The Buffalo Sabres are on the cusp of a new beginning. With a revamped roster, the Sabres are built to be a more competitive team than the club has been for the past few seasons.
The road through the rebuilding years has been a long and winding one for the Sabres. Buffalo finished in last place in the NHL for the past two seasons. The Sabres are looking to leave these difficult seasons behind them and continue to build towards a return to playoff contention.
As the club worked through the rebuild, it dealt away veteran players in exchange for prospects and draft picks. The trades brought many youngsters into the fold and they also generated currency that was utilized to acquire other pieces. This differentiated use of trade assets proved to be true with the pieces that were acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild for former Sabres’ captain Jason Pominville.
Sabres Send Pominville to the Minnesota Wild
Former Sabres captain Jason Pominville was perhaps one of the most important components of the club’s old core. Pominville is a talented forward who was a very productive player for the Sabres. According to Eliteprospects.com Pominville has scored 0.77 points per game over the course of his NHL career netting 237 goals and 579 points in 752 games. Many of these points were tallied when Pominville was a member of the Sabres.
Despite his success, the Sabres as an organization had faltered in the years after the club’s President’s Trophy winning season in 2006-2007. According to hockey-reference.com, in the six seasons that followed the 2006-2007 season, the Buffalo Sabres qualified for the playoffs only twice. Both of these playoff appearances ended rather quickly. As the dust began to settle, it became clear that the organization needed to move in a new direction.
As the 2012-2013 season wound down, former Sabres’ GM Darcy Regier decided to pull the trigger on a deal for his club’s captain. Jason Pominville along with a 2014 fourth round selection were sent to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for goaltender Matt Hackett, forward Johan Larsson, a first round pick in 2013, and a second round pick in 2014.
[See Also: Gaustad Trade Started Buffalo Sabres’ Rebuild]
Pominville Trade Leaves a Legacy on Rebuild
The Jason Pominville trade will be remembered as an important transaction in the history of the franchise. The trade brought in a strong group of assets that the Sabres utilized in a variety of ways. Some assets remain with the club, one has recently departed, and another was traded away to help bring other players to the organization.
The Sabres used their first round draft choice in 2013 that was acquired from the Minnesota Wild to select defenseman Nikita Zadorov. Buffalo also used the second round pick in 2014 from the Pominville trade to bring forward Vaclav Karabacek into the fold. Goaltender Matt Hackett came to the Sabres with some potential but he ultimately was unable to secure a role with the club. Hackett became an unrestricted free agent this summer and he recently signed a new deal with the Anaheim Ducks.
Meanwhile, Johan Larsson found success at the AHL-level where he scored 46 goals and 122 points in 164 career AHL games. Larsson began to translate his game to the NHL level towards the end of last season. The Sabres were a historically poor team last season yet Larsson finished with six goals and 16 points in 39 games. Larsson recently signed a new one-year deal with the Sabres and he will have an opportunity to earn a spot in Buffalo this season.
Sabres’ GM Tim Murray utilized an asset acquired in the Jason Pominville trade to help bring forward Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo. Defenseman Nikita Zadorov played 60 games for the Sabres last season scoring three goals and 15 points. Zadorov is a promising young defenseman but a deal presented itself that Murray could not refuse. The Sabres sent Zadorov along with forwards Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher, and a second round pick in 2015 to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn.
Since this trade occurred, O’Reilly signed a lucrative contract extension with the Sabres and he then was allegedly involved in an impaired driving incident. The legal proceedings are still on-going and, pending the outcome, he could face further hockey-related discipline. Prior to his trade to Buffalo, O’Reilly was an important player and leader for the Colorado Avalanche. He is expected to play a similar role with the Sabres.
The O’Reilly trade was made possible by trading Nikita Zadorov who was selected with the first round pick acquired in the Jason Pominville trade. The Pominville deal was an important trade in Sabres’ history and it has left a legacy on the Sabres’ rebuild in many ways.
[See Also: Sabres O’Reilly Court Date Pushed Back by Michael Straw]
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW