Sabres At The Deadline: Paul Gaustad


Paul Gaustad has spent his entire career with the Buffalo Sabres organization. Drafted in the 7th round (220th overall) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Gaustad will be finishing up what will be his 7th full season in the league.

He just might not do it in a Sabres sweater.

There has been much chatter around the league regarding the native of Fargo, North Dakota, and it’s the consensus that he, among current Buffalo Sabres, has the most trade value going into next Monday.

Contract Talks?

I saw a couple reports late last week that said the Sabres and Gaustad’s camp were working on a contract extension for the 6’5″ center, but that talks had come to an impasse. Considering his $2.3/million salary, and the possibility of the NHL Salary Cap actually going down once the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed, sealed and delivered (not good news for fans of a Terry Pegula-owned team now, is it?), is it possible that contract talks broke off over money, even with the new regime in place in Buffalo? The Sabres, as it stands today, enter the 2012-13 season with just $8.1 million in room. Defenseman Tyler Myers‘ new $38.5 million contract kicks in next year, and while the Sabres have two goalies and six defensemen locked up, the team only has nine forwards signed for 2012-13 (teams dress twelve on a nightly basis, and usually carry a 13th in case of injuries), and would need to sign one more rearguard. While that is certainly doable with $8 million dollars, I’m sure (hoping) the team has it’s sites on actually improving the product on the ice. It’s spending the money wisely, perhaps, that’s been the issue. I’m sure Gaustad doesn’t want to take a pay cut, since this will most likely be his last huge contract, so is he worth the more than $2-3 million/year he most likely seeks?

Disappearing Act

We all remember the date. November 12th, 2011. Boston, Massachusetts. Unless you’ve been living in a Monastery, I don’t have to tell you what happened that evening. Suffice to say, Gaustad doesn’t need to ever relive that night, either. He failed his test, but so did the rest of his teammates, including tough-guy Cody McCormick. In fact, the team never recovered. He, along with many other Sabres players, became a laughing stock for two weeks, and up until the NHL All-Star Game, were nearly invisible most nights. But, on the night of November 23rd, 2011, this Sabres team played to send a message. In what was perhaps the most highly-anticipated game of the year thus far, Gaustad and the rest of his teammates answered the bell against a bigger Boston Bruins team. The beatdown that Gaustad took at the hands of  Lucic, a trained boxer, wasn’t the issue. It was how he stood up to him. He knew he had to face his fears, and did so willingly.

Gaustad Part Of The Solution Then?

Gaustad has been on a tear lately. He has 7 points in his last 10 games, has 7 goals and 17 points in 56 games this season – with a +1 rating – and has added 65 penalty minutes. His prowess, of course, comes in the faceoff circle, where he is a perennial top-1o performer. Gaustad enters tonight’s tilt against the New York Islanders winning 56.8% of the draws he takes, which is 12th overall among players with 300 or more draws. He has, along with line-mates Patrick Kaleta and Nathan Gerbe, been playing lights-out defensive hockey in the past month, and the trio gave NHL star Evgeni Malkin fits in Sunday afternoon’s 6-2 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Stats don’t tell the whole story, however. Until this season, Goose’s work ethic could, and would never be questioned, and he is obviously a well-respected member in the locker room. Gaustad and Kaleta have been coach Lindy Ruff‘s go-to guys on the top penalty killing unit, also, and continuously sacrifice their bodies, putting themselves in front of shots and passes. Sabres management needs to decide if he’s worth the money that he’s asking, or would they be better suited to moving the highly sought-after player on the trade market, and reap those rewards.

What Can The Sabres Get For Gaustad?

At this point, with his reputation back intact, and with former Sabre Dominic Moore recently fetching the Tampa Bay Lightning  a 2nd-round draft pick, it’s not hard to imagine Gaustad being worth at least a 2nd-rounder and a prospect. If you believe what is being bantered about the league regarding Goose, there will be no shortage of playoff-bound teams looking for a player who could make a difference, as long as it’s not on the scoresheet.

Who Is Looking at Gaustad?

The Detroit Red Wings rumors will absolutely just not go away. Wings General Manager is said to covet Gaustad. Add the Chicago Black Hawks, Philadelphia Flyers and, dare I say, Boston Bruins, to the list of potential suiters, and this could be a very interesting week for the 30-year old. Regier really doesn’t like to deal within the Northeast Division, so the Bruins would have to offer him the sky. Not likely.

Chances Of Gaustad Being Moved?

NBC’s Gord Miller reported Sunday that Regier and Gaustad had a 2-hour, closed door meeting on Saturday. The meat and potatoes of this meeting should be obvious, yes? If the team and the player were, in fact, having contract talks, and they did break down, then the obvious matter at hand would have been letting Gaustad know that they will not lose him for nothing come July 1st. Perhaps, if he did want to remain in Buffalo at the right price, they could work something out. If not, the organization has to do what’s best for them. There is also another, much less probable scenario that has Gaustad moving at the trade deadline to a contender, and a hand-shake deal between the two sides to bring him back to Buffalo on July 1st. Don’t hold your breath, but crazier things have happened in Pegula’s time as owner, so who knows? I put the chances of Paul Gaustad remaining a Buffalo Sabre beyond February 27th at 40/60, at best.

And, don’t forget about the OptionIt contest. All you have to do is register for free, indicate the Sabres as your favorite team, and you are entered to win tickets to the Sabres/Maple Leafs game on April 3rd.

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