The roster puzzle in front of Buffalo Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill now includes a surplus of left wingers and right-shot defensemen.
Botterill acquired defenseman Colin Miller, followed by left wingers Jimmy Vesey and Marcus Johansson, the latter of whom signed a two-year contract with the team Saturday. Now, Botterill is facing one glaring question: What is the Sabres' biggest need?
That could depend on the role the Sabres envision for Johansson. While he began his career as a center, Johansson hasn't taken more than 74 faceoffs in any of the past three seasons, which likely means Botterill is in the market for a second-line center or top-six right wing.
Here are five options the Sabres could consider when trying to add scoring help on the trade market:
Kyle Turris, center, Nashville Predators
Botterill may not be in a rush to acquire a second-line center. After all, Casey Mittelstadt should take a step forward after the 20-year-old scored 12 goals among 25 points in 77 games last season, and top pick Dylan Cozens is likely only one year away from a full-time NHL role. There is a thought that Sam Reinhart can drive a line, making an elite second center unnecessary.
However, Mittelstadt likely needs one more year in a third-line role — he won only 39 percent of his faceoffs last season — and Cozens could miss the start of training camp after undergoing surgery on his left thumb. Though Johansson has proven capable of playing center in the past, the Sabres are unlikely to move him there.
The Predators are likely trying to trade from their center depth after signing Matt Duchene, and they need to clear cap space to sign restricted free agents and extend defenseman Roman Josi.
There are a few red flags with Turris. The 29-year-old is owed $6 million in each of the next five seasons and hasn't scored 20 goals since 2016-17, when he had 27 for Ottawa. For the Sabres to consider Turris, they would need to receive a low acquisition cost — either picks or low-end prospects — and Nashville likely would need to pay some of his remaining salary. Remember, Turris captained Canada at the IIHF World Championship, where Botterill served on the country's management team.
Nick Bonino is likely the more realistic fit for Buffalo, albeit in a third-line role. The 31-year-old scored 17 goals last season and has recorded double-digit goals in five of the past six seasons. More important, he's a checking forward who can kill penalties and plays a strong two-way game.
Bonino is under contract for two more years at $4.1 million per season, an ideal contract for the Sabres, who have an estimated $6.6 million in cap space following the Johansson signing.
Nashville's Mikael Granlund, who can play center or right wing, also may be available. The 27-year-old had 16 goals between Minnesota and Nashville last season but scored 47 over his previous two seasons. He is owed $5.75 million in 2018-19 and will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
Artem Anisimov, center, Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks reportedly tried to trade Anisimov in February and could clear cap space by parting with the 31-year-old. He posted three consecutive 20-goal seasons prior to 2018-19 and is a natural center, winning 45.9 percent of faceoffs during his career.
Anisimov is owed $4.55 million over each of the next two seasons, a reasonable rate for a center who has averaged 17 minutes, 15 seconds of ice time per game over the past four seasons. He scored only 10 goals last season with his lowest shooting percentage since 2014-15, but performed well defensively at times, forcing a career-high 50 takeaways.
The Sabres shouldn't have to part with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen or premium prospects to land Anisimov.
Nikolaj Ehlers, left wing, Winnipeg Jets
Yes, Ehlers is a left wing and the Sabres have too many at the moment, including Johansson, Vesey, Jeff Skinner, Conor Sheary and Victor Olofsson.
However, Ehlers is an elite talent. If the Sabres view Johansson as a center, perhaps they can trade for a left wing such as Ehlers or Minnesota's Jason Zucker to play on the right side.
The Jets are in dire need of a right-shot defenseman after Tyler Myers signed with Vancouver. However, they likely can't add much salary because they need to sign four prominent restricted free agents.
TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported last month that the Jets were listening to offers for Ehlers, who is only 23 years old and has scored at least 21 goals in each of the past three seasons. Ehlers also is under contract for six more years with an average annual value of $6 million, which would offset Ristolainen's $5.4 million salary.
It would be a massive risk to pay that sort of price for Ehlers without knowing for certain he can thrive on the right side.
Patric Hörnqvist, right wing, Pittsburgh Penguins
Buyer beware with Hörnqvist. Sure, he scored at least 21 goals for eight consecutive seasons leading up to 2018-19 and won back-to-back Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh, contributing 19 playoff goals from 2016-18.
However, he's coming off a disappointing season in which he scored 18 goals among 37 points in 69 games, and the 32-year-old is under contract for four more years with an average annual value of $5.3 million. He also has a no-movement clause and may not be willing to come to Buffalo.
That said, Hörnqvist would bring impeccable leadership to the dressing room, particularly as a mentor for the Sabres' young Swedish players, and can still make an impact as a power forward. The Penguins need to shed cap space, which could lower to the asking price for Hornqvist or possibly right wing Bryan Rust. Pittsburgh is not in need of right-shot defense help, which likely eliminates Ristolainen as a possibility.
Nikita Gusev, right wing, Vegas Golden Knights
Gusev is arguably the most intriguing player thought to be available. The 26-year-old has yet to play an NHL game, or even an American Hockey League game, and it's unclear what sort of contract he's seeking as a restricted free agent this offseason.
Gusev, though, has been remarkable in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, scoring 63 goals for St. Petersburg over the past three seasons. A former seventh-round draft pick, he was one of Russia's best players at the IIHF World Championship this spring, scoring four goals among 16 points in 10 games.
If you're concerned about the lack of NHL experience at Gusev's age, remember that Artemi Panarin went undrafted and did not join the Chicago Blackhawks until he was almost 24. The tricky part could be compensation. Vegas can't take on salary, so the question is would Botterill be willing to part with draft picks or prospects for a wild card like Gusev?
Story topics: Buffalo Sabres