The Toughest Choice
NAPLES, FLA.--Of all the names kicking around these NHL general managers meetings as far as players that might be available, there's one who would almost certainly have more impact than any other player.
Sure, Mats Sundin might get you a few goals. Ditto for Marian Hossa.
But a 27-year-old defenceman who is one of the best skaters in hockey, averages between 21-25 minutes per game, quarterbacks the powerplay, produces 40-45 points per season and rarely visits the penalty box would be a commodity every team needs, correct?
And that would be Brian Campbell of the Buffalo Sabres. The belief is that there is almost no chance the Sabres believe they can sign Campbell, who is headed for unrestricted free agency, and may have to trade him before the deadline after losing Chris Drury and Daniel Briere for nothing last summer under similar circumstances. Its indeed curious the Sabres are again in this position, particularly given the fact that most teams understand they have to lock up their younger talents earlier these days, thus spawning a series of major signings in recent weeks of players like Dion Phaneuf and Henrik Lundqvist.
Back-to-back losses on the weekend -- 4-1 to Pittsburgh on Saturday, 5-1 to the Rangers on Sunday -- left the Sabres back in ninth place in the Eastern Conference after an 8-0-2 run had vaulted them up from being in the same dismal neighborhood as the Maple Leafs.
In the loss to the Pens, Campbell was minus-4 in the first period, perhaps an indication all the indecision regarding his future is starting to wear on him.
It's easy to suggest the Sabres can't afford not to trade Campbell if they can't sign him.
But they're close to a playoff berth. And what would they try to get in a deal? Futures? Immediate help? A proven scorer? A blueline replacement?
This, folks, would be a terribly difficult deal to make for Sabres GM Darcy Regier, who may thus be forced to simply suck it up, keep Campbell, hope to make the playoffs and then deal with the fallout in July.
Regier denied today that he's under a gun to make something happen.
"The urgency can be as much on the part of the buyer as the seller as we get closer to the deadline," he said.
Then again, perhaps some team -- New Jersey, let's say -- will get ambitious and decide Campbell is the perfect fit for a team that has lost a variety of high-profile defencemen in recent years and figures it can sign Campbell for the long-term.
Obviously, Leaf fans are focussed on Sundin's future. But Campbell's immediate future could be the most intriguing to watch heading towards next week's trade deadline.