The Sabres didn’t fetch a king’s ransom for Dominik Hasek but it feels as if Hasek has claim to the highest profile trade in franchise history. Maybe the LaFontaine/Turgeon or Andreychuk/Fuhr swaps earn the title given their blockbuster status, but it’s not every day a team trades away of the greatest to ever pull on the crest.
The Hasek trade was pretty underwhelming, more so given Slava Kozlov’s disdain for the area and limited production on the ice. Of course, the Sabres paid pennies on the dollar for the greatest player to ever play his position. So even though the return from dealing Hasek pales in comparison to other marquee deals, Hasek’s on-ice contributions more than make up for it.
Phil Housley sits at the center of one of Buffalo’s more interesting trade trees. A memorable player in his own right, the tree includes three, maybe four, of the most iconic players to ever suit up for the Sabres.
Housley’s tenure in Buffalo was somewhat rocky, with complaints about his lack of physicality and grit overshadowing his prowess as a play driver.
After being selected with the pick acquired for the 1975 Cup team’s favorite players, Jerry Korab, Housley was included in a blockbuster that brought the Sabres one of the league’s best scorers. Housley had blossomed into one of the game’s most dynamic offensive defensemen and Dale Hawerchuk was a bona fide superstar. He had scored 35 or more goals in eight of his first nine NHL seasons – seven with 40-plus goals – and had six 100-point seasons. The pair came with a swap of first round picks in 1990, moving the Sabres up five spots. This is where the Jets wind up winning the trade, as they say.
The Sabres selected Brady May with the 14th selection and he’d become a fan favorite and score the most famous goal in franchise history. The Jets wound up picking 500-goal and 1,000-point club member Keith Tkachuk at 19. From there the rest is history. Tkachuck would twice score 50 goals for the Jets/Coyotes before moving on to St. Louis. May was turned into a key member of the 1999 Cup team, Geoff Sanderson.
This one doesn’t have the legs of something like the Martin tree or even the (spoiler alert) Dominik Hasek trade tree. But it stretches over three decades of team history, an impressive span considering the low number of players involved.
Note: I made one slight alteration to this tree compared to the others: splitting Scott Arniel off separately. While he was a simple throw in to the Housley/Hawerchuk deal, I chose to include his branch to make the tree more robust.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle the Sabres have faced as they slog through their rebuild has been the inability to turn the mountain of assets they originally acquired into tangible NHL talent. Some of that has been inflicted on the trade market – packaging assets for NHL talent – while some has come at the draft table.
The picks and players that can be traced back to the original trade that sent Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders have offered the Sabres very little in the end. This was one of the first trade trees I had ever explored, intrigued by the stacked deck Tim Murray and Darcy Regier had combined to create. At one point the Sabres had turned Vanek and a pair of second round draft picks into Matt Moulson, Torrey Mitchell, Josh Gorges and four draft picks (a second and third in 2014 and a first and second in 2015).
Now that the trade tree has aged (poorly) the Sabres are looking at a fairly lackluster return for what they’ve sent away. Torrey Mitchell was a terrific fourth line asset but not exactly a long-term option for the Sabres. He only yielded a seventh round pick and although Vasily Glotov is an extremely fun prospect to have in the pipeline, the chances that the Sabres see much of anything come of that trade are minimal. The same can be said of nearly every other portion of the tree. Moulson and Gorges hit the wall hard and Robin Lehner’s days in Buffalo seem to be numbered. The only player in this entire trade tree who has the opportunity to offer the Sabres any long-term return is Brendan Guhle.
The Vanek trade tree went south in a hurry, with the prospects attached to the numerous picks failing to develop in a meaningful way while the Sabres opted to flip the premium pick they received for a goaltender whose future in Buffalo appears to be questionable.
*One quick note on the format of the trade tree. I’ve added logos next to the players selected with the respective picks used in the deals displayed. This was meant to add some clarity to the layout as not every pick was used by the team which acquired it. For example, the Canadiens sent the pick they acquired for Gorges to the Chicago Blackhawks, who picked Chad Krys with the selection. This came in handy on some of the larger trees which I’ve worked on as it illustrates the end point for some of the draft picks which, at times, traded hands multiple times.
Last season I put together a pair of trade trees after Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller were moved. The Vanek tree has already sprung a few branches and could grow larger if Torrey Mitchell is moved this season. Ryan Miller is actually tied into a much larger trade tree which I only thought traced back to Alexander Mogilny. As it turns out, it is part of a trade tree that goes all the way back to Don Edwards. Continue reading
Tim Murray may have inherited a clunker of a roster from Darcy Regier, but the organization still had good bones despite the kamikaze job Regier did on the roster prior to his departure. Continue reading