The Buffalo Sabres have made plenty of deals that led to success of some sort for the team. From the trade that resulted in goaltender Ryan Miller being drafted to the deal that brought Chris Drury to the Sabres, there has been no shortage of exciting deals in Buffalo. But which moves are the best in franchise history?
[RELATED: 5 Worst Moves in Buffalo Sabres History]
This list doesn’t take any draft picks into account as that is a discussion for another time. Instead, it focuses solely on trades and signings that the organization has made.
Honorable Mention: The Devil went down to Buffalo
There were a number of great options to include in the honorable mention section, but the acquisition of Miroslav Satan was the choice here simply due to the fleecing of the Oilers. Edmonton was sent Barrie Moore and Craig Millar by the Sabres for the Slovakian sniper.
In 40 combined games with Edmonton, Moore and Millar scored just six points total. Satan, on the other hand, scored eight goals in his first 12 games in Buffalo.
In five of his seven full seasons in Buffalo, Satan would lead the team in scoring while finishing second during the other two years. He reached the 30-goal mark three times for the Sabres, including a career high 40 during the 1998-99 season. At the end of his time in Buffalo, Satan scored 456 points in 578 games, and was a definite trade deadline steal for Buffalo.
With Buffalo continuing its offensive overhaul in the late 80’s-early 90’s, the Sabres saw an opportunity to grab an elite talent who wanted to leave his current situation. Pay LaFontaine was unhappy with the New York Islanders, so Buffalo jumped in and threw everything but the kitchen sink at New York.
The Sabres sent Pierre Turgeon, Benoit Hogue, Uwe Krupp and Dave McLlwain to the Islanders in order to bring LaFontaine to Buffalo. The team was rewarded immediately. In his first year in Buffalo, LaFontaine scored 93 points (46+47) in just 57 games. Of course, that pales in comparison to what he did the next season.
LaFontaine scored 53 goals and tallied 95 assists for 148 total points in 84 games. That Sabres record has yet to be broken, and possibly never will. Unfortunately, LaFontaine’s career would be derailed due to concussions, but there is no denying that the deal to bring him to the Sabres is one of the top moves in franchise history.
4. Hawerchuck to you, too
The Sabres had one of the best young defensemen in the game in Phil Housley in the late 80s. But at the 1990 NHL Draft, the Sabres felt they needed some offense to really make them contenders in the Eastern Conference to go with newcomer Alexander Mogilny.
To do this, Buffalo sent Housley, forwards Scott Arniel and Jeff Parker, and a first-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for Dale Hawerkchuk and a first-round pick.
In a little over four seasons with the Sabres, Hawerchuk was a dominant offensive force. He never scored less than a point-per-game during his four full seasons in Buffalo, including two 90-plus point seasons. In total, he scored 385 points (110+275) in 342 games as a Sabre. He was also part of the most productive offensive in Buffalo’s history during the 1992-93 season that featured LaFontaine’s 146 points and Mogilny’s 76 goals.
3. The Cookie Monster comes to Buffalo
Has there ever been a bigger trade deadline steal than the trade that brought Danny Briere to the Sabres? On March 11, 2003, general manager Darcy Regier pulled off one of his best moves for the Sabres when he traded Chris Gratton and a 2004 fourth-round pick to the Phoenix Coyotes for Briere and a 2004 third-round pick.
Briere was only in Buffalo for three-and-a-half seasons, but he left his mark in a big way on the franchise. Briere scored 230 points (92+138) in 225 regular season games for Buffalo as well as put up 34 points in 34 playoff games. But where his impact on the ice was strong, is impact off it was even greater.
Buffalo was as close to folding as a team could get in 2003. The organization was bankrupt, under league control and had shown no signs of success to entice an owner to buy it. So we thought. Briere was acquired just eight days before B. Thomas Golisano was introduced as the new owner of the Sabres, which would keep the team in town. Briere and the saving of the Sabres then became synonymous with each other.
Briere’s leadership and play helped turn the Sabres into the darlings of the NHL from 2004-07. The team came out of nowhere in during the post-lockout season to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. The following season saw the Sabres win the President’s Trophy as the league’s best team in the regular season.
Oh, and that third-round pick became Andrej Sekera. Not bad, huh?
2. A great defection
Though he was drafted by the Sabres in 1988, the circumstances surrounding Mogilny’s arrival make him eligible for this list. The Russian-born superstar didn’t join the team right after being selected with the 89th overall pick in the draft because of Russian policies.
Instead, he continued to play for his home country while working behind the scenes with members of the Sabres organization. After finally joining the team, Mogilny scored just 43 points in 65 games as a rookie. It would be the only time in his Sabres career that he didn’t finish with more than a point per game for a season.
Mogilny became one of the most prolific scorers in franchise history. He scored at least 30 goals in four of his six seasons with Buffalo, including a 76-goal campaign during the 1992-93 season. He finished his Sabres career with 444 points in 381 games, and is no doubt one of the best players in the team’s history.
1. The Dominator arrives
As if there was any question as to what the number one move in Sabres history would be. When you trade for a goaltender that would go on to not only be the best in franchise history, but one of the very best the league has ever seen, it only makes sense to put Dominik Hasek’s arrival at the top.
Before the start of the 1992-93 season, general manager Gerry Meehan knew his team needed to find a new goaltender to eventually lead the team into the future. So, Meehan made a call to the Chicago Blackhawks to acquire their backup goaltender. To get the 27-year old, Buffalo sent goalie Stephane Beauregard and a fourth-round pick to the Blackhawks.
Hasek then had the most dominant — pun intended — decade that a goalie could possibly have. During his nine-year Sabres career, Hasek won the Vezina Tropy six times, and the Hart Memorial Trophy twice. In 1999, he almost single-handedly carried the Sabres to a Stanley Cup. He posted a .939 save percentage as well as a 1.77 goals against average to guide Buffalo to the finals where the team would ultimately lose in six games to the Dallas Stars.
With a 2.22 GAA and .926 Save %, there is no denying that bringing Hasek to Buffalo was the greatest move in team history.
What’s your favorite Sabres move? Let us know in the comment section below.
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.