If history is to serve as a guide you can assume that Darcy Regier will make at least one fairly significant move at this year’s deadline. Perhaps a move will come in the days leading to the deadline, but Regier has made at least one move around the deadline in each of his years with the Sabres.
This year is different than most in recent memory due to the struggles on the ice and the calls for change from the fans and media. A great many are rightfully worried that Regier is not the man who should be guiding any sort of rebuilding process as he is the very architect who assembled the flawed roster that has hovered near the bottom of the league this season.
Buffalo will play a trio of games prior to the deadline and a string of losses would all but cement Regier as a seller. Granted many reports have indicated that the Sabres are willing to hear offers on the entire roster, three more losses would leave little doubt that the team will miss the playoffs yet again.
Whether or not you think Regier is the right choice to even begin retooling the Sabres roster is immaterial at this point. Fans have been calling for his head even before Lindy Ruff was fired but it is obvious that management isn’t willing to cut the cord on Regier at this point and the axe certainly won’t fall prior to Wednesday’s deadline.
Regier will indeed be the guy making and taking the calls for the Sabres on deadline day. However, he’s typically been an adept trade negotiator and has shown that his measured patience often yields the best results (see Gaustad, Paul).
I previously opined that the Sabres don’t need to enter this deadline as just sellers and I stand by that argument. This isn’t a team in the middle of a rebuild in which additional picks and prospects are the ideal return. The Sabres are a team with a flawed construction that could use a facelift. That means that hockey trades and some recycling would likely be in the best interest for the roster.
Moves like last year’s Cody Hodgson trade will allow for the Sabres to introduce pieces that can not only help in the future, but impact the roster today.
While expectations for the deadline shouldn’t be astronomical, I fully expect to see a minimum of three moves made by Regier by Wednesday. He took the first step by shipping Jordan Leopold to St. Louis and I'd expect that he leverages Robyn Regehr for the best possible return before the deadline passes on Wednesday.
Trading Regehr and Leopold are the two most obvious choices for Regier and reports point towards a situation not unlike the one that played out with Paul Gaustad last season. While Regehr may not be worth what Regier is asking today, a desperate team may overspend on Wednesday.
Given that Douglas Murray fetched at least one second round pick (the second pick is conditional) and that Regier managed to get a second for Leopold, his asking price may not be a silly as some originally thought.
I figured Leopold would be worth at least a mid-round selection or two and Regier proved that Leopold was worth just a little more. Getting a second round pick for the offensive defenseman was a steal, the extra fifth (potentially fourth) round pick was icing on the cake.
One thing to keep an eye on is that extra second round pick. Regier has proven to make them valuable in the past and he could certainly package one this season in another hockey trade that most may not expect.
Any other moves will be more out of left field (sort of like the trade of Zack Kassian). The Fourth Period previously reported that Drew Stafford would welcome a trade and that same publication also linked Stafford to the Kings along with Regehr. One thing is for certain; Stafford could use a change of scenery.
A two-point night was a nice way for Stafford to come back from his benching but will need a couple more strong games to inflate his value prior to Wednesday. Keep in mind that Paul Gaustad’s back-to-back games with outstanding five-on-three penalty kills likely increased his value to teams vying for his services. Stafford is an entirely different type of player, but I think if he can awaken from his slumber, teams will take notice.
What I’ll really be looking for on Wednesday will be a trade of someone who has been off the radar. Perhaps Regier ships out Tyler Ennis in a hockey trade that swaps talent for talent. I feel as if these are the type of trades you never expect but that Regier thrives upon. The Hodgson/Kassian swap and even the flip he pulled to swap Steve Bernier for the picks that became Craig Rivet were deals that saw Regier leverage one asset to address another need on the roster. These are the type of moves the Sabres need and they should be the ones fans should anticipate on Wednesday.
Now all that is left is to find out who will be swapped.