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by Kevin Sylvester / Buffalo Sabres
Raffi Torres (Getty Images)

The trade deadline came and went and Darcy Regier (with other GMs) was correct in that the deadline is not the time to make major adjustments to your roster. 

It’s time to tweak, add a little extra, or gain assets to build for the future - and the Sabres did just that. 

I remember an interview with Darcy we did just before the 2009 trading deadline and his response to the question of what he was looking to add.  One of things he mentioned was size that could play.  Dominic Moore was added last year to fill the hole of a two way center.  That need didn’t exist this year with the emergence of Tim Kennedy, who has a similar game to more with a little more edge and a lot of upside. 

So this year, the need was there again for size that can play, and they got in Raffi Torres.  Nathan Paetsch and a 2nd round pick were sent to Columbus in exchange for Torres.  The second round pick was a fair enough price, but including Paetsch in the deal did three things for the Sabres. 

It help create cap space for Torres’ cap number, made room in the dressing room for the younger defensemen in Portland to step up if needed, and gave a loyal, hard working, team player a fresh start with a chance to play.  Paetsch has logged 24 minutes of ice time during his first two games with the Jackets. 

The Sabres also sent Clarke MacArthur to Atlanta for a 3rd and 4th round pick.  Great trade.  MacArthur is a nice player that will score in the mid to high teens in goals each season.  But his contract was up as a restricted free agent and there are too many skilled forwards (Ennis, Gerbe come to mind) in Portland pressuring for his spot.  Plus, his cap number being traded added to room to accommodate Torres’ cap number of around $2.25 million (his salary is around $2.75 million). 

However, the moves also did something bigger: The Sabres are set up for an interesting summer.

Darcy Regier stated that summer is the time to make major changes.  In order to do that, you need some flexibility.  The Sabres will have that with the number of contracts expiring. 

A few years ago, that was not welcomed with the players that were up, but it’s different now.  Out of the current players on the roster, 13 are under contract for next year, seven are unrestricted free agents, and three (including Mark Mancari who was just called up) are restricted free agents. 

That’s 10 contracts expiring. 

That doesn’t mean 10 new players.  Tim Kennedy and Patrick Kaleta are restricted and I wouldn’t anticipate either going anywhere. Conversations will and should be had with all of the unrestricted free agents, but there is a new X factor in the equation - Ryan Miller

His performance at the Olympics has to make Buffalo a more attractive destination for veteran free agents looking to win.  Bill Guerin could have probably found more money last summer, but re-signed with the Penguins for $2 million for another run at The Cup.  Ruslan Fedotenko (1st star vs. the Sabres March 2nd) also took a one year deal for $1.8 million.  Brendan Morrison did the same with the Capitals for less than $2 million, for the chance to win. 

It happened here in Buffalo, as Mike Grier took a one year deal with a team he thought would be a winner. 

I don’t mean to make it sound benevolent.  Each player is still earning a dream salary to play a game.  The point is, under the current cap system there is and will continue to be more turnover on rosters and teams will not be the only ones with a shopping list.  Players will be too and Buffalo should be on many lists with a world class goalie and potential roster space.  And we haven’t finished this season and playoffs.

•  General managers are meeting this week in Florida and hits to the head is a hot topic again after the latest assassin type play from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke taking out Marc Savard with a blind side doozie.  Enough is enough.  The time to build on a GREAT Olympics is now and having high lights of a player being carted off on a stretcher after being hit from the blindside isn’t the way to do it.  Eliminate the predatory hits, and this shouldn’t all ride on the GMs and the League.  The players have a huge responsibility to protect each other.  The argument is keep your head up, but go to YouTube and watch the hit.  Tell me if that belongs in the game at all.  It doesn’t. 

•  Great to see Ryan Miller get the star treatment on the Today show this week.  He is a true NHL star now, and a very marketable figure.  Too bad the NBC schedule maker didn’t have the foresight to think that he may have a great Olympics and put Buffalo on the national schedule to use his new stature.
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