Grit goes out and skill comes in. In a nutshell that is how you can describe the moves made by the Buffalo Sabres on Monday. It was after the first round playoff exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins in 2010 when Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier talked about how difficult it is to acquire centers for the top two lines. A little less than two years after making that comment, Regier found a way to get one.
As much as it will anger Sabres fans that the team moved out Zack Kassian, the lack of talent down the middle was a bigger concern than the amount of toughness on the club. It is easier to find tough guys than productive, two way centers. The latter is what the Sabres believe they have added in the 22 year old Cody Hodgson. In the discussion for Rookie of the Year honors, Hodgson had 16 goals and 33 points in 63 games with Vancouver. Those numbers might not excite you but remember he was the third line center, averaging about 13 minutes of ice time. Those numbers will increase with the Sabres. Hodgson was also the quarterback of the second team power play and that is an area where he can certainly help the Sabres.
Kassian was the subject of quite a bit of hype on his way from juniors to the pros. Projected to play the role of power forward, early on in his pro career, Kassian had yet to show that in his time with Buffalo and Rochester. Sure, it’s a gamble to give up a guy like that who in the best case scenario for the Canucks, turns out to be their Milan Lucic. But gambling is a part of making trades and you have to give up something of value to get something of value. The Sabres got smaller but if they have more skill down the middle they will be better off in the long term.
Regier gets an “A” in the other deal, landing a first round draft pick for Paul Gaustad. I didn’t think a third or fourth line center who is a rental player could fetch a first rounder but he did and the Sabres absolutely had to make that deal. Buffalo now has 2 first round selections and 2 second round selections in the June draft giving Regier flexibility. He can keep the picks and bring in more players to develop or he can package the picks to perhaps move up in the draft and get an impact player or package picks and players to make another deal in an attempt to build a roster that will meet Terry Pegula’s goal of winning the Stanley Cup.