As the February 27th trade deadline approaches, what types of moves the Sabres should make hasn't become much clearer. If the Sabres win their next 3 games and close the gap on a playoff position, what can we expect Darcy to do? Will he let the impending UFAs remain, or will he sell to improve the team in the future? To gain insight into what types of moves to expect, I've looked through all of Regier's post-lockout moves to attempt to identify his trading tendencies.
After the jump, we'll take a look at all of the deadline moves and then discuss the patterns.
Deals: 2nd round pick for Brad Boyes.
UFAs Not Traded: Connolly, Niedermayer, Montador, McCormick, Grier
Deadline Standings: 9th place with 21 games remaining, 5 points out, 3 games in hand
Clarke MacArthur for 3rd round pick and 4th round pick
UFAs Not Traded: Tallinder, Lydman, Mair, Ellis
Deadline Standings: 5th place with 21 games remaining
Deals: 4th round pick for Mikael Tellqvist
2nd round pick for Dominic Moore
Ales Kotalik for 2nd round pick
Signed impending UFA Tim Connolly to 2 year extension
UFAs Not Traded: Afinogenov, Numminen, Spacek, Ellis, Peters
Deadline Standings: 10th place with 19 games remaining, 3 points out, 2 games in hand
UFAs Not Traded: Kalinin
Deadline Standings: 8th place with 19 games remaining
Deals: Martin Biron for 2nd round pick
5th round pick for Ty Conklin
4th round pick for Mikko Lehtonen
UFAs Not Traded: Briere, Drury
Deadline Standings: 1st place with 20 games remaining
Deals: Mika Noronen for a 2nd round pick
UFAs Not Traded: McKee, Grier, Dumont, Fitzpatrick
Deadline Standings: 4th place with 22 games remaining
Darcy focuses more on the quality of the deal than on the team's current position. For teams that were in playoff position, he has sold players when he received more than they were worth. In 2007, with a very competitive team, Darcy traded away Martin Biron. Although holding onto Biron what have helped the Sabres in 2007, he knew they would not resign him at the end of the season. A 2nd round pick was sufficient for the backup goalie. Similarly, in 2008, he traded impending UFA Brian Campbell from a team that was in playoff position on deadline day for a 1st round pick and Steve Bernier, who was under contract for another season. Knowing that Campbell would not return to Buffalo the following season, Darcy only needed to receive compensation for what Campbell would have contributed for the rest of the season.
The Sabres are not willing to mortgage the future just to make the playoffs. The only time the Sabres traded a 1st round pick was when the team was in first place in 2007; this trade was to help put together all of the cup pieces rather than to make the playoffs. With less competitive teams in 2009, 2010, and 2011, Regier parted with a 2nd round pick to make a playoff push or improve the team's likelihood to make it an extra round. Boyes, Torres, and Moore all made marginal contributions to the team, but did not make the team a cup contender. Winning a cup is worth a top pick, but the extra playoff revenues without a legitimate chance to win the cup are only worth lower draft picks.
Upcoming UFAs not in the Sabres long term future are traded if there is a suitor for them. Paetsch, MacArthur and Kotalik were all traded away on past deadline days. In 2009, the Sabres signed Connolly to a 2 year extension, ensuring that he was in their long term future.
UFAs that the Sabres would like to resign and can contribute down the stretch are kept if these factors outweigh what's offered for them. Campbell was shipped because the Sabres knew he wasn't coming back, but the Sabres kept Briere, Drury, Tallinder, Lydman, and Connolly in the last year of their contracts because they were important pieces of playoff teams and because the Sabres were attempting to resign them.
Regier did not trade any player with time left in his contract over this time period. As most of these years were with tight ownership, Regier may have felt it necessary to keep all of his pieces together because he felt uncomfortable relying on free agency to replace someone. Further, he did not need to free cap space in these years, while he could use it moving forward.
With Pegula as the owner, the Sabres are able to approach the deadline differently, but the trends will likely continue.The Pegula era Sabres have shown a willingness to take on overpriced contracts to improve the team slightly. Additionally, the Sabres can now afford to take more risks of losing players to free agency for nothing because they have the ability to buy talent instead of relying on the draft as they used to. If the Sabres attempt to make a push into the playoffs (unlikely, but possible if they win all 3 of their remaining games before the deadline), expect them to trade no more than a 2nd round pick and a 4th line player for a marginal player in return. Any of the core players with time left on their contracts will likely not be traded unless the Sabres receive a very large return or if they need cap space for a large rebuilding effort. Given how much the Sabres spent on free agents last season, would they be able to replace Roy or Stafford at a lower cost? With a slim chance of making the playoffs, unless the Sabres want Gaustad, Hecht, or Boyes back at the end of the season, they could be traded for little in return. Although the Sabres could withstand losing them for nothing at the end of the year, these players aren't that important for a playoff push and the team already knows if they would like to resign them.