3/11/99, Matthew Barnaby to Pittsburgh for Stu Barnes -- Regier picked up a hard-working, all-heart veteran just in time for Buffalo's Cup run. Barnes eventually became the team's captain before being traded to Dallas.
3/23/99, Mike Wilson to Florida for Rhett Warrener and a 1999 fifth-round draft pick (Ryan Miller) -- Warrener and Jay McKee were one of the Sabres' best defense pairings. The franchise is still hoping Miller will be the number-one goalie it has been looking for since Dominik Hasek left.
6/22/02, Two second-round picks in the 2002 draft to Edmonton for Jochen Hecht -- Hecht will be one of the leading scorers on the team this season and will likely pick up an 'A' for his leadership. He's not afraid of the corners and doesn't take shifts off.
3/10/03, Chris Gratton and a fourth-round pick in 2004 draft to Phoenix for Daniel Briere (pictured) and a third-round pick in 2004 -- Briere centers the Sabres' top line and he or Chris Drury should be named captain this season. (Read Tom L's blog, Sabres Rattling, for more great talk about Briere.) Even without Briere, Gratton was addition by subtraction.
Fans are more frustrated with the lack of deals and Regier's endless patience on making moves than many of the deals themselves. Regier didn't endear himself to the fans with his "tools" talk or "education" of Sabres fans, either.
Most fans realize that the Sabres aren't going to sign any free agents right now (except Jay McKee). But even Regier has hinted the team needs to pick up another defenseman. The roster isn't much different than the one that has failed to make the playoffs the last three seasons. Who can the Sabres bump out of the East to make the playoffs this year?
Last year's Eastern Conference standings:
1 - Tampa Bay*
2 - Boston* (NE)
3 - Philadelphia*
4 - Toronto (NE)
5 - Ottawa (NE)
6 - New Jersey
7 - Montreal (NE)
8 - NY Islanders (91 points)
9 - Buffalo (85 points, NE)
*Division winners, NE - Northeast Division
Buffalo is in the strongest division (Northeast) in the entire league, per last year's results. It's very possible that four NE-division teams will make it again, but each team will play every other team in the division eight times. That should make for tough competition.
A look around the East: The Lightning might not finish first without Khabibulin, but they'll win the division. Boston should be okay. Toronto is older, shakier and will drop in the standings, but enough to miss? Forsberg should take Philly to the playoffs, but they won't go far. Ottawa won't have a problem. Martin Brodeur is enough to get the Devils a one-through-eight seed. The Habs and Islanders have made it a habit of just making the playoffs the last few years and could be knocked out.
The first month of the season should be telling as to how the Sabres will mesh and if the young stars are ready to step up. Buffalo's made great runs in the last half of the season, but it hasn't been enough to make the playoffs. Regier's going to have to rely on his shrewd trade skills to get a couple players and cannot afford to wait for the perfect trade if the Sabres struggle early.
Yesterday, Jerry Sullivan responded to Tim Graham's article in The Buffalo News about players not wanting to play for the Sabres:
"Surely, there are NHL veterans who would think twice before signing on with a team that twice empowered Larry Quinn, a man whose maneuverings ripped apart the organization during the most tumultuous period in Sabres history. It's hardly a secret that strong-willed players who speak their own minds and question management (Michael Peca, Dixon Ward, Rhett Warrener, to name a few) will eventually be moved out of town.
You can bet that the typical free agent is aware that Lindy Ruff's defensive-minded system has suppressed the offensive statistics of virtually every skilled forward who has played for him in Buffalo.
The stigma is out there. But it's no justification for Darcy Regier's pathetic performance in the new free-agent market."
TBN also ran an article about the luxury a team like Buffalo has, not being capped-out yet. Briere acknowledged the fact, but says it will be up to the team to win:
' "Some teams will have to unload, and that's where we can take advantage," said Briere, acquired for Chris Gratton at the 2002 trade deadline, one of Regier's all-time best moves. "If we as players can put ourselves in good position through the first two or three months and don't fall off the charts right off the bat, we could become a very dangerous team if we can pick up an extra guy or two.
"It's up to the players we have right now to keep us in a playoff spot. When management sees how we have done they'll make the appropriate moves." '
-Sens swap Hossa for Heatly: Ottawa GM John Muckler on the deal:
' "We got a young player -- a goal scorer that we feel can help us -- and the Atlanta Thrashers got a terrific player in Marian Hossa. This is just the perfect trade for both teams because what it does is make both teams better." ' -Ottawa Sun
I think both team's did okay on this deal. Muckler slashed payroll without compromising too much talent, while Atlanta now owns two of the top-five scorers in the league and gets a good defenseman in Greg De Vries.
-Lightning sign St. Louis and Lecavalier: Tampa announced a six-year, $31.5 million deal with St. Louis (last season's scoring leader and MVP) today after Lecavalier signed last week for four years at $27.5 million. I think the length of both contracts is very surprising, especially with an unknown future cap. The long deals keep both stars off the market next summer, when they would have been unrestricted free agents.