Explaining Buffalo’s Jamie McGinn trade

Why the Sabres needed to trade one of their better players this season

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It appears the 2016 NHL trade deadline had a case of the Mondays.

On a deadline day that saw nineteen ho-hum deals completed, the Buffalo Sabres — known to be trade-heavy under GM Tim Murray — made just one deal, trading forward Jamie McGinn to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional 2016 third round draft pick.

Here’s the lone source of excitement: The pick could become a second-rounder if the Ducks make the Western Conference Finals and if McGinn plays in half the Ducks’ remain games.

Beyond that, there’s not much to write home about. NHL general managers were cautious to move first-round picks, resisted the temptation to go after rentals and made it known through their actions that the real moves might come this summer, right around the NHL Draft in Buffalo.

So, to the McGinn trade: Was it a good one for the Sabres? The team had hoped to land a second-round pick for McGinn, an unrestricted free agent whose return was difficult to guarantee. It was imperative for the Sabres to get something for McGinn, and should the pick conditions be met, the return will be exactly what the Sabres had wanted.

Keep this in mind: Florida sent a comparable scorer in Brandon Pirri to Anaheim for a sixth-round pick. McGinn for a possible second-rounder feels like robbery next to the Pirri trade.

That said, a number of fans certainly didn’t want to see McGinn leave town, judging by the multiple banners pinned to the walls of the 300 level inside First Niagara Center pleading for the Sabres to keep him. Fans had every reason to want to see No. 88 stay in blue and gold: He’s playing some of the best hockey of his career and has become one of the few consistent scorers on the roster. Ask anyone: The Sabres need more players like Jamie McGinn.

Tim Murray agreed. He noted that players like McGinn are typically those you’re looking to acquire. Then he offered a dose of reality: “That’s not the position we’re in.”

The Sabres now have four third-round picks in this year’s NHL draft. They have eleven picks in total, and double-digit picks in 2017. Asset-building is crucial, and while fans and even Murray himself would like to see assets turned into successful, point-producing players sooner than later, the Sabres’ position in the standings dictated this deal getting done. They aren’t winning anything of note this season. Better to give themselves more trade ammo for when more talented players become available.

For those hoping McGinn returns in free agency, keep this in mind: Murray expressed his desire to send McGinn to a team with a chance to win a Stanley Cup, and perhaps a gesture like that could build some goodwill towards negotiations in free agency this summer. Perhaps it won’t. But Murray played this as best he could, and he got a good asset in a trade season that didn’t see many sellers get their intended returns.

As for the other trade possibilities, the Sabres have three UFA’s that they failed to move, in Chad Johnson, Carlo Colaiacovo and David Legwand. Murray didn’t seem too disappointed by that. This team still needs leaders to guide its younger players.

Now, as per usual, we wait to see which dominos will fall next. The Sabres will likely use their excess draft picks to make trades to their liking once the draft approaches. But the clock is ticking, and that tick is a little louder by the day. Murray, for the most part, stood pat during this deadline. By training camp next season, we’ll see what his patience in the cold months allowed him to do during the summer months. In theory, the worst of the rebuild is over. We can only seriously question Murray for his handling of it if the standings don’t reflect that by this time next year.

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