A lot of debate boils over around UFA day and the trade deadline over the moves made by Darcy Regier. Whether you love him or hate him, Regier has been active on the trade front over the last few seasons. He hasn’t been shy about targeting and acquiring new talent for the Buffalo roster.
To offer a different perspective on how the Sabres fared with some of their recent deals, I reached out to fellow bloggers from the respective cities that Regier has dealt with.
Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer acquired from Vancouver for Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani
BW – What were your thoughts when the Hodgson/Kassian trade was announced? Did you think the Canucks had gotten better?
NM – I think most Vancouver fans were shocked to see CoHo traded since he was such a valuable asset on our very slim farm, but the general consensus was that Hodgson lacked the ability to punch through the ranks ahead of him (Kesler and Henrik Sedin). [He} wasn’t an ideal checking center and behind the scenes had burned some bridges (not Hodgson himself but his agent and father) in the front office. Hodgson is a better player than Kassian so on that note it was tough to swallow but Kassian does provide (or at least should provide) some size and the trappings of a power forward that Vancouver doesn’t have. Whether we ever see it all come together or not remains to be seen. On a small related note: I don’t think MAG got a fair shake in the end either. I would have liked to see him a a 7/8 option for a full season.
BW – Considering this was a true hockey trade, do you think either side came out as a “winner” at the deadline last year?
NM – Technically the Sabres won because they got the better overall player. However dealing with prospects/rookies is tricky so you need the perspective of a few seasons to find a real winner. Both players ended up in far better positions since the trade. They both started this year going gangbusters on their respective top lines, so while Kassian has been recently demoted, he’s still an immensely valuable asset for Vigneault to use. I still think its too early to know which franchise made out better but Buffalo certainly has the inside track.
BW – Was there any impact on you considering that Gragnani remained quite average while Sulzer had a very surprising turnaround?
NM – Sulzer never had a chance here. It’s great to see him rebound somewhere else but Vancouver’s defense is fairly well established (and the deepest part of their roster) and Tanev rounds out the expensive top six. To that end Sulzer suffered the same fate MAG did which was they were never looked at as anything better than a 7/8 option and that role is as interchangeable as it gets.
BW – What are your thoughts on the trade now as you see where each player is?
NM – Hodgson is legit; he could be on the Penguins or Blackhawks and would still be tagged as a bluechipper. I can’t say I’ve seen him play enough this year to know if his defensive game has improved but there’s plenty of room to grow as his ice time increases. On our end I believe in Kassian (and frankly dislike how he’s been used for most of this season) and think he could be a core piece of the franchise for the next several seasons. That said I do think the Lucic comparisons should stop and anyone thinking he’s a 60-70 point guy is dreaming. He needs some time to grow and a chance to earn back first or second line duties. I trust he’ll get that opportunity.
BW – Now that we’re one year removed, can you peg a winner or loser?
NM – I guess it depends on your definition of winning. Buffalo got the better player on paper so if I’m ESPN and giving this 10 seconds of analysis then the Sabres won. but they’re also last in their division and staring at a rebuild, so how that plays out for Hodgson remains to be seen. Vancouver is still considered (cynical snarks side) a power in the West and Kassian’s versatility I believe fits in, allowing him to serve anywhere from a bottom six plugger to the third Sedin. In the end I truly do think each team got what they wanted and, in a sense, both won the trade. But I’ll understand if you call me a homer for that!
My take: I didn’t think there was a winner or loser a year ago and I still don’t think there is a clear cut winner with this trade. Kassian’s demotion is probably a tough pill to swallow, but Hodgson hasn’t been able to lead the Sabres out of the abyss, at least not yet. As Mike said, this one is probably a year or two out from having a true winner.
BW – What were your immediate thoughts when the Ott/Roy trade was official?
DBD – Personally, I was a big fan of it. As much as I loved Ott around here, he was misplaced as a second-line center. Dallas needed a top-six forward and Roy fit the bill. The kicker to the deal was that Dallas got rid of Adam Pardy.
BW – Was the loss of a character guy like Ott washed out by the skill that came in the form of Roy?
DBD – Absolutely. The Stars actually had a couple of players that could easily replace Ott’s character on the ice like a couple of youngsters in Antoine Roussel and Brenden Dillon or veteran Eric Nystrom. Roussel, in particular, is basically a younger, faster version of Ott. The biggest loss from trading Ott was in the face-offs and his presence among the fans. He was one of the few guys on the team that casual fans actually knew.
BW – Obviously today’s developments changed matters a bit, but how do you view this trade now that things have shaken out the way they did?
DBD – The trade was always going to be a risk considering Roy’s contract situation so I had tempered expectations. Dallas was in a rebuild mode, and Ott really didn’t have a certain future around here. Roy was either going to be a part of the future or sent packing (if he didn’t re-sign) for a better prospect package then Ott. Roy did well during his time here, played hard and had no problems off the ice. I would’ve still done that trade in a heartbeat.
My take: There was never going to be any justification for trading a top-six talent like Derek Roy for Steve Ott. The skill imbalance was far too much to overcome. While the Sabres didn’t manage to re-acquire the type of talent they lost with Roy, Ott has brought a presence that has been lacking in Buffalo. By trading Derek Roy the Stars effectively traded Ott and Pardy for a second round pick and Kevin Connauton, which certainly gives a little boost to the decision that Regier decided to make.
The other trade that is particularly interesting here is the return that Regier fetched for Robyn Regehr. After a year and a half with Regehr on the roster, Regier shipped him to Los Angeles for a pair of second round picks in 2014 and 2015. While those two picks don’t exactly mean much today, they will most certainly be considered when Regier is creating trade packages in the very near future. Having two second round picks in each of the next three drafts is no small value. Add in the fact that the Sabres only gave up Paul Byron and Chris Butler to go along with the pick that became Jake McCabe – who looks to be a promising prospect – and the exchange certainly doesn’t hurt the Sabres.
The point is that the trade to Los Angeles could have ripple effects on transactions a year or two down the line. Just like the Hodgson and Ott trades had an immediate impact on the roster, they will also produce ramifications later down the line. That is truly when you’ll know if Regier won or lost the exchange.