3 blockbuster trades we would like to see the Golden Knights make with the Sabres

The Vegas Golden Knights and the Buffalo Sabres once pulled off a huge trade when the latter sent Jack Eichel to the Pacific Division.
Dec 15, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights center Nicolas Roy (10) attempts to slow down Buffalo Sabres defenseman Connor Clifton (75) during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 15, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights center Nicolas Roy (10) attempts to slow down Buffalo Sabres defenseman Connor Clifton (75) during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports / Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

There is nothing better than speculating on potential blockbuster trades as they can pertain to one of the most entertaining general managers in the NHL, and that is Kelly McCrimmon. Just look at this past season’s trade deadline, and you’ll find that few teams were worth watching more than the Vegas Golden Knights during that first week in March. 

Oh, and you may have noticed in the headline that this article pertains to a team McCrimmon once upon a time pulled off a blockbuster deal with - one that worked out quite well for the Knights in hindsight. Sure, the Jack Eichel trade also worked well for the Sabres since they, too, maximized the assets sent their way, but for Vegas, it culminated with a Stanley Cup. 

So what if the Sabres, who may be very active this offseason in their quest to build a winner, and Knights teamed up once again in the summer of 2024 to pull off one (or three) trades? Okay, realistically, we wouldn’t see all three trades listed in this article, but they are all possibilities, considering what the Knights and Sabres both need. 

Golden Knights could save cap space in hypothetical trades with Sabres

If you didn’t already know, the Golden Knights are rather cash-strapped, and they currently rank 31st in cap space. Two of the three trades listed below will help Vegas save some space and, as a result, extend some current talent. The first trade mentioned in this slideshow may seem counterintuitive in terms of salaries, but it’s one that would more than work out in the Knights favor. 

Oh, and just one word of caution: The trades listed ONLY pertain to the players currently in the NHL. Many deals you see could also involve draft picks and prospects, but to keep things simple, it’s only going to be Sabres Player for Knights Player, Knights Player for Sabres Player. But keep in mind, those hypothetical trades could easily involve more assets.  

Jeff Skinner for Nicolas Roy

Nicolas Roy has been outstanding for the Golden Knights, having played a rather physical two-way game to go with supplementary scoring. The latter gave him a career-high points total, and one that could set the stage for another fine year in 2024-25. But lately, Jeff Skinner has been one of the NHL’s more productive players, especially when healthy, and that could once again be the case in 2024-25. 

Now, before I go any further, you may be thinking A, Why would the Sabres even trade Skinner? And B, How could the Golden Knights afford such a large contract? To answer the first question, the Sabres have younger, NHL-ready options in the AHL like Jiri Kulich and Isak Rosen, both of whom could realistically play on Buffalo’s middle-six next season. 

JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn are good enough to play on the top line, and Zach Benson started scoring like a top-line player late in the season. Skinner is an older forward who was never part of the Kevyn Adams regime, to begin with, and he would likely be the first one phased out despite his productivity. 

To answer the second question, the Sabres would likely retain one-third of Skinner’s remaining salary, and a ‘broker’ would retain another percentage, while the Knights would only need to pay a fraction of Skinner’s $7 million price tag this season and $5 million salary next year. 

Overall, the Sabres would get a depth center, something they will need this offseason, and the Knights get a dynamic scorer who is quite familiar with Jack Eichel. That said, Skinner should waive his no-movement clause should a trade like this find itself on the horizon. 

Shea Theodore for Mattias Samuelsson

The Sabres could use a better skater on the back end, and with a year remaining on Shea Theodore’s contract, the cash-strapped Golden Knights could move the player surely to sign an even larger extension. Meanwhile, Mattias Samuelsson, when healthy, can be one of the NHL’s better shutdown defensemen. 

Samuelsson also has a long-term contract and one with just under a $4.3 million AAV. This would also allow the Knights to save a little under $1 million in cap space, and in the long-run, they could end up with the better defenseman. 

Thanks to Samuelsson only appearing in 41 games last season, few remember just how valuable he was to the Sabres lineup when he was healthier in 2022-23. When Samuelsson missed time with injuries - the one downside is that he is injury-prone - the Sabres often lost. But when 100 percent, Samuelsson’s presence was one reason they came so close to making the playoffs that season. 

Samuelsson won’t help anyone score, but if put onto the second or third-pairing, his defensive play would create more opportunities for the Knights to have the puck, and, therefore, more scoring opportunities. Meanwhile, Theodore would help as a two-way player with nine seasons of experience, something the Sabres blue line desperately needs behind Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, and Bowen Byram. 

Adin Hill for Connor Clifton

Adin Hill is an outstanding goaltender, but after a season that saw him battling injury after injury while Logan Thompson was forced into and did an exceptional job in a 1A role, Vegas can save a ton of money by sending him to Buffalo. 

The Sabres already have a great goaltending tandem in the making with Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Devon Levi, but Levi is just 22, and trading for a player like Hill would bid him one more full season in the AHL. Meanwhile, the Sabres didn’t necessarily get the return on their investment into Connor Clifton, despite the 29-year-old enjoying some good moments as the season progressed. 

But Clifton was also brought in thanks to his ties with former head coach Don Granato. And with a stacked defensive rotation full of young talent, it would make even more sense for Kevyn Adams to send Clifton elsewhere, which would, as with the trade mentioned in the previous slide, guarantee a spot for high-end prospect Ryan Johnson. 

In a hypothetical player swap, as the theme of this piece suggests, the Knights wouldn’t need to pay the $4.2 million owed to the injury-prone Hill. Instead, they can focus on Clifton’s roughly $3.33 million salary for 2024-25. 

Thanks to Luukkonen’s success in Buffalo, Levi can realistically play a full season with the Rochester Americans while someone like Hill in this example can factor in as the 1B. It would give Buffalo a dynamic tandem until Levi is more than ready to play full-time in 2025-26. As for Vegas, they’re getting a solid blueliner who plays very well when part of an ultra-talented lineup, as he once proved in Boston. 


(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)