Thoughts on the Sabres Deadline Deals with special guest Jeff Pawlak of Sabres Hockey Central

We brought in Sabres Hockey Central writer Jeff Pawlak for his thoughts on Paul Gaustad, the offseason, and the chances of Buffalo making a playoff push.

Josiah LeRoy: Darcy Regier and the Sabres management made a huge splash on deadline day, acquiring prospect Cody Hodgson while saying goodbye to Zack Kassian, Marc-Andre Gragnani, and longtime fan favorite Paul Gaustad. What was your initial reaction to these moves?

Jeff Pawlak: I wasn’t terribly surprised about Gaustad getting shipped out- he’s waned in recent years and this season it felt like whenever he was drawing attention, it was negative. Sending Grags on his way seemed like a no-brainer to me, and with him being scratched night-in and night-out it only makes sense to see if you can get something, anything for him. Dealing away Kassian definitely caught me off-guard. You don’t expect this management team to trade a first-round pick who the fans loved and was one of the few guys who brought grit to the ice. There may have been some signs, though. In the weeks leading up the trade, Ruff seemed to be losing patience with Kassian’s on-ice blunders. I can see him being a successful NHLer one day, but right now the Sabres’ priorities don’t align with the attributes he brings to the game, while Vancouver understandably wants to toughen up their roster. The fun will start soon when we get to see how these transactions affect Buffalo’s performance on the ice. Do you see see any immediate results coming about from this, or will they be more apparent down the line?

JL: I think you’re going to see results now, but more evidently in the near future. The Kassian trade was definitely a shock, and I also didn’t think that they’d let go of Gragnani so quickly despite his inability to crack the lineup. I think these trades show incredible growth on Regier’s part because he let go of both players that were at one point highly touted prospects. In the past, I think Darcy would’ve held onto them for a few years too long and just let them walk. Now, the Sabres have not just a perfect fit for their system in Hodgson, but a true center. The extra draft picks give the team a chance to go and acquire another center, while turning the “core” around. Seeing Connolly and Gaustad go is the start of something good for the Sabres. Interestingly enough, Ryan Miller is very upset about the Gaustad trade. Do you think this is going to pass quickly, or will it be another unnecessary distraction?

JP: I wish I could say for certain. I’m still of the belief that there were rumblings in the locker room from time to time this season, so I’m convinced that drama has, and will always have potential to erupt within the roster, even if its not publicized as is the case with other NHL franchises. For the sake of the team, I pray it passes quickly. I can understand Miller’s disappointment, especially since he’s been an advocate for maintaining the core group of players all season, but he’s been in the business long enough to realize that not everyone’s feelings can be accounted for when creating a winning team. Gaustad offered us meager benefits, and the franchise is sitting on loads of potential with what they acquired at the trade deadline- everyone, fan and player alike, should acknowledge the positives in that situations. And let’s not beat around the bush anymore; perhaps the biggest of those positives is Cody Hodgson. How do you see this kid panning out while wearing blue and gold?

JL: Cody Hodgson might be exactly what this franchise has been yearning for. Ville Leino was brought in to play center and that clearly didn’t work (I think he’s going to be fine despite a bad season). Hodgson is going to be a great number two center, if not number one. I think he could fit in very nicely with Thomas Vanek. What’s great is the fact that he’s signed through next year and by the time he is up for resigning, the team will be able to afford him. I think the team should attempt to package Derek Roy with one of those picks and one of their defensemen to go and get their true number one center. What do you think about the plethora of June draft picks?

JP: Two first rounders and two second rounders in a single draft is practically unheard of, especially for a team that made the playoffs the two years beforehand. They’re sitting on a goldmine of options there. Either they can use them to pick up a nice collection of promising prospects, or they use them as sweeteners in deals over the summer which could go a long way towards nabbing an established player. I’m in complete agreement about combining some of those with Roy or Stafford- it’d be appealing to plenty of teams. With that in mind, what would you see like to see them pursue come July? They came up short in the Brad Richards sweepstakes, but any chance they take a shot at Rick Nash?

JL: I dont think so, because he has a limited no trade clause and did not list Buffalo as a destination. This could change, but not likely. I’d love to see them go after Zach Parise, he would be the ideal top line center to play with Vanek and Pomminville. The Sabres should do all that they can to go get him. They would then have Parise, Hodgson, Ennis, and Adam or McCormick down the middle (assuming they trade Roy). Final thoughts, do you see the Sabres squeaking in to that eighth seed?

JP: It pains me to say this, but no. They have a little over a month left to do so, and during that span several teams in the chase all have the bomb, while the Sabres have to acquire points in nearly every game left. I just don’t believe that they’re a good enough team to go on what would be essentially a flawless run. They still have issues, and they’re going to lose a game here and there. At this point, losing out on two points is about as close to that final nail in the coffin as it gets. But I’m not heartbroken about it. This run they’ve got going has been fun, and it gives me a lot of hope for the future. For now, I just want to enjoy each game one at a time and see what this team develops into.

We want to thank Jeff for stopping by. You can check out his coverage from the press box on the Buffalo Sabres at www.sabreshockeycentral.com.

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