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Deadline Breakdown: The larceny that was the Gaustad trade

March 1, 2012

It’s been a busy week, but this story represents the second portion of my deadline breakdown of the trades made by Darcy Regier on Monday’s trade deadline.

The Cody Hodgson acquisition was more electric than most trades usually made by Darcy Regier. However, when strictly evaluating return, I would say that poaching a first round pick in exchange for Paul Gaustad and a fourth is a massive victory for Regier.

Moving Gaustad was a necessary evil. He is a pending UFA and is allegedly asking for $3m per year on a new contract. Gaustad is barely worth the $2.3m cap hit he has now; let alone a raise to $3m. He has plenty of intangibles that are attractive to playoff teams, which is why I understand the interest he attracted at the deadline. However, I’m not sure a first round pick was equal to what he will bring to the Predators.

Gaustad has toughness, kills penalties and wins faceoffs. Those traits are going to be valuable if the Predators hope to advance deep in the playoffs. They also have the depth and talent to part with the first round pick they gave up. Of course, if they win the Cup there will be no questioning the trade on their end.

Replacing Gaustad will be difficult. There is an outside chance that he opts for a hometown discount and signs on July 1. If that scenario played out, Regier would have pulled an amazing feat; basically trading a fourth round pick for a first. Assuming Gaustad ends up elsewhere, there are plenty of other checking centers available on the free agent market. Since these players are so common, his loss is less impactful. I doubt Regier will struggle to replace Gaustad’s toughness and defensive prowess based on the impending UFA crop.

For the Sabres, the first round pick could be gold. The last time they picked twice in the first round they ended up with Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis. Considering the Sabres are likely going to have a selection somewhere near the top-ten, a pair of first round talents is nothing to sneeze at. Buffalo also has two second round picks too. That means Darcy Regier has four selections in the first sixty picks.

Those four picks gives Regier the option to package them in a trade for a roster player. A hockey trade, if you will. There is plenty of chatter that the Sabres are attempting to move either Drew Stafford or Derek Roy, possibly even both. While these rumors aren’t necessarily confirmed, packaging one of those forwards with a first round selection could certainly bring a hefty return. Even using the first and one of their second round picks along with a player would be a very interesting trade offer for any team to consider.

In years past, Regier would guard the picks with tooth and nail. Former ownership practically forced him to build from the minors in hopes of discovering a diamond in the rough. With Terry Pegula’s money, there is less of a need to hit home runs with every draft pick. The loose purse strings also give free reign to trade picks and acquire salary, not unlike last year’s trade for Brad Boyes.

I’d love to see the Nashville pick packaged in a deal with a current roster player. First round picks carry more weight than they did just five years ago. Packaging a pick with a proven player should fetch solid return. I could see a contender looking for scoring help or a team rebuilding and in need of both picks and roster help having interest in such a trade. It isn’t the most realistic scenario, you need two to tango after all, but it seemed as if Regier was definitely considering that option.

There is also the option of holding the pick and grabbing a second first round talent. That is never a bad option if the trade market is soft. Regier has proven to be a strong evaluator of talent and would do well with an additional first round selection.

The simple fact that Gaustad was flipped for a first round pick is enough for me. Losing the fourth round pick matters not. Yes, the Sabres have hit on a number of picks in the fourth round or later. But considering the overall talent level in the draft and the fact that re-signing Gaustad is unlikely, grabbing an additional first round pick trumps any sort of loss suffered with that pick.

Darcy Regier signified that he is ready for a changing of the guard in the Sabres locker room. This deadline day was the first step in doing so.

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