It looks like another team will take a shot at signing prospect Brandon Hickey. The collegiate defenseman has been dealt for the second off-season in a row, this time from the Arizona Coyotes to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for minor league winger Hudson Fasching. Veteran forward and impending unrestricted free agent Mike Sislo will also head to Buffalo in the deal. Both teams have confirmed the trade and seem optimistic about re-signing their new prospects.
Hickey was originally acquired by the Coyotes last summer from the Calgary Flames as part of the Mike Smith trade. The Flames worried that they would not be able to sign the Alberta native, who they had drafted in the third round in 2014 but at the time had already played three seasons in the NCAA and was not yet looking to leave. A year later, the Boston University captain has graduated and apparently was not keen on signing in Arizona either/ He only has to wait until August to become a free agent, but the Sabres clearly hope to get him signed instead. A smart defensive blue liner with leadership qualities, Hickey would add experience and locker room presence to any pipeline and Buffalo could certainly use the blue line boost.
It’s likely that Buffalo was already given permission to have such contract talks with Hickey before this deal was made, otherwise it’s highly unlikely that they would have traded away a player like Fasching. Granted Fasching is an impending restricted free agent and, like Hickey, needs a new contract, the Sabres would have had more team control over Fasching than they do now with Hickey. Fasching also has pro experience, including 22 NHL games with the Sabres over the past three seasons. The 22-year-old American forward has not found the same offensive production in the pros that he exhibited with the University of Minnesota, but appeared to be back on track this season with a career-high 30 points in the AHL. Fasching brings a physical element that the Coyotes have often lacked and could be one of the top minor league options for the team moving forward.
As for Sislo, the 30-year-old forward put up good numbers in the AHL, but isn’t much of a threat to make a difference at the next level, whether he signs with the Sabres or another team. He may simply be a throw-in in this deal, given his impending free agency. This deal is primarily about two prospects getting a new opportunity to sign with a different team and filling specific, minor needs for each organization. It also continues a trend for each franchise: the BU-to-Buffalo pipeline for the Sabres and the Coyotes taking on high upside prospects that many others have written off.