Kukla's Korner

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Pending Sabres Sale Doesn’t Mean No Deals

There is a misguided notion among some Sabres fans hungry for change that the timing of the impending sale to triple-billionaire Terry Pegula will potentially put a freeze on some much needed player transactions as the February 28th trade deadline approaches.  If history is an indicator, don’t fret.

Assuming Buffalo is still out of the playoff picture in five weeks, GM Darcy Regier will best serve the organization by putting on his seller’s cap and stockpiling some draft picks and prospects in what’s starting to look a lot like his final trade deadline at the helm of this team.

Regier has been in this position before, in 2003 to be exact, when Tom Golisano was in the process of saving the franchise.  But while the wheels were turning behind the scenes as a transfer of ownership was slowly being completed, Regier wasn’t exactly sitting around contemplating his job status.

He cut ties with veteran forward Vaclav Varada.  He parted ways with fan favorite Rob Ray.  He moved Stu Barnes to tears when he dealt his captain to Dallas.  And in the most brilliant execution of stratagem imaginable, he somehow convinced then-GM Mike Barnett of Phoenix that the Coyotes would be a better team with Chris Gratton than with Daniel Briere.

These cost cutting moves struck two of the top four salaries off the books, and it would’ve been three of four except that the Sabres couldn’t find the right deal to move Alex Zhitnik.  In preparing for the new regime, Regier had effectively cut 20% from the team payroll. 

The opportunity is there to rinse and repeat.  Tim Connolly, Rob Niedermayer, Mike Grier and Craig Rivet, while how much value they have is certainly in question, are unrestricted free agents this summer and unlikely to be back.  Connolly being healthy and productive in five weeks would be good timing and perhaps an opportunity to get something measurable in return.

The point here is that it’s not like the new owner doesn’t talk to management during the closing process.  While we’re not likely to see front office changes until the summer, roster tinkering can begin right now.

It was eight years ago today that the Sabres filed for bankruptcy.  The state of the franchise was much different than it is now.  Attendance is healthy and fans are longing for the excitement they felt during the first two years after the lockout.

The path of least resistance to that state of mind includes a new owner and a retooled cast of characters on the ice.  If history repeats itself, the process on the roster side of the equation should begin fairly soon.  Buffalo fans have already made it loud and clear that they’re ready and waiting.

Twitter: @DaveDavisHockey

Filed in: NHL Teams, Buffalo Sabres, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: buffalo+sabres, chris+gratton, daniel+briere, darcy+regier, rob+ray, stu+barnes, terry+pegula, tim+connolly, tom+golisano, vaclav+varada

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

 

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