Feb. 29, 2012
.. Buffalo Sabres' Paul Gaustad (28) and Boston Bruins' Milan Lucic (17) fight during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Derek Gee)
The deals have been made, the dust has settled, and the NHL trade deadline has come and passed. Unlike most years, it was much quieter day in 2012. There are many teams that are still on the cusp of a playoff berth, and as a result the majority decided to hold on to their key pieces. The parity in the league this year resulted in a lack of many notable trades, but there were two eye-raising trades that came courtesy of the Buffalo Sabres.
Darcy Regier and Terry Pegula entered deadline day with an understanding: Paul Gaustad would not be traded unless the team could acquire a first round pick for the long-time Sabres grinder and assistant captain. Gaustad was drafted by Buffalo in the 2000 NHL entry draft and has been with the organization ever since, playing in the AHL with the Rochester Amerks from 2002-2005 and with the Sabres until just yesterday. It had long been rumored that Buffalo may try to deal him, as his contract was set to expire at the end of the year and interest in him at the deadline was high. At one point, there were a dozen teams that were interested in Gaustad’s services, but Buffalo was looking for the right price.
As the 3 pm deadline rapidly approached, it seemed as though Buffalo had decided to stick with its guns, not only in regards to Gaustad but also with Derek Roy, who was also the subject of trade rumors in Sabre nation, when suddenly TSN reported that Gaustad had been dealt to the Nashville Predators, along with Buffalo’s fourth round pick in the 2013 draft in exchange for a first round pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft.
It was a huge move for Buffalo. Most of the teams strayed away from Gaustad after seeing Buffalo’s high asking price, but Regier and Pegula did not back off from their demands and it paid off In a big way. Buffalo now has two first round picks in this year’s draft, as well as two second rounders. Regier mentioned his press conference with the media following the deadline that Buffalo could either trade away some picks to land a star player, or they could use those two picks to select players that will fill some of the team’s needs.
Whichever way the team decides, this newfound flexibility will be immensely beneficial. Although the Sabres lost a quality player and a great person and professional in Paul Gaustad, they gained some important pieces for the future. As for Nashville, they will receive a great penalty killer in Gaustad, who will add some grit to their roster as they gear up to make a run in the Western conference playoffs. He is not afraid to fight to protect his teammates, and will give his new team a physical edge. The Predators made several more moves besides Gaustad, as they also beefed up their defense with the addition of Hal Gill from the Canadiens, and added another winger in Andrei Kostitsyn, also from Montreal. Kostitsyn will be reunited with brother Sergei Kostitsyn, who has been in Nashville since the 2010-2011 season.
The Gaustad deal appeared to be the only move that Regier was going to make, but then the unthinkable happened: Zack Kassian was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. Before the terms of the deal were fully revealed, it was definitely shocking to see Kassian dealt. Kassian has shown a lot of promise in his few games with Buffalo this year, and it didn’t seem like it would be long before he became a regular in the lineup. Instead, he is off to Vancouver to play for the best team in the Western conference along with Marc-Andre Gragnani, who was also included in the deal. Sabres fans would have been very upset if Buffalo had not received fair compensation for this deal, but then it was reported that Cody Hodgson was on his way to Western New York, and reactions immediately turned positive.
Buffalo has struggled so long to add a premier center to their roster, and Hodgson has all the potential to be the center of the future. Drafted 10th overall by Vancouver in 2008, Hodgson was in his first full season with the Canucks. Through 63 games, he registered 16 goals and 17 assists and was plus 5, and that was in limited playing time on a very deep Canucks team. Hodgson is a huge pickup for the Buffalo Sabres, as they traded Kassian, a relatively unproven, albeit talented power forward, for a position of great need. This may be one of Darcy Regier’s finest hours as general manager for the Sabres, and will probably be enough to stop Sabres fans from calling for his firing, at least for awhile anyway. It will all depend on how the trade fairs for the team in the future, but the way I see it, this trade has nothing but positive implications written all over it.