NHL Trade Deadline Day Often Bodes Poorly for Sabres

Splashy moves have failed to bolster team

By Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell

That final day in the season to make player trades, which is always set for sometime late February or early March, quite often results in a media carnival atmosphere and hard core fans tuning in to watch the frenzy. Which teams will be looking to add that valuable piece for s deep playoff run? Who is looking to unload fat contracts? And which teams are in rebuild mode and finally coming to grips with that?

For the Buffalo Sabres, more often than not the team has not gotten better, and in fact, has regressed as a result of their trade deadline moves over the past few years.

This season, general manager Tim Murray was rather quiet, only pulling one deal – sending a package of minor league prospects to Ottawa in exchange for a similar package of minor leaguers.

Travel back in time now and let’s review a season by season marquee moves done by the Buffalo Sabres, and how they turned out, starting right after the 2004-05 lost season due to lockout.

2005-06: With the Sabres coming out of the lockout surprisingly strong, many expected then General Manager Darcy Regier to make some bold moves to help make a deep Cup run. He made but one trade – dispatching third goaltender Mika Noronen to Vancouver for a 2nd round draft choice. Buffalo lost in game 7 of the conference finals to Carolina, in a game where the team played with only two regular defensemen.

2006-07: Maybe lesson was learned, because this deadline day had Regier busy. He got Dainius Zubrus and a minor league defenseman in exchange for Jiri Novotny and a first round draft pick. He then sent Martin Biron to Philadelphia for a 2nd round pick, picked up Ty Conklin as a replacement goalie, and yet another minor league defenseman.

Zubrus had a good run with the team, then left via free agency. The Presidents Trophy winning Sabres got knocked out by Ottawa in the conference finals.

2007-08: The blockbuster here was trading away all star defenseman Brian Campbell, receiving a 1st round draft pick and forward Steve Bernier. Bernier was traded away at the end of the season, following the team missing the playoffs.

2008-09: This time, the Sabres went for Dominic Moore, spending a 2nd round draft pick to land Moore from Toronto. Moore was expected to be the piece the Sabres needed to put the team into the playoffs.

It didn’t work. Moore was a total bust, and left the team after the end of the season. He has since bounced around the league with several teams.

Additionally, the Sabres obtained goaltender Mikael Tellqvist from Phoenix for a 4th rounder. By summer he’d be gone from the league for good.

2009-10: If you think Moore was bad, fast forward one year and remember the name Rafi Torres.

Torres was supposed to be that pure goal scorer the team craved so badly. But he never scored even one goal in the final 6 weeks of the season. He mostly watched from the pressbox as the Sabres were sent packing by the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs.

2010-11: This was the year that everything was going to be different on deadline day. The Sabres got Brad Boyes, once a 43 goal scorer, in exchange for a 2nd round pick. Boyes made an immediate impact, scoring early and often and helping propel the Sabres to the 7th seed and a playoff spot.

By the following season, Boyes’ play went way downhill, and he was traded away to the New York Islanders the following season.

2011-12: Longtime Sabre Paul Gaustad was traded to Nashville for a first round pick. But the big news was shipping bad boy and former first rounder Zack Kassian and defenseman Marc Andre Gragnani for Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer. After two solid seasons for Hodgson, his play diminished greatly and the team waived him following the 2014-15 season. The Sabres missed the playoffs.

2012-13: it was a pretty quiet cycle for Buffalo, as they traded two defenseman, prospect T.J. Brennan to Florida, and Jordan Leopold to St. Louis, both in exchange for future draft picks. Once again, the team did bot qualify for the playoffs.

2013-14: One needed a scorecard that season, as the trades came fast and furious with the team beginning its rebuild. First off goalie Ryan Miller and forward Steve Ott went to Vancouver for goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, a minor leaguer and two draft picks. A trade with Los Angeles brought collegiate prospect Hudson Fasching and Nicholas Deslauriers to the Sabres. Then Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick were traded to Minnesota for Torey Mitchell and two draft choices. In a real head scratcher, Halak was immediately traded to Washington in exchange for another goaltender, Michael Neuvirth.

2014-15: With the rebuild in full mode and the team actually trying to fail and land 30th place, the Sabres traded Torey Mitchell and defenseman Brian Flynn to Montreal, Chris Stewart to Minnesota, and swapped goalie Neuvirth to the Islanders for Chad Johnson. For the fourth straight season, the Sabres did not qualify for the playoffs.