The Trading Deadline is a day of hope throughout the NHL, when teams make moves to bolster either their immediate or long-term futures. The Buffalo Sabres were one of the more active teams on what was a rather boring deadline day and made moves for the immediate and long term future. So what does the future look like now?
Paul Gaustad and a 2013 4th Round Draft Pick for a 2012 1st Round Draft Pick
The first scenario in which Darcy Regier fleeced a Western Conference team on a Cup run was sending Gaustad to Nashville for a 1st round pick. Gaustad is a third line, checking center at best. To garner a first round pick and likely one in the teens is a huge haul for Regier. This boosts the Sabres in the future and allows them to gather some blue chip prospects for the future with two 1st rounders.
The Sabres are now even smaller and softer up front than they had been. With Cody McCormick out with a concussion fighting duties will fall to Patrick Kaleta. Many of the top depth centers went off the market this month. Regeir will have a difficult task filling out the bottom six with worthwhile players. Potential targets to fill Gaustad’s role may include Jerret Stoll, Dominic Moore, Jim Slater, Jay McClement and Chris Kelly.
In the long run this doesn’t hurt the team at all. In 2-3 years the 3rd line center spot should be filled by Kevin Sundher. Sundher provides size, scoring and toughness, but is currently still in Juniors and would likely need at least a year in the AHL to adjust to the speed and defensive responsibility required in the professional ranks.
This move could also help Luke Adam secure a spot with the team next season. Adam projects to be a scoring forward in the NHL, but with Ennis and Hodgson in the fold it will be difficult for him to get top six ice time. If he works on his defense and checking he could earn a full-time spot in Buffalo on the third line.
Zack Kassian and MA Gragnani for Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer
Regier came out on the winning end here as it seems that Vancouver is desperate to get tougher. (something I don’t understand, they employ some pretty tough characters) Hodgson and Sulzer were not getting playing time in Vancouver. Gragnani wasn’t getting his time in Buffalo and the Sabres didn’t see Kassian as a full-timer yet. Win-Win right?
Possibly, but it depends on how these players develop. Both Hodgson and Kassian have huge potential. The ceiling for Hodgson is higher, but Kassian has a physical element that cannot be denied. That physical element is what Vancouver is banking on now. Hodgson, on the other hand, is putting up points while playing on the third line and proving himself in the NHL this year.
Kassian has some character issues that have manifested themselves since he was drafted. If he can get over those he will be a great addition in Vancouver. Hodgson has tons of potential and is starting to show it now. If his progression continues when will be the center Buffalo has needed for years.
Gragnani has big-time potential as well. If he can figure out how to play defensively he can be a similar play to Mike Green in Washington. If not, you’re looking at MA Bergeron in Tampa. That’s a pretty big swing. Sulzer is a 7th defenseman. He showed promise in Nashville and then fizzled with Florida of all teams. Unless there is something special that Buffalo sees in the German, he is a rental that will be discarded in the offseason.
This deal is all about the development of these players. Which ever team’s players fulfill more of their potential will come out of this deal looking really good. Both teams do have a chance to make this a positive move though.
There are a couple of keys to this trade on Buffalo’s end now that Hodgson is a Sabre:
1. Get him ice time. Hodgson was playing 3rd line minutes with third liners because Ryan Kelser and Henrik Sedin were above him on the depth chart. If he can play with skilled linemates often, then he could really take off.
2. Monitor his progress. If he can’t handle the minutes then make sure the is a scup plan. The Sabres now have a lot of center depth. There might be a reason he wasn’t playing big minutes this year.
3. Don’t move Ennis back to the wing. He was excelling and a 1-2 punch of Hodgson Ennis is terrifying. There is the potential to want to move Boyes to center on the third line and Ennis back to the wing, but I think that is a mistake.
4. Put him on a line with Jason Pominville. His face offs a sketchy, but Pominville can coach and mentor this kid. That goes beyond face offs as well. If you have a future star, (and let’s be clear, that’s what this trade was about) then why not let your captain help him get there.
If Buffalo can start to get some of their young players to an elite level in the next two seasons they will be a contender. If not, the Sabres now have two first round picks. I like Nail Yakupov, but that’s just me. This draft makes the future look bright again in Buffalo, while not sacrificing too much of the present. Darcy Regier may have just saved his job and I couldn’t be happie