The Buffalo Sabres have a problem a lot of NHL teams would love to have: too many NHL-ready defenseman.
As it stands right now, the Sabres have 10 defenseman that could play in most NHL teams’ top-six: Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold, Mike Weber, Alexander Sulzer, Andrej Sekera, Adam Pardy, Brayden McNabb and T.J. Brennan.
The top three are pretty well settled, with Myers, Ehrhoff and Regehr a lock to log the most minutes in the upcoming season. Leopold is an early favorite to be the fourth defenseman, but Ehrhoff’s chemistry with Sulzer last season could see him pushed down to fifth.
So that leaves five bodies for the sixth and seventh spots.
Lindy Ruff’s love affair with Sekera seems to make him the logical choice to start on opening day. Weber’s familiarity with the system and inability to go down to Rochester without clearing waivers puts him in the best position to lock down the seventh spot in the press box.
This leaves Pardy, McNabb and Brennan the odd men out.
But with McNabb and Brennan’s strong play last season in their short stints with the big club, it’s completely possible that both Ruff and Darcy Regier want to see what they can do with a bigger role.
All of this doesn’t take into account the Sabres have a first round pick in Mark Pysyk and an offensive dynamo in Jerome Gauthier-Leduc ready to start in Rochester this season.
So what could be done about this glut at the back end?
First, don’t get me wrong, bodies do not equal talent. But the logjam at D gives Regier options that other general managers may not have. The promise shown by McNabb and Brennan and the expectations on Pysyk certainly makes things a bit easier as well.
So if I were Darcy, I’d be on the phone with the Philadelphia Flyers’ general manager Paul Holmgren offering my apologies for losing another defenseman, and letting him know that you’re there to help if need be.
The Flyers’ defensive situation is approaching DEFCON 1, with Chris Pronger unlikely to play anytime soon, if ever again, Andrej Meszaros lost for the season, and Matt Carle signing a rich contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Flyers’ position of strength is the Sabres’ position of weakness: top six forwards.
With the coming out parties of Matt Read and Sean Couturier, the Flyers’ top six is probably the deepest in the league. Brayden Schenn’s development also gives Holmgren more options as well.
A package of Leopold and one of the young prospects could net the Sabres one of the Flyers’ young centerman in desperation, but the swap would likely involve a veteran like Danny Briere (who has a no-movement clause via CapGeek) or Scott Hartnell (who also has a no-movement clause).
So as the season inches closer, the Sabres’ defensive depth may open doors for them for a top six forward, and with the Flyers’ situation nearing panic mode on defense, there may not be a more perfect trading partner.