Trade winds are blowing strong around the NHL these days. But if you believe anything Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier says, they’re not coming out of Buffalo.
In an exclusive interview with The Buffalo News on Friday, Regier told John Vogl that “nothing is imminent” in regard to a trade that would shake up the struggling Sabres’ roster.
“I wouldn’t call it a shake-up,” Regier said at the RBC Center in Carolina. “If there’s a move that makes sense for us, we’ll do it if something is going to improve our hockey club. There’s nothing imminent, as I said, right now.
“At this time of the year and where we are, I’ve done a lot of talking to teams around the league, so I’m aware of some of those situations. Right now there’s nothing imminent, and that’s part of the business. We’ll keep working.”
The whispers of trade rumors became roars last week after Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray told the LA Times he would listen to trade offers for nearly every player on his roster, including stars Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, in an effort to spark the underachieving Ducks.
Naturally, Sabres fans began to salivate at the notion of acquiring any one of the aforementioned players.
Much like Anaheim, Buffalo has struggled to meet expectations this season.
Following Friday’s loss to Carolina, the Sabres find themselves in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and five points out of eighth place held by Toronto. Currently, they sit 16 points away from the conference-leading Rangers and 13 points from the Northeast Division-leading Bruins.
The common excuse for the Sabres’ struggles has been the injury bug.
When Derek Roy misses Saturday’s game against Winnipeg after his injury on Friday, it will mark a total of 19 Sabres that have now missed at least one game this season.
But Roy, in addition to a number of his underachieving teammates, should be the real scapegoats for the Sabres’ 18-18-4 record.
After signing a four-year, $16-million extension in the offseason, Drew Stafford is on pace to fall well short of the 20-goal plateau for the season.
Another player who received big money over the summer, Ville Leino, has contributed just 10 points in 29 games before being placed on injured reserve on Dec. 14. He is set to return to the lineup against the Jets.
It is Roy, however, whose name has been floating around in most trade rumors involving the Sabres. With just a $4 million annual cap hit, the former point-per-game centerman has long been thought of as one of the Sabres’ most tradeable assets.
It remains to be seen whether or not Regier is in fact looking to make such a splash that entails trading away a core player such as Roy, but there are thousands of restless armchair GM’s in Buffalo who would gladly load Roy up and ship him out in a package for just about anyone right now.
If past history is any indication, Regier will not be one to jump into making hasty moves. In fact, throughout his career he has often been criticized for being too reserved when it comes to trading away his home-grown talent or young prospects to acquire a piece that would truly help the Sabres compete during the season.
But as the Feb. 27 trade deadline grows closer and the Sabres continue to lose with their current core, the pressure may now be greater than ever for Regier to pull the trigger on a move that would shake up a team that has been long overdue for such a change.
It may not be Getzlaf, Perry or Ryan, but public pressure will require Regier to make some sort of splash before the end of the season. If not, it may be too late for Regier, whose 14-year tenure patrolling the front office of the Sabres could then be nearing an end.
As previously noted, the Sabres haven’t exactly been the contender fans have hoped for this season. They haven’t won back-to-back games since Nov. 11. Everytime the Sabres appear as though they’re ready to get healthy and turn the corner, another injury crops up or they put up an absolute stinker.
Regier has never been noted for his bold moves, but I think that given the opportunities that seem to be cropping up before him, this is the season he at least needs to shuffle things up and trade one of the underachieving “core” players on the roster.
Obviously, reeling in Ryan Getzlaf is probably a dream scenario for the Sabres, but given the influx of young talent (Brayden McNabb, Zack Kassian, Tyler Ennis, Luke Adam) that Regier has to work with, it may not be too difficult to entice a rebuilding squad to deal away a core player of their own.
Either way, the Sabres will be expected to amp their play up soon, or else they may find themselves in too deep when it comes time to make a run at the playoffs this season. If the Sabres keeps playing poorly, assuming they get healthy, a major trade may be the only remaining option Regier and Lindy Ruff have to attempt top spark the team.
Brandon Schlager is the Buffalo Sabres correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter for even more insightful Sabres coverage @THWGoldSchlager.