In the 2007-2008 season, the Buffalo Sabres were in the mix of the playoff hunt in the middle of February. Piggybacking off of incredible performances by Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, and Thomas Vanek, the team was searching for its third consecutive postseason birth. Granted, this club was not as good as they were the previous season– when they won the President’s Trophy with 113 points— largely due to the loss of both Daniel Briere and Chris Drury in free agency during the summer. The money they were asking for was too high for general manager, Darcy Regier. Little did the Sabres know that history would repeat itself the following year.
The 27-year old Brian Campbell was the top scoring defenseman for the team that season. Both management and Campbell felt the Canadian blueliner was a cornerstone piece to the team’s future, but he was to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2008. Regier negotiated with Campbell and his agent during the season to try and re-sign him to a new deal. Unfortunately, the price for the star defenseman was more than what the franchise was willing to give him, and the general manager began desperately searching for teams that would be willing to take him off their hands. Buffalo did not want a repeat of the previous offseason where they lost two key players to the free agency market and, therefore, got nothing in return for them.
While the Sabres organization was scrambling to figure what to do with Campbell, the San Jose Sharks were in cup-or-bust mode. After a second-round exit at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, the team bounced back with another amazing regular season. But general manager Doug Wilson knew he needed to add one more piece to his defensive corp to really make his team a contender for the Stanley Cup. Defensemen scoring was a scarce event in San Jose, so the Sharks set out to find somebody who could spark offense on the blue line.
On February 26, 2008– the day of the NHL trade deadline– the San Jose Sharks and the Buffalo Sabres reached an agreement. Buffalo traded defenseman Brian Campbell and their 2008 seventh-round draft pick to San Jose for forward Steve Bernier and the Sharks’ 2008 first-round pick.
Outcome: San Jose
Campbell played very well in a Sharks’ uniform that spring. In the 20 regular season games he played for San Jose that year, he scored three goals and added 19 assists while maintaining a plus-nine rating. These outstanding statistics helped propel the Sharks to a 108 point campaign, earning them second place in the NHL behind the Red Wings.
Come the playoffs, Campbell’s production slowed but was still respectable. In 13 contests, the defenseman recorded seven points and a plus-three rating. Campbell’s other perk on top of his scoring ability, though, was his incredible discipline. Throughout that postseason, he was only sent to the penalty box twice. Unfortunately for San Jose, his second penalty was taken in quadruple overtime in Game Six against the Dallas Stars. Brendan Morrow would score on the ensuing power play, thus eliminating the San Jose Sharks in heartbreaking fashion.
Like Regier of Buffalo, Wilson was unable to accommodate the enormous price tag No. 51 came with and was forced to let Campbell walk in free agency that July. The defenseman would sign an eight-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks to the tune of $7.1 million per year.
The seventh-round pick that San Jose received eventually turned into Drew Daniels. Predictable of a player chosen that late in the draft, he has yet to make it into the National Hockey League.
The first-round pick the Sabres acquired from the deal turned into none other than Tyler Ennis. Ennis has earned 88 goals and 120 assists in 339 games on a Buffalo team that has gone from being up-and-down to being absolutely terrible. His possession numbers are sub par, as he currently has a 45.4% career corsi-for percentage, which includes a hilarious 38.2% corsi this season. But despite his poor puck possession, his offensive numbers are good, which leaves me to wonder how effective he could be on a consistently competitive hockey team like San Jose.
The Steve Bernier part of the deal is where this trade starts to get complex and interesting. The former first-round choice scored nine points in 17 games with Buffalo before they missed the playoffs by four points. With Bernier set to become a restricted free agent, the Sabres traded his rights to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for the Los Angeles Kings’ 2009 third-round pick and Vancouver’s 2010 second-round pick.
With Los Angeles’s selection, Buffalo chose defenseman Brayden McNabb. He made his Sabres debut in the 2011-2012 campaign, where he scored eight points in 25 games, before playing the next two seasons in Rochester.
Here is where things really get weird. In the 2013-2014 season, McNabb– chosen by Buffalo with one of Kings’ draft picks— was traded to the Kings along with Los Angeles’s second-round pick in 2014 and Los Angeles’s second-round pick in 2015 for prospects Hudson Fasching and Nic Deslauriers (who now has 15 points in 92 games with the Sabres). You read that right. Basically, the Kings traded away two of their prospects to get three things that should have been theirs to begin with anyway.
The 2010 second-rounder Buffalo gained by dealing Bernier was traded with Nathan Paetsh to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Raffi Torres. The power forward played just fourteen games with the club before leaving in free agency that summer. The pick from Vancouver used to obtain Torres would later become Petr Straka.
I believe Buffalo is the winner of this deal because of the first-round selection they obtained that became Tyler Ennis. Interestingly, he is the only person out of the seven players linked to this trade to have spent more than two, full seasons with their affiliated team. Had San Jose won the cup in 2008, perhaps my verdict would be different. Trading away a former first-round pick and a future first-round pick for a player who turned out to be a rental seems a little pricey to me. But that is just my view.