It almost seemed like yesterday, four seasons ago, when Marcus Foligno came into the Buffalo spotlight and swept Sabres fans off their feet.
At the time, Foligno was a call-up from Rochester late in the 2011-12 season. Foligno was stellar in that stretch, amassing six goals and seven assists, and was a bright spot for the Sabres future.
Since the 2011-12 season, Foligno has struggled with inconsistencies and injuries which has plagued his play throughout his young career.
We fast-forward to today, and the future of Foligno is now in question.
Where does Foligno fit in the Sabres’ plans? Is he an opening day roster player? Is Sabres general manager Tim Murray considering trading the 23-year old forward?
Let us go back and review what moves the Sabres have made to bolster the left wing depth to what it is today.
At the 2013 NHL trade deadline, Murray acquired Nicolas Deslauriers from the Los Angeles Kings, along with prospect Hudson Fasching for defenseman Brayden McNabb.
Last offseason, the Sabres signed Matt Moulson to a five-year contract after the Sabres had traded him at the trade deadline to Minnesota.
Back in February, the Sabres made a huge trade to acquire Evander Kane from the Winnipeg Jets. Defenseman, Zach Bogosian and goaltender, Jason Kasdorf were also part of that deal which sent Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, and a 1st-round pick back to Winnipeg.
And finally, Murray made the trade of the 2015 NHL Draft by acquiring Ryan O’Reilly and left winger Jamie McGinn from the Colorado Avalanche. The Sabres gave up Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, prospect J.T. Compher, and a 2nd-round pick in return.
Kane is projected to be the the top line left winger, while Moulson and McGinn are expected to follow suit. That leaves the fourth and final left wing position up for grabs between Deslauriers and Foligno.
Deslauriers was the only Sabres player to suit up for all 82 games of a dreadful season last year. In the 82 games played, Deslauriers had five goals and 10 assists to go along with 71 penalty minutes. Deslauriers is 24 years old, and is on the final year of a two-year contract signed last year which will pay him $637,500. Next year, Deslauriers will be a restricted free agent.
Deslauriers began his career as a defenseman, but has been developed as a left winger, and it seems like the Sabres intend to keep him as a forward.
Foligno missed a chunk of the 2014-15 season following a broken hand suffered in a fight against former Boston Bruins defenseman, Matt Bartkowski in December. In 57 games this past season, Foligno registered eight goals and added 12 assists along with 50 penalty minutes. Foligno is also in the final year of a contract worth $1.875 this season, and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the year.
Foligno could play center or on the right side of the ice, however his natural position is at left wing, and that is where he has excelled the most in the past.
As far as the Sabres’ prospect depth, Buffalo has William Carrier, Evan Rodrigues, Jean Dupuy, and Jack Nevins on the left side in the AHL with the Rochester Americans. Nick Baptiste could also play some left wing as he did with the Erie Otters in the OHL this past season.
It would be nice to have an extra forward or two who could jump in when another forward is injured or needs a game or two to evaluate their game. But Foligno and Deslauriers are two forwards the Sabres could utilize on the ice in a game. To sit one or the other would be a difficult choice.
Then again, Foligno was not a draft choice or acquisition of Tim Murray. Perhaps Murray would be willing to move Foligno to upgrade at another position on the ice, or acquire another draft pick in the 2016 or 2017 NHL Draft.
The Sabres currently need some depth on defense, particularly a left-handed defenseman. Maybe Foligno would be a key piece to a deal that could bring in a young, left-handed defenseman that would be important to the future of the Sabres organization.
Foligno could still have some decent value if you trade him now. He is only 23-yeard old, and he can bring some size and physicality with his 6′ 3″ and 227-pound frame. Foligno has yet to hit his full potential, and could be a better offensive contributor as long as he can stay healthy.
From looking at an advanced statistics perspective, Foligno was a minus-335 in corsi rating in 5-on-5 stiuations. Not good, but it was considerably better than most of the forwards who played more than 50 games with the Sabres this year.
But if a trade is not possible with Foligno and the Sabres, it will be a battle at training camp for the final left wing roster spot. Maybe if Foligno can impress enough, he could beat out Jamie McGinn or the third line left wing spot, but that may be difficult.
The rumors surrounding Foligno’s future will continue to swirl this offseason until training camp when he will be up for a roster spot. The Sabres would have to send Foligno to waivers if the team wants to send him to Rochester, but the Sabres would be weary of a team claiming him with no compensation.
If Foligno is not moved this offseason, maybe a move at the trade deadline would be a viable option. If the Sabres do wait to move him, it would be a gamble with the possibility of his value increasing or decreasing. If the Sabres believe Foligno can turn his game around, maybe Murray holds off on any deal and he waits until the trade deadline.
Foligno’s future with the Sabres is a cloudy one at this point, but many in Buffalo hope that Foligno can turn his game around and can be a part of the future in the Sabres organization. The Sabres can only take Foligno’s situation day-by-day, and maybe a decision on Foligno could be expected soon.
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