So far this season at 5v5 he's:
- played big minutes
- against the toughest competition on the team
- with waiver wire level defense partners more than half the time
And somehow we've still outshot the opposition with him on the ice. While at the same time he's in the top 5 in scoring among defenseman and he's led the team in PK minutes. There's a pretty solid case that he's our MVP right now - try to picture the first half of the season with him not around.
I'm not convinced there's a defenseman in the world that fits the role "here, take Clitsome (or Ellerby, or Pardy...) and Pavelec and go shut down the other teams best players". If there is you're not getting him for 5.2/year. Buff's on a terrific contract for what he does for 2.5 more years.
And yet the story right now is about how he's -14 and poor defensively. Nobody's likely to offer nearly what he's worth and if they did their fanbase would flip out.
If you think they can contend next year (I do), then we need him. I would go for it and if anything try to keep him after his contract is up - he might still come at a discount because of the skeptics out there. "We're not selling jeans here" and so forth.
If you think we're a couple years away and want to sell him for futures then you hold him for next year, start him back with Enstrom and ease off on his competition a bit. (Ideally you find a decent starting goaltender too, but may have to cross your fingers for luck there. He's had poor support this year even for us). His plus-minus will bounce back and the media will write a bunch of fluff about how he's "committed himself to defense" and you'll get better value.
If the right offer came you have to look at it, but this is almost certainly a sell low moment. I have enough faith in management that I don't think they're going to do anything rash, but the rumblings make me nervous.