Monday, February 13, 2012

Sabres in limbo with Gaustad to Wings making a lot of sense

Limbo is the place the Sabres organization finds themselves as the February 27, 2012 trade-deadline approaches. They still don't know if they'll be a buyer or seller or some sort of hybrid.

With two weeks to go until the deadline, Buffalo currently sits in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. They're eight points back of 8th place Toronto and nine points behind 7th place Ottawa and they have a games in hand.

The team has 54 points with 27 games remaining. Right now it would seem as if 94 points for the entire season would get them into the playoffs--the equivalent of 20 wins in 27 games.

Once again, it's not impossible, but even with their current 5-1-1 streak, it still remains an improbability.

Even if they did manage to make the playoffs, they're chances of winning it all are slim to none. They say that winning the Stanley Cup is the hardest championship to win. It take four series' wins--16 games--against four different opponents and nearly always means four different styles of play.

That's why, as of this morning, sportsclubstats has the Sabres at a 2.1% chance of just making the playoffs. Las Vegas has Buffalo at 35-1 to win the Eastern Conference, 65-1 odds to win the Cup.

That being said (in a rather prolonged way,) Sabres GM Darcy Regier should be looking towards the future. It's not to say that they should completely blow it up and rebuild, but they should be looking to move a few of their players starting the transition from Darcy's core (or as Ted Black put it, the Rochester guys) of the last four-plus seasons to an emerging "new core."

The two names that keep surfacing in the rumor mill are centers Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad.

For some reason, Regier thinks that he can get a top-six player in return for Roy, which is a bit absurd considering a potential trade partner would want to bolster their top-nine, not make a trade to exchange struggling forwards.

Traditionally, picks and prospects are what's given up at the deadline for a cup-contending piece, so getting a bonafide top-six forward for a top-six forward is something that usually doesn't happen this time of year.

Which leads us to the Sabres' most movable commodity--Paul Gaustad.

Detroit Red Wings scout, Kirk Maltby, recently attended back-to-back Buffalo Sabres games--visiting Montreal and Buffalo. Detroit, a perennial Stanley Cup contender, isn't looking to bolster their core, which is about as solid as it gets, they're looking for forward depth. It was said that the Canadians Travis Moen, a former Stanley Cup champion, was a person of interest, as was Gaustad.

Both Moen and Gaustad are similar in stature, are rock-solid penalty-killers and both are depth players, but Moen is a winger and Gaustad is a center. Looking at the Wings depth chart, the fourth-line center slot is held down by rookie Cory Emmerton.

Not to get too far into the Red Wings and their depth-chart wants and/or needs, but the addition of both LW Moen and C Gaustad to go along with RW Justin Abdelkader would make for a very formidable fourth line.

But, back to Gaustad.

"Goose" is a fourth-line player who can play on the third line if necessary. He's a big body that is a top-notch faceoff man and an exceptional penalty killer.

On the dot, the Wings are lead by Pavel Datsyuk and his 56.5%. The team is currently 7th in the league at faceoffs, just a few fractions out of the top-three. Goose is at 55.6%, which would rank him second on the Wings and invariably help Detroit get even stronger in the faceoff circle.

On the penalty kill, Sabres currently rank 15th in the league, the Wings, 20th. Darren Helm and Drew Miller (brother of Sabres' goalie Ryan Miller) anchor the PK for the forwards. Gaustad leads Sabres forwards in short-handed time on ice and there's no reason to think that he wouldn't be one of the top-four forwards on the kill for the Wings.

Another big factor in the "Goose to Red Wings" scenario would be salary, but it's a non-starter as Detroit presently has plenty of room to fit Gaustad's $2.3M annual cap-hit. In fact they could even fit Moen in as well and still have room to spare.

This is a real good fit for the 1st place Red Wings and may just be the move (or moves if you add in Moen) that could bring the Cup back to Hockeytown. And it should be done from the Sabres perspective, as long as the return isn't a bag of pucks.

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