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RFA Report: Paul Gaustad

This is the second of the free agent reports that I'll be doing over the next couple of weeks.  There is no hurry on getting these done so I have not set a time table on when they will be completed.  There will be posts everyday but we will focus on whatever is news worthy instead of only the free agent reports.

Daniel Paille (RFA)- read post
Paul Gaustad (RFA)-
Clarke MacArthur (RFA)-
Steve Bernier (RFA)-
Mark Mancari (RFA)-
Dmitri Kalinin (UFA)-
Teppo Numminen (UFA)-
Nolan Pratt (UFA)-
Mike Ryan (UFA)-
Jocelyn Thibault (UFA)-

C  Paul Gaustad- 6'5", 225 lbs.

07-08  82GP 10G-26A-36P  85PIM
career  215GP  28G-54A-82P  224PIM

Paul Gaustad just completed his best statistical season in his NHL career.  He put up decent numbers in his three seasons with Rochester before making the Sabres team in 2005-2006.  It was somewhat of a surprise when he made the Sabres but fans quickly understood the decision and he became a fan favorite.  There are many people who believe that he should be the Sabres captain, if not now than in the future.  Paul Gaustad was a seventh round draft pick of the Sabres back in 2000 and he has surpassed all expectations, but many people think there are even bigger things to come.

Strengths

Gaustad is a career over-achiever who uses his size and strength to his advantage.  At six foot five inches he is one of the taller players in the league and he is able to battle in the corners.  This past season he really excelled winning face offs, an area where the Sabres struggled after losing Chris Drury and Daniel Briere.  He is a big guy who isn't afraid to take his lumps in front of the net, much like Thomas Vanek but with less talent.  His 10 goals this season were a career high and five of those goals came while the Sabres were on the power play.

Weaknesses

Like many young hockey players he struggles with consistency.  Lindy Ruff has publicly stated that he needs to play hard 100% of the time in order to succeed in the NHL.  He is not the most talented player on the ice most of the time but if he works hard and uses his size he is usually effective.  Gaustad has long been known for his physical style as well as being a good defensive forward.  His 85 penalty minutes were second on the team, behind resident goon Andrew Peters, but he was a minus four this season.  The Sabres need him to be more consistent in his defensive role.

Bottom Line

Paul Gaustad is a big physical forward on a team that is termed "undersized".  He is also the top face off guy on a team that has struggled badly in that area.  There are many things Gaustad brings to the table that the Sabres would have a hard time replacing.  His consistency needs to be much better but as a former seventh round draft pick he has surprised many people with his solid play.  He was even selected to play for Team USA in the World Championships but he had to withdraw due to a sports hernia injury.

Verdict:  The Sabres will need to re-sign Gaustad to a long term contract.  His upside is much better than his downside and the organization needs a good character guy like him around.