Rebuild is an ugly word in Buffalo, NY. The beloved Buffalo Bills are currently embarking on year 10 of a 3-year rebuilding plan and now it seems the Buffalo Sabres are following suit. With the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline now the Sabres have seen some incredible personnel turnover, especially amongst the defensive ranks. However, even though the Sabres have at least begun to blow up the core they have had in place for the past four years there should is great reason for optimism.
It all began March 15th when Sabres GM Darcy Regier traded 24-year-old T.J. Brennan to the Florida Panthers for a fifth-round draft pick in the upcoming draft. Then, a few days before the April 3rd deadline day Regier traded Jordan Leopold, another defensemen, to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a second-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in the upcoming draft.
Robyn Regehr was next as the Los Angeles Kings swapped a second-round draft pick in both the 2014 draft and 2015 draft for the veteran blue liner. And then on deadline day Regier shipped Sabre-for-life and captain Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild for 20-year-old winger Johan Larsson, 23-year-old goalie Matt Hackett, a first-round pick in the 2013 draft, and a second-round pick in the 2014 draft.
Even though the Sabres traded away many solid contributors they definitely received a king’s ransom in return. Larsson is a versatile forward with the ability to play center or wing. He is known as a playmaker and could be come a very solid two-way player. Hackett is very athletic and has good size at 6’2″. He could easily develop into a solid starting goaltender, which could help the transition from current Sabres goalie Ryan Miller if he is traded in the offseason.
While the prospects have good potential, the real excitement comes from all the high draft picks the Sabres received. Draft picks are valuable in very many ways. The Sabres could, of course, just use all their picks, especially the 2 first-rounders and 2 second-rounders they have in this year’s draft, to select players but it also gives the Sabres some flexibility on the draft board. They could use the picks to either trade up if they fall in love with a particular prospect or trade down and accrue more draft picks. They also could use the picks in a package deal to get current NHL players or prospects. Regier has made it clear that the Sabres are in a rebuilding mode but it seems as though he wants to try and rebuild as quickly as possible.
The Sabres were not going anywhere with the core players they had on the team at the beginning of the year. Aside from Brennan, every player they traded was in their 30s and well into – if not beginning to come out of – their prime. Leopold, Regehr, and Pominville were all nice players that will help playoff teams but they weren’t true building blocks of a franchise.
What is most important now is for Regier to determine whether the Sabres’ young players currently on the team like Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis, and Marcus Foligno are franchise cornerstones or overhyped prospects. Don’t expect any of the younger members of the team to get traded in the offseason but Regier must figure out each of their development limitations in order to begin rebuilding the team correctly. The Sabres have just begun to rebuild the team and it should be exciting to see just how different the opening day roster for next season will be.