In an effort to dig deeper in one of the longest GM reigns in pro sports, I’ll be breaking down Darcy Regier’s performance as GM of the Buffalo Sabres in several entries focused on the draft, free agency, and trading both in the summer and at the deadline.
In today’s piece, we’ll start on a favorable note for Regier: trades made at or around the trade deadline. One of the strongest arguments from his supporters is the perception that he rarely ‘loses’ a deadline deal. Regier has a reputation for being a hard negotiator and that works well in the time pressured environment of the trade deadline. In an effort to figure this out one way or another, let’s look back at every trade deadline move in Regier’s time to see how many the Sabres have won, lost, or drawn on, which can also be found here for your own perusal:
2-4-98 Acquired Geoff Sanderson from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Brad May and a third-round draft pick in 1999.
Draw. It wasn’t a bad deal because Brad May was past his prime and the Sabres desperately needing scoring on a team still contending thanks to the heroics of Dominik Hasek. However, Sanderson never really produced in that fashion for Buffalo. He had two 40 goal seasons and two 30 goal seasons upon arrival in Buffalo, but Sanderson only scored 29 goals in 2+ regular seasons in Buffalo. His playoff numbers weren’t any better, with only 7 goals in 38 playoff games. Neither team really won this deal though as May never approached the level of offense he’d produced in Buffalo.
3-24-98 Acquired Paul Kruse and Jason Holland from the N.Y. Islanders in exchange for Jason Dawe.
Loss. Jason Dawe was all right, wasn’t he? He put up 50 points in a lockout shortened 94-95 season and was somewhat consistent as a low end second line guy. Nothing crazy, but given that they acquired a 4th line cog and an AHLer, this one’s a loss.
3-11-99 Acquired Stu Barnes from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Matthew Barnaby.
Win. One of the best player for player swaps Regier constructed. The Sabres moved ultra-pest Barnaby for a guy who would eventually wear the C for Buffalo. Barnes was an integral part of the 1999 Stanley Cup run and other playoff runs while Barnaby was pretty much Barnaby his whole career.
3-23-99 Acquired Joe Juneau and a 1999 third-round draft choice (Tim Preston) from the Washington Capitals in exchange for Alexei Tezikov.
Win because even if Juneau was a bum for the Sabres, who is Alexei Tezikov? I don’t know, but apparently he’s still playing somewhere and hockey db is all over it.
Traded Mike Wilson to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Rhett Warrener and a 1999 fifth-round draft choice (Ryan Miller).
Win. Warrener was a beast on the blue line while Mike Wilson was never heard from again. That the fifth round pick turned into Miller isn’t too bad either.
Traded Derek Plante to the Dallas Stars in exchange for a 1999 second-round draft choice (Michael Zigomanis).
Loss. Who didn’t like Derek Plante? Not sure why the Sabres were dumping forwards in the year they made a run to the Cup either. In retrospect, they could have used him against Dallas.
3-10-00 Acquired Chris Gratton and a second-round draft choice in 2001 from Tampa Bay in exchange for Wayne Primeau, Brian Holzinger, Cory Sarich, and a third-round selection in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.
Loss. Gratton never became much in Buffalo and while the other guys weren’t world beaters, Primeau and Sarich were affordable grinder types at forward and blue line respectively who would have been more useful than Gratton.
Acquired Doug Gilmour and Jean-Pierre Dumont from Chicago in exchange for Michal Grosek.
Win. Never mind, THIS is the most lopsided deal of the Regier Era. To think Dumont was just a toss in there is just mind boggling. Of course Regier letting Dumont go was pretty bad later, but that’s for another column.
3-13-01 Acquired RW Donald Audette from Atlanta for C Kamil Piros and a fourth-round pick in 2001 NHL Entry Draft; acquired Steve Heinze from Columbus for a third-round draft pick in 2001 NHL Entry Draft.
Win. Two deals that added starting forwards for the Sabres at the cost of no one who would ever make an impact. Tough to discredit that when the Sabres were looking to add. The problem here is Regier knew that Hasek was growing impatient, he knew the team needed to win, and the best he could do was Audette/Heinze. Oof.
3-19-02 Acquired C Bob Corkum from Atlanta for a fifth-round pick in 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Draw. Who cares? This was the first post-Hasek year and by this time the Sabres were dead in the water. This trade was almost insulting to fans.
2-25-03 Acquired C Jakub Klepis from Ottawa in exchange for RW Vaclav Varada and a fifth-round draft pick in 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
Loss. So we gave up Varada (nothing special, but hey, he played) for a package that amounted to nothing. Cool.
3-10-03 Traded C Stu Barnes to Dallas for C Mike Ryan and Dallas’ second-round draft choice in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft; Traded RW Rob Ray to Ottawa for future considerations.
Loss. This was a sell year, so it’s tough to be too hard on the Sabres, but losing Barnes hurt, and Mike Ryan never amounted to much. I wonder what those future considerations ever netted the Sabres? Do they ever net anyone anything? Let’s get the Buffalo News to corner Darcy Regier in a presser and not give up until he’s answered this question.
3-11-03 Acquired C Daniel Briere and Phoenix’s third-round selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft for C Chris Gratton and Buffalo’s fourth-round choice in the 2004 Entry Draft.
Win. Gratton was a dud and Daniel Briere became a pivotal player on the only two Sabres teams that mattered in the last decade.
