The Buffalo Sabres made a significant trade with the Minnesota Wild just one day before the start of NHL free agency, sending forward Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno to Minnesota in exchange for defensemen Marco Scandella and former team captain Jason Pominville. The Wild also are sending a 2018 fourth-round pick, with Buffalo returning a 2018 third-rounder.
Scandella, expected to be a top four defensemen with Buffalo had four goals and 13 points with Minnesota last year. The former 2008 second-round pick averaged slightly over 18 minutes of on-ice time last year. Pominville, 34, scored 13 goals and had 47 points with Minnesota in 78 games last season. He spent the past four-plus seasons with Minnesota after being dealt from Buffalo in 2013. He’s scored 185 goals in 578 career games with the Sabres.
Ennis had just five goals in 51 games with Buffalo last year and eight in 74 games over the past two seasons as he battled a serious concussion. Foligno, a qualified restricted free agent had a career-high 13 goals last season.
Scandella has three years remaining on his contract at $4 million per while Pominville has two years left at $5.6 million annually. Ennis has two more years at $4.6 million per remaining while Foligno was qualified at $2.25 million for next year.
The trade will cost the Sabres around $5 million in cap space for next season.
MY TAKE: It’s a good deal for both teams, although we only care about the trade from Buffalo’s perspective. Before proceeding though, Sabres fans shouldn’t walk around like new GM Jason Botterill fleeced the Wild—he didn’t. Minnesota saved $5 million in salary for 2017-18, money they can use to re-sign Matt Dumba. Scandella was probably Minnesota’s fifth-best defensemen, which is where he ranked among their blue liners in ice time. Pominville saw his production drop to 11 and 13 goals over the past two years, hardly worth $5.6 million per year going forward. To say the Wild didn’t do well for themselves is extremely short sighted.
That’s neither here nor there for Buffalo. The Sabres improved their roster with the trade and they’ll worry about cap ramifications when they need to. Scandella’s value to Buffalo is more than it was in Minnesota. He’ll be a top four defensemen for sure and may end up skating with Rasmus Ristolainen on the team’s top defensive pairing.
I love the move. His arrival certainly takes some pressure off Antipin coming over from the KHL. It also affords the organization to not rush prized blue line prospect Brendan Guhle through Rochester before he’s ready.
Pominville likely ends any chance Buffalo brings back Brian Gionta, as Pommers will now fill that veteran leadership role. On the ice it’s at least a slight upgrade. Gionta did some nice things here but Pominville is a better player, even with the noticeable regression in goals and points. I see Pommers as a steady force on a third line with Buffalo, although for the moment he’s probably the last piece of their top six—which is not good. Had Gionta returned he wouldn’t have sniffed $5.6 million for one year let alone two, so financially it’s a significant hit for Buffalo’s cap space.
That’s fine. He’s is an upgrade on the ice and don’t think for a second his homecoming isn’t lost on any Russ Brandon-led marketing department.
This certainly takes them out of any race for prized defensemen free agent Kevin Shattenkirk—a guy the team had been rumored to take a run at come tomorrow. He’s better than anyone currently on the roster for sure, but I’m perfectly good with not spending $49 million over the next seven years or whatever ridiculous term he ends up inking. Have fun with that, New Jersey or whoever.
Botterill recognized what anyone who watched the Sabres last year already knew—the defensive unit was deplorable. To his credit he’s done plenty to address the problem, as this is Buffalo’s third blueline addition before free agency started, as Scandella joins Nathan Beaulieu and Victor Antipin on defense.
I could care less about losing Ennis as unfortunately I think his career is a lost cause at this point—at least if you’re looking at him like a top six forward, but I will miss Foligno. He became a solid bottom six guy tough as nails on the ice and respected in the locker room and the community. But you have to give up assets to get them, and that’s exactly what the Sabres did today.
Also, RIP to Enzo Sauce. (Kudos to Ben Tsujimoto for remembering)
Buffalo’s probably done adding on defense now, as they now have three new faces on the blue line, plus Guhle likely starting the season in Rochester. If they make another move they’ll certainly need to either rid themselves of Zach Bogosian and/or Josh Gorges via trade or buyout. Neither on their own have a drop of trade value, so moving one would require Botterill to get creative as part of a “take this contract on as part of the deal”, quite similar to honest to what Minnesota just did with Pominville.
Look, I can relate to the Devil’s advocate take on this or any move Buffalo makes. That’s what happens when you perennially lose, and they won’t get the benefit of the doubt until you start winning. Last year Buffalo dealt Mark Pysyk to Florida for Dmitry Kulikov and fans though the Sabres were acquiring the next Paul Coffey. We all know how that played out last year. But failing on a deal, one that didn’t involve Botterill’s judgment can’t detour the organization from going forward. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I like picking up Scandella at his term for the next three years far better than emptying the vault for Shattenkirk or someone along the same lines.