Sabres trades net quality return, though full value is still pending

While most of the return that Darcy Regier received at this year’s deadlines came in the form of draft picks, there were still a trio of trades made that will affect the Sabres moving forward.

The lone disappointment of the deadline might just be that more moves didn’t go down. Simply expecting a complete overhaul of the roster is rather unrealistic, but with players like Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller rumored to be on the block many expected today to end with more than just one player (not counting Regehr and Leopold) sent on to a new team.

Grading the moves isn’t appropriate in many ways because these are moves that have set up for the future. Unlike recent deadlines in which players were brought in to bolster the lineup, 2013 was a year in which the opposite was true. There was no Cody Hodgson acquisition to base an opinion off of, which does make things slightly difficult when considering that a majority of what was acquired may not pay off until this summer at the earliest.

Both the Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr trades were necessary moves that weren’t going to produce the type of immediate results that would come from a traditional hockey trade. Buffalo’s trade with St. Louis turned out to be a phenomenal exchange as Leopold’s production this season had dipped well below where it was the previous two seasons.

Grabbing a second round pick for Leopold was excellent. He probably wasn’t worth that much but St. Louis also provided a conditional pick along with the second rounder. Although I don’t expect the Blues to win a playoff round, having a second and fifth round pick in your pocket in exchange for Leopold – a player likely to be replaced by Mark Pysyk next year – is a great return.

The Regehr trade is slightly less impressive simply because the two second round picks don’t come into play until 2014 and 2015. Good on Regier for landing the return that the market set – Douglas Murray in particular.

The two picks acquired for Regehr are two that I expect to be moved prior to the Sabres ever approaching the podium on draft day. If those picks are indeed traded down the line the original Regehr trade will look a whole lot better.

Buffalo’s big score came over from Minnesota, of course. The Pominville trade ensured that the Sabres will at least enter the draft with two first round picks to compliment their pair of second round picks. Considering that Buffalo will likely be sniffing at the lottery, having a second first round pick is just that much more valuable.

Of the two players acquired, Matt Hackett may have the smallest impact on the roster long-term. His acquisition certainly ups the chances that Ryan Miller or Jhonas Enroth could be traded this summer – although both Hackett and Enroth are RFAs. But Hackett also doesn’t have the high upside that other goaltending prospects around the league might have.

Don’t be mistaken by Hackett’s acquisition. He may start in Rochester but he provides quality depth and is a goaltender who can play for an extended period of time at the NHL level. He has a brief NHL background and his record and numbers are somewhat skewed as most of his playing time came when the Wild were a middling club, not the contender they are this season. There is a lot of upside on Hackett and he could potentially blossom into a quality 1B goalkeeper working in tandem with another starter. If he reaches his ceiling, he will be a real steal for the organization.

Johan Larsson is certainly intriguing and is probably the second most prize part of this trade along with the first round pick. I’m not very familiar with him, although Hockey’s Future and Elite Prospects have good things to say about the two-way center. A lot is being made about him finding his offensive game in North America to go along with the sound two-way hockey he was drafted for. Having some draw comparisons to Cody Hodgson (but defensively adept) makes me like his upside that much more. What is interesting to see is how Larsson is used heading into next season. Will he have the opportunity to step right in and serve as the defensively responsible, two-way center the Sabres have been lacking? Or will he continue to ply his trade and slowly be integrated into the Sabres grand plans?

Overall I think the Pominville trade was necessary and brought quality return. It could be tough to see Pominville depart due to the multiple roles he fills and just what he has been to the organization for so many years. While the overall return may not be seen for a few more seasons, Regier did well to leverage maximum value for a player that appeared to be on his way out.

Hopefully Larsson has a chance to step onto the First Niagara Center for a few of the final games this season if only to provide a small glimpse at what the Sabres have in store for their future.

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