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Sabres Deadline Deals, First Impressions

General Manager Darcy Regier sure made Sabrenation sweat things out on Monday, trade deadline day. With less than a half an hour before the deadline of 3pm EST there were no confirmed deals out of western New York. But it was the calm before the storm.

In two separate moves announced minutes before the deadline the Sabres dealt center Paul Gaustad to Nashville and acquired center Cody Hodgson, and defenseman Alexander Sulzer from Vancouver. Here are my initial reactions to the deals.

To Buffalo: 2012 1st Round Pick from Nashville
To Nashville: Paul Gaustad and 2013 4th round Pick

Early in the day there were reports that Regier was asking for a 1st round pick in this year's draft for Paul Gaustad. That seemed incredibly steep given that Gaustad is only a role player AND is set to become an unrestricted free-agent on July 1st. You have to give Darcy credit for this one, he was asking the sun and the moon for his guy hoping that at least one other GM would bite and he got his wish. The Sabres threw in a 4th round selection, but overall there is no doubt Nashville overpaid to get Gaustad. Adding an additional 1st round selection gives Buffalo a ton of flexibility for the draft, should they choose to stockpile the farm system or trade up for a blue chip prospect, they now have a ton of options.

From the Nashville perspective this trade doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Sure Gaustad is a great depth piece to add to a team looking to make a deep playoff push, he can chip in some offense, kill penalties, and add some grit to your line-up. Not to mention he consistently one of the top 3 or 4 face-off men in the sport. However, this didn't seem to be a need for Nashville. The Predators are chock full of players who are solid in their own end, play the PK, win draws, and chip in occasional goals. Nashville is more in need of adding a pure scorer, something Gaustad is not. With the Predator's surrendering a 1st round draft choice for a role player who doesn't really fill the team's need and will most likely test the open market in July it's hard to like this trade from a Nashville standpoint.

To Buffalo: Cody Hodgson, Alexander Sulzer
To Vancouver: Zack Kassian, Marc-Andre Gragnani

It was hard to believe Nashville bit on Darcy's hardline offer of a 1st rounder for Paul Gaustad, it really shocked me that Regier was able to pry Cody Hodgson away from Vancouver for such little return.

Cody Hodgson has 33 points in his first NHL season thus far, and that is on a 3rd line in Vancouver. The Canucks drafted him 10th overall in 2008 with aspirations he would someday be a #1 center. Players like that don't grow on trees, and the Sabres are very thin at the center position, especially after having dealt Paul Gaustad.

I can understand why Vancouver might see Kassian as a hot commodity, he has an aura of old school hockey about him, and has shown glimpses of his Chris Simonesque potential. Yet in terms of raw hockey ability Zack doesn't hold a candle to Cody. Kassian's offensive production at the junior level led many to believe he could be a viable second line power forward in the NHL, but his lack of production in both Rochester, and Buffalo at this point is starting to reveal that Zack's ceiling may be on the third line.

Sure Kassian might add that extra gritty piece the Canucks need for a playoff run, and even turn out to prove the Sabres fans wrong by scoring 20+ goals on a consistent basis, but right now in 2012 Cody Hodgson is by far the better prospect, and he looks like he's just scratching the surface.

Regarding the defensemen swapped in the deal, Gragnani had fallen out of favor in Buffalo and has been relegated to the pressbox since Christmas. However he still has some upside as a bottom pair puck moving defenseman, and is an RFA after this season so Vancouver can retain him if they so choose.

Sulzer meanwhile is also essentially a 7th defenseman, however at 27 years of age he becomes a UFA after the season. Vancouver added a little more depth on defense with Gragnani as he figures to return next season, and the Sabres will likely let Sulzer walk as of July 1st to help break up the log-jam of defensemen in slots 7-10 and make more room for Brayden McNabb or TJ Brennan going into the 2012 season.

Both defensemen basically wash out and this trade will ultimately be judged on the performance's of Zack Kassian and Cody Hodgson, and if you're a Buffalo Sabres fan it's not hard to love your chances of winning that deal.

Darcy Regier has received a lot of flak for the team's make-up, and poor play over the first half of the 2011 season. However today it seems he stepped up and answered the bell, getting a great return for an impending free agent, and acquiring a young talent in Hodgson to strengthen their top 6 down the middle for years to come.

-Brandon Hess
> Follow me on twitter @SabreHess

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