would consider moving him in the right deal”.

Determining whether the Sabres should be interested in Zegras is a different story. Buffalo needs a left-handed playmaker to complement Tage Thompson on the top powerplay, but the Ducks forward negatively impacted their powerplay this past season according to PuckLuck’s WAR model.

Acquiring Zegras could help ease some of the offensive burden on Skinner and JJ Peterka, but whether he’s worth the collateral – if even available – is uncertain.