Shortly before all the trade madness went down yesterday, I wrote a piece explaining why I didn’t want the Buffalo Sabres to gut the entire roster just yet. I’ll admit that a small part of my reasoning was selfish: as a fan, and paying customer, I tend to default toward the fan-side of the sport, rather than the business. I hate it when teams make changes mid-season, especially when those changes signal that the organization has given up on the current season and is now looking ahead to next year. Doesn’t seem right, from a fan perspective . . . but even so, that was only a minor factor I considered. The biggest concern I had over the prospect of watching the Sabres totally gut the team yesterday? Uncertainty. There’s always uncertainty when stockpiling draft picks is concerned, and I was also uncertain as to whether GM Darcy Regier was savvy enough to receive equal value in return for the players he was willing to move.
As it turns out, I didn’t have to worry much. The Sabres did not gut the franchise, and the move they did amounted to way more than trading livestock for magic beans. Now that the trading deadline has passed, it’s time to assess all of the moves the Sabres’ franchise made in their efforts to assemble a cup-contending team.
T.J. BrennanTrade Grade: F
T.J. was the first of the players to get moved, and frankly, I think Darcy Regier practically gave this young kid away. The Florida Panthers get a young, good-sized defenseman for a fifth round pick in this year’s draft? Did Regier give them a wine and cheese basket, too? Not only did this trade stink when it went down, it looks even worse now that the Sabres have gone on to shed two additional blueliners. The fact that Brennan was traded shows a lack of forward-thinking on the part of the Sabres’ organization. Overall, this trade really, really bothers me. Moving on.
Jordan Leopold Trade Grade: A-
Getting two draft picks (a second-round and a conditional fifth-round) for a slightly-aging , definitely under-achieving blueliner whose contract was set to expire at the end of this season? Ring one up for Darcy! I know Leopold was playing better in the games leading up to the trade, but he just wasn’t getting it done and was one of the d-men responsible for allowing Buffalo’s goaltenders to face more shots on goal than any other tandem of goaltenders in the league. The only reason this trade doesn’t get an A from me? Leopold, not Brennan, should have been the first d-man to go.
Robyn RegehrTrade Grade: A
I liked Regehr. He agreed to come to Buffalo after initially refusing, based on conversations he had with Sabres’ management. That was a classy move on his part. He was an unspectacular, yet steady presence on the ice. Plus, he’s from Brazil, which is pretty cool, if you ask me. Anyway, he was another one whose contract was set to expire at the end of this season, so moving him makes a ton of sense, and the Sabres got two second-round draft picks from the Kings (one for 2014, one for 2015) so this is another win for Regier and the Sabres.
Jason Pominville Trade Grade: A+
There’s no doubt about it: the Buffalo Sabres’ dealing Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild would have fit right in to the Wild Wild West, as it was straight-up highway robbery. Sure, the Wild picked up a player who should have immediate and meaningful contributions to a team that looks ready to make a nice run in the upcoming playoffs. Still, what they gave up to get Pominville is potentially worth far, far more than what they are going to get out of the Sabres’ ex-captain (especially if the Wild fail to re-sign him after next season): a big, physical two-center in Johan Larsson; a young goalie who many feel is good enough to start in the NHL tomorrow, Matt Hackett; a first-round pick in this year’s draft; and a second-round pick in next year’s draft. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! I spent a little time on some of the Minnesota Wild fan forums last night following the trade, and even though most of the fans were dreaming of watching the Wild lift Lord Stanley’s Cup this season, enough of them were concerned that the Wild paid too much that I knew the Sabres had gotten the better end of the deal. This move has the potential to benefit the Sabres in the long run, in many different ways, so hats off to Darcy Regier and the Sabres organization for capping off a few weeks of trades by putting the team in a great position to build an actual cup contender.
The Buffalo Sabres still have a lot of work ahead of them – the futures of Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek must be decided, obviously, draft picks must be used wisely in order to address the holes this team must fill, and young talent must be developed properly – but credit the team for using its pieces to make some very significant moves this year.
I’d love to hear your opinions on how the Sabres did this season, and your thoughts on where they must go from here! Leave them below, or send them to me @theamazingMrS!