In an interview given on WGR550 AM, before Friday night’s 2-1 shootout win against the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said that he and the agent for Paul Gaustad have had talks, and the two would meet again on Sunday. This is significant, of course, as Monday is the NHL trade deadline.
I would imagine that if a deal cannot be worked out, Regier has, or will, let it be known to either Gaustad – or his agent – that the Sabres would have to entertain trade offers for the services of the 30 year-old, Fargo, North Dakota native, who is set to become an unrestricted free-agent on July 1st.
Gaustad, in his current NHL contract, has a cap hit of $2.3 million per season. I have heard reports (and yes, we all know how that goes) that the “Goose” wants upwards of $3 million/year.
If you had asked me back in November and December if I thought Gaustad would be worth that, it would have been a flat-out “No”. Since that time, he has shown his worth – and his true colors – by being a physical and relentless defensive presence, dropping the gloves when he has to, and becoming (along with partner Patrick Kaleta) the top penalty-killer on the Sabres. Over his seven-year Sabres career, he has posted goal totals of 9,9,10,12,12,12, and has 7 this season, putting him on a pace for 10. During the years 2006-2010, he amassed 15 power-play goals (this was when coach Lindy Ruff used Gaustad in front of the net when the Sabres had the man-advantage). Of course, never lost in the shuffle, is his prowess in the face-off circle, where he is perennially in the NHL’s top-10.
Gaustad has been nothing but consistent during his time here.
While I think $3 million is a bit north of what I would like to pay a 3rd or 4th-line centerman, perhaps a little creative spin (ala Christian Ehrhoff‘s contract, but not as extreme) can keep both sides happy here. If the Sabres were to offer Gaustad, say, a five-year deal, worth $11 million, with year-to-year salaries of $3 million, $3 million, $3 million, $1 million, and $1 million, it could solve issues for both sides. Gaustad would be guaranteed a nice, fair salary up front – pocketing $9 million his first three years of the deal – while the declining dollar amount in the final two years would allow Buffalo a manageable yearly salary cap hit of $2.2 million, which would actually be a lower cap hit than they’re dealing with now.
Not to mention, as security for Gaustad, it keeps him under an NHL contract until he turns 35 years-old, a time when most players of his ilk would be happy making $1 million/year.
Question is, how do the Sabres view Gaustad’s significance to their team going forward, and what are his camp’s contract demands?
The next 24 hours could tell a lot about what Sabres’ management thinks of this current roster, and who they want on it heading into year number two under new owner Terry Pegula. They still need a number one center (sorry to beat a dead horse here), and perhaps a couple of wingers capable of more than, on average, 4 goals a season (see Leino, Ville; Boyes, Brad; Gerbe, Nathan).
I, for one though, think Gaustad is part of the solution going forward.
For the right price, of course.
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