Take 2: Sabres Take Positive Step at Deadline

11:13 AM, Feb 29, 2012   |    comments
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It was interesting to listen to Ryan Miller Monday after practice in Anaheim.

"I'm not going to lie. I'm not too happy with the way that it all turned out. Like I said we don't make those decisions and there's more proof because if I had any more influence, Paul would still be here... I think you recognize that he was an important piece... And if you don't understand I'm not going to explain it. Because it's just too important for a hockey team I think. So it is a little frustrating in that regard."

I understand and appreciate his loyalty to a friend and teammate.  I also understand his overall point about losing a player that brings toughness and grit, something Buffalo's roster lacks in a significant way.

Having said that, Miller's view is an illustration as to why he shouldn't have the "influence" that he talks about.

Prior to the deadline, a great number of fans and media talked about the Sabres needing to "sell" or take a long term approach which is exactly what they did Monday.   To get a first round pick as part of a package for Gaustad is nothing short of phenomenal in my view.   Gaustad is 30-years old and set to become and unrestricted free agent this summer.   Buffalo could have lost him for nothing.   Instead they get a first rounder.   TSN pointed out in their coverage Monday that a first round pick has changed hands only 21 times since 1980 on deadline today.   Make it 22.    Buffalo could have lost him for nothing this summer.   Regier points out that he now heads to the draft holding two first, and two second round picks.   That's working from a position of strength in terms of making selections, or in terms of being able to trade for perhaps a true number one center - Buffalo's number one need in my view.

As it is, as part of another deal with the Vancouver Canucks, they were able to get a talented young center in return.  In the short term, Hodgson will help to fill the offensive void left by Gaustad's departure, and at just 22-years old has tremendous upside long term.    Hodgson has been described as a very sound two way player who is responsible in the defensive zone, and effective offensively.   He's a former first round pick who has been able to hit his stride this season in his recovery from a back injury scoring 16-goals and adding 17-assists for the Canucks.   I'm not suggestng he's the answer as a number one.  What I am suggesting is that this is a player who could be a difference maker long term and help create favorable match-ups throughout Buffalo's line-up.

To get something you of course, have to give something up and the Sabres did in prospect Zack Kassian.   A strong, physical, and tough power forward who fits the mold of Boston's Milan Lucic in some respects.   That's an element the Sabres clearly lack.   However, to this point in his career he's shown a degree of inconsistency, and the Sabres have a player that fits a similar description in Nick Foligno who played one game with the Sabres this year.  The Sabres expect he'll be able to fill the role they'd envisioned for Kassian and I think that expectation is reasonable.

The Sabres also parted with puck moving defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani in this deal.   He looked good with Buffalo in the playoffs last season, but struggled with many elements of his game this year.   His lack of "battle" as Lindy Ruff would describe it was evident.   Add to that I've been told, to borrow a line from Top Gun, that his ego was writing checks that his body and his play could not cash.     Buffalo has a variety strong skating puck moving defenseman and I think could afford to part with Gragnani in this deal.   In return, they get 27-year old defenseman Alexander Sulzer.

Regier admits they may have taken a small step back this season, noting that that deck is stacked against this team to make the playoffs.    Given the team's performance relative to expectations this season, he needed to rally with a couple of late goals in the management game.   I thought he did that on Monday.  Of course to win it, will depend largely on what the Sabres do with what they've acquired.   Regier has set them up nicely heading into the summer.   The door is open to make tremendous upgrades.   Regier still has to walk through.

Having said that, the stated goal has been to win the Stanley Cup.   In an overall sense, I think the Sabres got closer Monday.


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