3-08-04 Acquired Brad Brown and a sixth-round selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft from Minnesota in exchange for a fourth-round selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
3-09-04 Acquired Jeff Jillson and a ninth-round selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft from San Jose in exchange for Curtis Brown and Andy Delmore;
Loss. While Jillson was still regarded as a prospect with potential, it cost the Sabres a good player in Curtis Brown. Jillson meanwhile ended up a bust.
Acquired Mike Grier from Washington in exchange for Jakub Klepis.
Win. Klepis is gone and Mike Grier was a fantastic grinder for several teams, Buffalo included. This is another trade that almost feels bitter because of the way the Sabres let Grier go following the 05-06 season.
3-09-06 Traded G Mika Noronen to Vancouver in exchange for a second-round selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
Win. Noronen never hacked it at the NHL level and the Sabres got a second round pick, with which they chose Jhonas Enroth. Cool beans.
2-27-07 Acquired C Dainius Zubrus and D Timo Helbling from Washington for Jiri Novotny and Buffalo’s first-round selection in the 2007 Entry Draft
Win. The Sabres pick was practically a second rounder and Novotny never panned out. The Sabres got the best player in the deal so it was good. It would have been better if they’d kept Zubrus beyond that season though.
Same date: Acquired G Ty Conklin from Columbus in exchange for Buffalo’s fifth-round selection in the 2007 Entry Draft
Lose. It’s easy to dismiss a fifth round pick as pennies for a backup goalie, but remember the Sabres drafted Miller with that fifth round pick from a few years prior. Meanwhile, Conklin was the first in a series of failed experiments at backup after the Sabres traded Martin Biron on the same date. If anything, this stretch of trade deadlines showed how much the Sabres struggled to replace Biron thereafter.
Same date: acquired D Mikko Lehtonen from Nashville in exchange for Buffalo’s fourth-round selection in the 2007 Entry Draft
Draw. One year removed from having their blue line ravaged by injuries, it’s hard to blame Regier for making a depth move, even if Lehtonen never saw the ice for Buffalo.
Same date: trade Martin Biron to Philadelphia for their second-round selection in the 2007 Entry Draft.
Draw. It’s easy to pan Regier for never replacing Biron, but Marty wanted to try being a starter elsewhere and he wasn’t long for Buffalo otherwise. Getting a second was commendable, even if the Sabres were unable to replace Biron in the long run.
2-26-08 Acquired Steve Bernier and a first-round selection in 2008 Entry Draft in exchange for Brian Campbell and a seventh-round selection in 2008 Entry Draft. Loss. Brian Campbell is still one of the best offensive defenseman in the league while Bernier washed out of Buffalo. They did get Tyler Ennis with that first, which is nice, but I’d still rather have Campbell.
3-4-09 Acquired G Mikael Tellqvist from Phoenix in exchange for a Buffalo’s fourth round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Loss. Tellqvist was another goalie in a string of washed up backups left to waste by Lindy Ruff: Backup Killer.
Acquired C Dominic Moore from Toronto in exchange for Buffalo’s second round selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Acquired Edmonton’s second round selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for RW Ales Kotalik.
Draw on both. Tough to see a 2 go out the door for a zero impact rental in Moore, but at least they made up the loss of the second with the Kotalik move. We’ll call these two even.
3-3-10 Acquired RW Raffi Torres from Columbus for D Nathan Paetsch, second-round pick; traded RW Clarke MacArthur to Atlanta for third- and fourth-round picks.
Loss. Torres did nothing in Buffalo while Clarke MacArthur is a regular forward in Toronto.
2-28-11 Acquired LW Brad Boyes from St. Louis for second-round pick.
Loss. Brad Boyes was yet another forward acquired who just couldn’t fit into Buffalo’s system. His success with the Islanders after leaving Buffalo speaks volumes about the Sabres as a destination to foster mid level forwards.
2-27-12 Acquired C Cody Hodgson and D Alexander Sulzer from Vancouver for RW Zack Kassian and D Marc-Andre Gragnani;
Traded C Paul Gaustad and fourth-round pick to Nashville for first-round pick.
Double win. Hodgson is a much better prospect at this point than Kassian, and netting a first round pick for Gaustad is still a head scratcher that we’re happy to take.
4-3-13 Acquired C Johan Larsson, G Matthew Hackett, a first-round pick in 2013 and a second-round pick in 2014 for RW Jason Pominville.
Verdict’s still out on this one. At this point, it looks like a good haul in what should be the first step of an extensive rebuild. Then again, many of the perceived great hauls from Regier have been a result of draft pick accumulation. On the surface that’s a good thing, but draft picks are no guarantee of success. It’s more about what they do with the picks going forward that will
By my count, that’s a record of 11-10-6 on deadline deals (A ‘What?’ is a tie), which is remarkably typical for a GM known so well for creating mediocre teams. What stands out is that Regier is a pretty good seller, but a god awful buyer. When his teams stood poised to make a Cup run between 2005 and 2007, he did nothing to make the team significantly better, and he even scuttled out key backup Martin Biron in that 2007 when the Sabres maybe could have used a more rested Ryan Miller headed into the playoffs.
Of course, you might consider some of these losses wins and vice versa, so do with this information what you will, but given the perception that Regier is such a shrewd dealer, it’s interesting to see that he’s really been about even on that front. While Regier may not have many trades that he’s blown, he’s hit very few out of the park. This plays into the idea that Regier is typically gun shy to make a move that will change the face of his squad. He prefers a series of minor moves to a few major ones.
Agree on a trade’s verdict? Disagree? Let me know what you think in the comments or tweet me @TheBuckMopsHere let me know and what you’d like to see in future installments of this piece.