Trade deadline 2012 has come and gone, and much to the joy of Sabres fans Darcy Regier ACTUALLY made a move. Shocking I know. Despite much talk leading up to the deadline, Roy, Stafford, Miller and Boyes all ended the day with the blue and gold and we weren't able to land Nash, Hemsky or Ryan. So what did Regier manage to do?
What we got:
The Sabres got a 6-foot forward who was a first round draft pick (2008), and is tied for second in rookie scoring and 5th for rookie points. This fellow Sabres fans would be Cody Hodgson. A kid I am extremely excited to welcome to Buffalo. I have been following Hodgson since before he was drafted (I even played some shinny hockey and practiced with him). As soon as I heard how amazing he was I started following him, wanting to see where he would land. Hodgson is a natural talent, starting back from his days in minor AAA hockey were he racked up 99 points in just 59 games, he knows how to put the puck in the net and is a hard working kid. He played on both the World Junior and under 18 Canadian teams winning gold with both. You may have heard of a couple of his teammates from those days, Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis. A couple more feathers in his cap so to speak; CHL player of the year and OHL's most outstanding player. Hodgson is having a great first NHL season in which he already has 33 points (16 goals and 17 assists) and was named rookie of the month in January. This acquisition was amazing and Regier deserves a pat on the back for this one. Hodgson will likely be the number one center of the future that we can build a team around, he has so much upside and potential it's crazy. Imagine if the at the end of the season the Sabres were to have the Calder winner on our team, that would be awesome! Without even playing a game for the blue and gold Hodgson is already 4th in team scoring! This isn't Brad Boyes or even Daniel Briere, this is a legitimate talent whose best days are in front of him.
Sulzer appears to be a big defenceman that can help our blueline. I see this move more as Regier not needing a player but more a complimentary deal in that Gragnani has much more upside than Sulzer. Since the Sabres were able to steal the Canucks prized Hodgson away, I think Regier evened it out with Sulzer. He was drafted back in 2003 in the third round by the Nashville Predators, he's played 74 games with 3 NHL teams (Predators, Panthers and Canucks). As much as I hate bagging on a player, there is really nothing about this guy that says anything more than career call-up, maybe change in scenery will give him a spark but there's no guarantee the Sabres will keep him in the bigs. An interesting note is that the Sabres now have easily the most German nationals in their organization.
In another amazing deal pulled off by Regier he managed to get a first round draft pick for Paul Gaustad!
We now have their first round pick in the upcoming 2012 draft, I'm not a huge fan of draft picks as they don't always work out, but a first-rounder for Gaustad I'll take it! This gives us 4 of the first 44 picks in the 2012 draft. Not too bad, not too bad at all.
What we lost:
Zach Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani, this deal hurts me a bit more as I really liked Kassian and I thought he would have a bright future in Buffalo. But he's an UNPROVEN winger where as Hodgson has been able to prove himself in the NHL. We may have lost grit with Kassian but frankly since his first couple of games he's really looked a bit lost on the ice. We also got smaller but more talented. However, with players like Luke Adam, Marcus Foligno and Brayden McNabb very close to being ready for the show, losing Kassian is worth the gamble. One thing that concerns me is this mostly proves that we're leaning toward a rebuild as we've almost eliminated ourselves from the playoffs this season.
I'm also ok with that because the goal is to win the Stanley Cup, not make the playoffs and as I've said before the current roster did not have what it takes to win it all.
What these trades mean:
These trades mean we're looking ahead to the future, let's face it although it's possible the chances of squeaking into the postseason are slim at best, which is why I believe they traded Gaustad. He would have been a great asset in the post season with his face-off skills and toughness. Right now this team is healthy (or healthier), Miller is playing like Miller again, lines are starting to gel (hands off Ruff!) and this team is playing the kind of hockey everyone expected them to play 62 games ago. We're 5-3-2 in our last 10 games and are battling hard each game, giving themselves a chance to skate away with the two points. I see the moves made at the deadline as a minor rebuild, getting rid of an unproven prospect and a gritty veteran in return for picks and a gem from Vancouver. With the addition of Cody Hodgson and a healthy team next season we are going to be better, and be right back in the playoff hunt and be closer to the cup. Not to overlook the fact we now have 2 first round picks and 2 second round picks for the 2012 draft, these picks can be used to draft prospects OR bundled to bring bigger fish to the Sabres. Imagine sending a couple of picks and a player to Anaheim for Bobby Ryan or Los Angeles for Dustin Brown! This summer could be another active one for Mr. Pegulia's wallet, hopefully Darcy will keep the contracts within reason. We have now filled the void at center and it's now looking like a pretty fantastic center lineup (Roy, Ennis, Hodgson). Darcy Regier pulled a rabbit out of somewhere on Monday with these deals, and likely saved his job until next season. We are building toward a cup, and to be honest I could see us winning one in the next few seasons!