To trade or not?

As the trade deadline approaches, the Buffalo Sabers find themselves facing a very exciting problem developing before their eyes.

Striker Viktor Olofsson is currently playing the final year of a two-year deal that was signed on October 29, 2020.

At the time, Buffalo finds himself getting a young talent locked up in a bridge deal while giving Olofsson the chance to prove his worth to the franchise he rewrote in 2014.

While Olofson’s scoring faded during the 2020-21 National Hockey League season, many will find themselves under heavy pressure to be bothered by the player’s 13 goals and 32 points in 56 games with the league’s worst offensive team.

Entering the ‘contract year’ of Olofsson’s deal, it was clear that the 2021-22 NHL season would be of paramount importance in determining how to proceed financially with Olofsson.

While Buffalo might simply decide to play Olofson’s contract case safe, offer him a classic one-year deal to “prove it”, and push the decision a bit further, what if the Saber decides to take a different look at Olofson’s situation?

Instead of looking at how much you would be willing to pay forward annually, look at how much someone would be willing to pay for a player who has proven to play comfortably in the middle of the squad.

Before we move on, it makes sense to take a quick look at how we got here with Victor Olofsson.

Buffalo Sabers found themselves a diamond in the rough late in the 2014 NHL entry level draft, picking Sweden’s Victor Olofsson with 181St General check.

After being picked, it eventually took Olofsson a few years to finally come to North America, due to contractual obligations, but Olofsson brought with him his highly publicized burgeoning shot.

In Olofsson’s first professional season with the Rochester American, he showed everyone throughout the Buffalo Sabers organization that he was indeed ready for the bright lights of the National Hockey League.

Olofsson’s pro shot quickly raised his stock of a late draft flyer to its highest potential over a few years.

In his first season in the AHL, Olofson put together 63 points (30 goals, 33 assists) in 66 games. Olofson will also make his National Hockey League debut during his first year in North America, where he scored four points (two goals, two assists) in six games. Both goals came into a game of strength – which turned out to be an important distinction.

From there, Olofsson appeared to have a leg raised in an upright spot moving forward with the Sabers.

Olofsson would go on to set an NHL record in 2019-20, scoring his first six goals in the man’s advantage. This drove Olofsson’s total to his first eight career goals, which remains a league record.

In his first full season in the National Hockey League, Olofson went on to score 11 goals in the Power Play.

In the 2020-21 season, Olofsson scored seven of his 13 goals in strong play.

For those keeping on track, 20 of Olofsson’s first 35 goals came in the power game. A very impressive start to his career and a very important distinction for a franchise that has long struggled to find an appropriate depth of record.

But this season, due to incompetence and injury, Olofsson’s numbers have plummeted.

In 42 matches, Olofsson scored only seven goals. That includes two goals in one game recently against the New York Islanders, after 30 goalless games. Olofsson currently has 17 assists and is currently expected to collect 27 this season, which would be the highest of his career.

It’s important to note that after a spirited start to his power-playing career, he has solved only one of Olofsson’s goals this season in power-playing.

With the roster of Buffalo Sabers currently in a self-assessment state ahead of the trade deadline, unrestricted free agents make sense for obvious reasons but players like Victor Olofsson are sparking some interest due to impending free agent status.

Olofsson’s 3,050,000 million ceiling is something that Buffalo’s isn’t hard to swallow. The potential increase from this upper limit might be interesting, as was recently pointed out by Frank Seravalli of the Daily Vesuvius.

If Buffalo is not comfortable with a potential increase in Olofsson’s hat hit, there may be reason to try to collect as much as possible for the suspended restricted free agent.

Although it defies standard trading logic to try to trade a player when their value is diminishing.

Over the past few games, it seems that whatever issues Olofsson has been playing or adapting has subsided. His shot seems to be starting to improve, and he appears to be more comfortable on the ice.

The only red flag that keeps flying – is Olofson’s shot hampered by injury or is something bigger going on?

These are the tough judgments that the Buffalo Sabers front office will be making in the coming weeks. For a player who has scored 102 points (42 goals, 60 assists) in 158 games, there is clearly talent out there. The question remains though – does the Buffalo Sabers front desk see a long-term fit for Olofson in Buffalo?