Ironically enough, it was Regier’s last trade that may be the synergy of something spectacular. His trade and its specifics surrounding Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson are well documented, but let’s take just one more look. Thomas Vanek to the Islanders for Matt Moulson, a 2014 1st round pick and a 2015 2nd round pick. The 1st round pick can be delayed to 2015 if the Islanders finish in the bottom 10 of the league this year. Since the deal was made my thinking was that the Islanders would give Buffalo their 2014 pick so they could be in on the Connor McDavid sweepstakes in 2015. With today’s news that the Islanders have lost their Captain John Tavares for the season coupled with the fact that Thomas Vanek is surely headed out of town, New York could legitimately drop even lower in the standings – they currently sit with the fifth worst record. This leaves the Islanders in a really tough spot, and incredibly, leaves the Sabres in a fairly strong position as one of two favorable scenarios are destined to play out.
The first scenario is the Islanders keep their 2014 pick and the Sabres are awarded New York’s 2015 pick. What does this mean? The Sabres will have a top pick in this year’s draft. Per NHL.com, “no club will move down more than one position as a result of the Draft Lottery”. This means as long as the Sabres remain the worst team in the league, they’re guaranteed a top-two pick. The result of that is they land at least one of three very popular prospects in either center Sam Reinhart, defenseman Aaron Ekblad or center Sam Bennett. Fourteen teams have a crack at the top overall pick in the lottery and the NHL puts the lottery in the favor of the worst team at a 25% chance of winning the top selection. It’s likely Buffalo ends up with Reinhart and now has two first rounders in 2015, which is considered by many to be a talent rich draft. This puts the Sabres in position to make a run at Connor McDavid. Two first round picks which would appear on paper to be early picks yet again, as well as two second rounders with which to deal as leverage if they so choose. The best possible outcome? Buffalo finds a way to land Reinhart and McDavid.
The second scenario is that the Islanders actually let their top five pick go to Buffalo this year, negating the 2015 first rounder. This is going to give the Sabres two selections in the top five this season which opens several avenues. Buffalo could use both picks and bolster its young core with a combination of Reinhart/Bennett, Reinhart/Ekblad or Ekblad/Bennett if they’re lucky. Or they could deal the pick for another team’s first round pick next year if they feel like getting more security in the running for McDavid. Either way this whole thing plays out, it’s going to be fun to watch.
Is one way better than the other? I’m not really sure. Two first round picks this year seems unlikely, but would provide two very good players to build with. Two first round picks next year gives the Sabres a chance at one of the most exciting prospects in a very long time given McDavid’s age and hype. For the first time in a long time, Buffalo has a string of positive events to look forward to. There’s a lot to like about our chances or turning this franchise around. While the decision really depends on the Islanders, for the first time in what feels like forever, it’s the Sabres who hold all the cards.