Make no mistake, the guys in the Sabres’ dressing room know the NHL trade deadline is at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
“It’s probably a little more worrisome for some guys than others,” defenseman Cody Franson said Tuesday.
Franson is one of the guys in the worrisome category. Teams are searching for rental defensemen, and Franson and Buffalo’s Dmitry Kulikov are pending unrestricted free agents.
“It’s tough to not hear everything that’s going on,” Franson said after preparing for Tuesday night’s game against Nashville. “All you can really do is control what you can, and that’s your play. I’m hopeful that I stay and we’re able to figure something out to go forward here.
"I like the group. I like the city. I like it here, but that’s not in my hands.”
Franson has three goals and 16 points in 55 games for Buffalo. Kulikov has just one goal and one assist in 36 games, by far his worst season in an otherwise productive career. He never got in a groove after suffering a back injury during his opening preseason game.
“I’ve heard rumors, but I try to get myself away from that because it’s just another distraction,” Kulikov said in KeyBank Center. “It’s going to make you think about something else other than hockey and playing the game.”
Despite the possibility of trades, the duo is expected in the lineup. Coach Dan Bylsma said he is not considering sitting any pending UFAs in an attempt to avoid injuries.
“We’re putting the best guys out there to give us a chance to win and put them in the right spots,” Bylsma said. “That doesn’t change regardless of the rumors or the pending deadline tomorrow at 3.”
Kulikov is the most likely defenseman to be dealt based on his past performance and uncertain future. Acquired last summer in a trade with Florida, he isn’t expected to re-sign with the Sabres.
“We’ll wait for the summer and talk about contract,” Kulikov said. “Today is all about the game. That’s all I have to focus on. If anything happens, I’ll obviously deal with it after the fact. I just want to get my mind ready for the game today, then tomorrow pay attention to what happens.”
Franson, meanwhile, would like to sign another deal. He is finishing a two-year contract with Buffalo.
“I’m excited about what our team’s got going on here,” Franson said. “Obviously, the last couple games were tough, but we’re starting to find our way here. We’ve got a good group of guys and a group that I think can figure this out as we go. I’d love to stay, but we’ll address that when it comes down to it, if it comes down to it.”