BUFFALO — If it meant getting better in the future, Darcy Regier said the Sabres would take a minor step back at the NHL trade deadline. Sixty-two games into the season, the Stanley Cup talk for the 12th-place club has ceased. Monday was about utilizing assets and filling a glaring need for a scoring center.
Clearly, the general manager had a plan to fix his underachieving team, which was six points out of eighth place at the deadline.
In a seller’s market, Regier held homegrown center Paul Gaustad, one of best available chips, and he wanted a first-round pick or else he wouldn’t trade the upcoming unrestricted free agent. Regier also coveted that pivot to resuscitate an anemic offense ranked among the franchise’s worst ever.
In dealing Gaustad to the Nashville Predators for a first-round pick and pulling the day’s blockbuster by flipping former first-round winger Zack Kassian to the Vancouver Canucks for center Cody Hodgson, a 22-year-old rookie with 16 goals and 33 points, Regier believes the Sabres still have a run at the postseason.
“We are all aware of the odds against us,” Regier said inside the First Niagara Center before the team left on a five-game road trip. “But I think with Cody coming in he will give us a good boost on the offensive size. We certainly lose Gaus’ competitiveness, his size and thickness and his ability to play against the other teams’ top lines.”
What kind of day was it?
“Long-term, it’ll turn out to be a good day,” said Regier, who also dealt rookie defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani, a spare part recently, for Alexander Sulzer, the Canucks’ extra defender.
The Sabres, who had been quiet all day, quickly became the talk of the NHL.
Shortly before 3 p.m., they raised eyebrows when Nashville, a strong team trying to get over the hump, met their high demand (the Sabres also sent a fourth-round pick). They now have two first-rounders and two second-rounders in June’s draft.