It has been a long time since the Sabres “blew up” the team in the early 2000s and went into full rebuild mode. Around that time, the Sabres were heading into the 2004-05 lockout whereas now we are just coming out of one. The salary cap will be lower next year, possibly creating financial issues, and we know there will be a full season in 2013-14.
The other main difference? Terry Pegula. In January of 2004, the Sabres filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The financial situation could not be more different compared to then. The Sabres have the money needed to bring in building blocks for the future.
During those financial hardships, general manager Darcy Regier was still able to bring in some amazing talents through trade.
At the 2002-03 trade deadline, Daniel Briere and a 4th round pick were acquired from Phoenix in exchange for Chris Gratton and a 3rd round pick.
Shortly after that, in July of 2003, Chris Drury was brought in from Calgary along with Steve Begin in a three-team trade. It saw Sabre-draft pick Keith Ballard go to Colorado, while Rhett Warrener and Steve Reinprecht were sent to the Flames.
Briere and Drury were pivotal parts of our post-lockout success that saw the Sabres go 105-46-13 in 2005-06 and 2006-07, going to the Eastern Conference Finals both years and winning the President’s Trophy in the latter season.
In this shortened season, a lot of teams still consider themselves serious contenders at this point and would be willing to trade for helpful assets, which the Sabres are full of. There is a great draft class this year, and with smart decisions coming from the head offices, rebuilding does not have to be a painfully long experience.
Who are the top players gaining attention? It would be hard to imagine Regier sending any member of our new young core away, such as Hodgson, Foligno, and Grigorenko.
The main trade suspects are players in their prime who could contribute to a team’s Cup run. Don’t forget that Stu Barnes, the Sabres captain at the time, was traded to Dallas in 2003.
Issues for the Sabres trading hopes come from some overpayment-in-salary issues.
Drew Stafford could provide some great depth, but will a team want to eat his $4 million contract? Ville Leino is making $6 million this season with a cap hit of $4.5m, which could also make him a tough sell.
Tyler Myers has struggled ever since Hank Tallinder left town, but is still making $12 million this season and has many years left on his contract, making him not fall into the ‘rental’ category.
Ryan Miller is another name that keeps coming up in trade rumors. He is signed through next season, along with Vanek and Pominville, but could help one of the few teams in need of a goalie whose playoff hopes are still alive.
The questions that rise on this include Enroth’s readiness to step up and be a number 1 goalie, and if Buffalo can get enough return on a lights-out, passionate netminder.
There comes a time when a team has to take a step back and realize where they are and what they should do. The April 3rd trade deadline is fast approaching, and the phones will definitely be ringing for the Sabres as they are potentially the biggest sellers in the East.