Prior to last weeks trade deadline the Buffalo Sabres offered defenseman Brian Campbell a three year $17.25 million contract that was quickly rejected. On Tuesday morning he was traded to the San Jose Sharks for Steve Bernier and a first round draft pick. The discussion today is not about whether it was good trade or not but rather if the offer to Campbell was fair or not. It was evident that Campbell would not a member of the Buffalo Sabres next year so you have to commend Regier for getting something in return but did the Sabres try hard enough to get a contract signed?
We should probably move on from the topic of Brian Campbell and look ahead to the Sabres quest for a playoff spot, and we will throughout the course of the next month, but the offer to Campbell has been discussed locally and nationally and I felt a need to weigh in with my thoughts. There are many people that have criticized the Sabres for not making a commitment to Brian Campbell but I think they made the right decision. Campbell is looking for a contract that compares to Dion Phaneuf and Dan Boyle but the truth is he doesn't deserve to be compared to Phaneuf and Boyle. Phaneuf signed a well deserved 6 year $39 million contract while Boyle was over-payed at 6 years $40 million.
Campbell knows that he will not get over $6 million per season on the open market but he wants five or six years and he'll probably get it. I was a big fan of Brian Campbell and I'm sad to see him leave but six years is too long of a commitment for a decent defenseman. Campbell has been an asset to the team offensively and he is a very creative player but he can be a liability on defense. Campbell has been a minus player every year of his career except last season and his career high in goals is 12 and 48 in points. His numbers do not resemble the numbers of Phaneuf (51 career goals and a plus 23) and Boyle (20 goals in 2006-2007).
The Sabres would have welcomed the opportunity to keep Campbell for three more years but they weren't willing to commit to a longer term. The fans and media take that to mean that the Sabres aren't willing to commit to winning when truth is it's good business. The Sabres have no idea what type of player Campbell will be in four or five years and they have no idea how good their prospects will be. The organization is deep on defensive help with their prospects and if any of them can step in the team will be alright without Campbell.
The team has a couple of young defensive prospects they like very much. The closest to being ready to play in the NHL would be Andrei Sekera, Mike Weber and Marc-Andre Gragnani. Gragnani has apparently struggled defensively and was moved to left wing but he has been compared to Brian Campbell in style. Sekera and Weber have been playing as the top pairing in Rochester with mixed results, although the future appears bright. Sekera has played 39 games with Rochester and has 2 goals, 14 assists and he is a minus one. Weber has played 53 games and has one goal, 12 assists and he is a minus four. A quick look at the Sabres top prospect list shows that nine of the top 13 on the Sabres list are defensemen. In addition to Sekera, Weber and Gragnani there are guys like T.J. Brennan, Mike Funk, Dennis Persson, Chris Butler and Drew Scheistel on the list. If just one or two of those players pan out the Sabres will be in pretty good shape.
In the end the Sabres made a decision on Brian Campbell and it wasn't a popular one. It sets them back a little bit this season although they hope that Bernier will help out. It was the right move for the future of this oganization and I applaud the efforts of managemnt to make sure they got some value in return this time.