Heading into Monday's NHL Trade Deadline, there was plenty of speculation that Buffalo Sabres
GM Darcy Regier
would move scrappy center Paul Gaustad
for the right price.
Defense - BUF
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 1
SOG: 11 | +/-: 6
A large portion of the hockey world thought Regier was done after shipping Gaustad and next year's fourth-round pick to the Nashville Predators
for their first-round selection at the 2012 NHL Draft.
But just as the deadline struck Monday at 3 p.m., Regier agreed to what many think was the move of the day.
Desperately needing to shore up the center position, Regier sent highly-regarded right wing Zach Kassian and young defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani
to the Vancouver Canucks
in exchange for talented rookie Cody Hodgson
and defenseman Alexander Sulzer
Hodgson, 22, ranks fifth among all NHL rookies with 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 63 games. A first-round pick (No. 10) at the 2008 NHL Draft, Hodgson will be given more offensive responsibilities in Buffalo after playing behind world-class centers Henrik Sedin
and Ryan Kesler
The Sabres entered Monday's action just six points out of the eighth and final Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. While the Gaustad deal made it appear as though the Sabres were sellers at the deadline, Regier believes his team is good enough to remain in the mix. At the same time, he believes the pair of deals has Buffalo better equipped for the future.
"The goal was when we evaluated our team, we knew that we had to get better and get better in the event if it meant taking a minor step back, then we were prepared to do it," Regier said. "It still allows us a run at the playoffs -- we are all aware of the odds against us -- but I think with Cody coming in, he will give us a good boost in the offensive side. We certainly lose Gaus' competitiveness, his size and thickness and his ability to play against the other team's top line, but we really felt going forward, with his pending unrestricted free agency, we needed to address the center position, the offense and the opportunity to get a young man like Cody."
Kassian will certainly provide the Canucks with an element of toughness that will be valuable in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Regier knew he'd have to part with the rugged 6-foot-3, 214-pound winger in order to land Hodgson's services.
With Hodgson joining the likes of 22-year-old left wing Tyler Ennis
and 22-year-old defenseman Tyler Myers
, Regier now has himself a talented young core to build around.
"I would characterize the center position as the second-most difficult position to fill in the NHL behind goaltending," Regier said. "Most teams are struggling to find top centers -- top-two line centers. So when we went through the process of where are we going to find centermen going forward, it became a priority.
"He brings very solid two-way play, contribute offensively. I think right now he’s sitting in Vancouver with 33 points, and at his age, and fitting in with Ennis and Myers, I think that bodes well with not only now, but in the future."
Gaustad, 30, had spent every second of his professional career in the Sabres' organization. Buffalo's seventh-round pick (No. 220) in 2000, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound center played his first season of pro hockey with the AHL's Rochester Americans in 2002-03 and has spent the past seven seasons in Buffalo.
But the opportunity to land another first-round pick at the 2012 NHL Draft was simply too good to pass up for Regier.
"He was born and raised with the Buffalo Sabres
, but when we looked at it, we thought long and hard about whether or not to trade him and if so what conditions to trade him," Regier said of Gaustad. "We set the standard high and the standard was that we had to acquire a first-round pick, and if we couldn't acquire a first-round pick we were going to keep him for the term.
"Lindy (Ruff) and I both spoke with Paul. He's terrific, an outstanding individual, a terrific person and was very professional. We sincerely appreciate everything he's done for this organization and this community."
Whether Regier will use Nashville's first-round pick to draft a prospect or use it as trade bait at June's Draft remains to be seen; but he'll head to Pittsburgh with plenty of options -- more options than he had when he woke up Monday morning, or even 10 minutes before the trade deadline.
"Nothing was happening until an hour and a half before the deadline, then things started to pop," Regier said. "Long-term, it was a good day. We're going into the draft with two first-round picks and two second-round picks. We'll have some options to either trade those players or use the picks in the draft. I think those picks give us an advantage and some options going into the draft."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL