A recent MRI revealed that the Buffalo Sabres' hard-charging center suffered a season-ending ankle injury when his leg was sliced by a skate in the team's 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 7. Gaustad is expected to have surgery early next week to repair the ligament damage.
"[The skate] cut through the ligaments in his left leg," said general manager Darcy Regier. "It will require surgical repair and it's a long process back from there."
Gaustad's status is final. Regier stated on Saturday that even a trip deep into the playoffs would not provide the necessary recovery time needed to rebound from such a devastating injury.
"The medical people looked at every alternative to see if there is anything available that might speed it up," said Regier. "There's really no chance of him playing."
While the initial diagnosis indicated a simple cut, doctors later determined that the damage was much more extensive due to Gaustad's physical symptoms after the incident.
"Originally, it was just an X-Ray," said Regier. "The doctors thought he would be better the next day and if he was able to walk on it, that would be a good sign. If not, then it would recover an MRI.
"He came in the next morning and it was clear that he was still in a lot of discomfort and would require the MRI."
Gaustad, 24, has been a steadying force for Buffalo this season, shifting roles from the energy fourth line to Buffalo's defensive-minded second line throughout his 54 games played. He also added valuable depth to both the penalty kill and the power play.
At the time of the injury, the Fargo, N.D.-native's nine goals tied his previous career high set during the 2005-06 season. Gaustad was two assists and points shy of career numbers in both categories.
"It's not an easy replacement," said Regier. "Right now, Danny Paille is filling that position and we'll just have to see where we go from there.
"You do lose his size. He's a physical player and he's a character guy so it's certainly a loss.
With the trade deadline looming on February 27, Gaustad's loss could prompt Buffalo to search for more grit outside the organization.
"He will go on long term [injured reserve] and we'll get whatever cap space his amounts to," said Regier. "You would love to be able to find another Paul Gaustad. But the reality is that if someone had come to us and asked if we would be willing to trade Paul Gaustad the answer would have been no.
"If we could find another [Gaustad], I suspect most teams would likely take the same position."