Buffalo Sabres: 5 Best Trades in Franchise History
The Buffalo Sabres' history is full of blockbuster trades that have included the likes of Pat LaFontaine, Dale Hawerchuk and Danny Gare. Yet the blockbuster trade is not necessarily the one that works out best for a team in the long run.
Sometimes, it's the marginal trade that ends up building a contender for years to come because sometimes that sixth round pick is Pavel Datsyuk.
A trade in the NHL has the potential to be groundbreaking no matter who or what is going either way, and the Sabres have been able to pull off both the blockbusters and the small trades since their inception in 1970.
Here are the five best trades in Sabres history.
5. Rhett Warrener and a 5th Round Pick for Mike Wilson
Rob Carr/Getty Images
At the 1998-99 trade deadline, the Sabres unloaded former top defensive prospect Mike Wilson to the Florida Panthers for former first-round pick Rhett Warrener and a fifth-round pick in the 1999 draft.
Wilson, also a former first-rounder, was acquired by Buffalo in the 1995 trade with the Vancouver Canucks that send Alexander Mogilny to the Canucks in exchange for Michael Peca, Wilson and a first-round pick that ended up being Jay McKee. He was deemed to be the next franchise defenseman for the Sabres, but things didn't work out.
After struggling with his game for four seasons in Buffalo, especially his skating and positioning, Wilson was shipped to Florida in exchange for another steady defensive presence in Warrener, with the fifth-round selection basically a throw in– at the time–for the Sabres.
Warrener played excellent hockey for the Sabres after the trade, starting in earnest with the Sabres' Stanley Cup run in 1998-99 playoffs. Warrener was a plus-12 during the playoff run, and continued to be one of the two top defenseman for the Sabres along with McKee until his eventual trade in 2003.
That could have been enough for Sabres fans as Wilson fizzled out soon after the trade, playing in one further full season with the Panthers before playing in a handful of NHL games for the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers before shipping off to Europe.
But there was that fifth-round pick.
The Sabres drafted Hobey Baker Award winner Ryan Miller out of Michigan State University with that pick. Miller's success needs little explanation, which easily makes this one of the more lopsided trades in Sabres history.
While draft picks are always hard to value because it is a possibility the Panthers would not have selected Miller, so it could be worthless to them now, the fact that Miller is a Sabre thanks to Mike Wilson is a positive memory for Sabres fans.
Also, despite what your feelings may be on Darcy Regier, it was one of the first major moves he made as the Sabres general manager, and it set a precedent for "winning" trades that lives on presently.
4. Danny Briere for Chris Gratton
At the 2002-2003 trade deadline, Darcy Regier sent Chris Gratton to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Danny Briere, a move that seemed relatively minor to most at the time.
Gratton was a former third overall pick that never lived up to expectations in the NHL. Briere was an AHL star that had success to the tune of 60 points the preceding year, but was still inconsistent and streaky. His erratic play was more harm than good, and led to him posting a plus-minus of minus-21 through 60-plus games in 2002-03.
It's safe to say Buffalo fans saw a different side of Briere.
After a solid mini-season with the Sabres following the trade deadline, Briere exploded for the Sabres, averaging better than a point per game in two of his three full seasons with the Sabres.
Briere was one of the main reasons the Sabres went to two straight Eastern Conference Finals in 2005-06 and 2006-07 and hoisted the Presidents' Trophy in 2006-07.
Gratton went on to be traded a few more times, never scoring more than 39 points in his remaining seven seasons, including only scoring a single point in his 14 games with Phoenix after the trade.
The Sabres also received a third-round pick in the 2004 draft in the deal that turned into Andrej Sekera.
3. Hawerchuk and a 1st for Housley, Arniel, Parker and a 1st
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
At the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, the Sabres made one of their blockbuster trades, sending star defenseman Phil Housley, forward Scott Arniel, forward Jeff Parker and a first-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for Dale Hawerchuk and a first-round pick.
There is little debate that Hawerchuk is one of the best Sabres to ever wear the uniform, easily in the same league as Gilbert Perreault, Alexander Mogilny, Pat Lafontaine, Rene Robert and Rick Martin.
Hawerchuk played four full seasons with the Sabres, and never scored less than a point per game in that period, including two 90-plus point seasons in 1991-92 and 1992-93.
1992-93 was one of the most exciting seasons for the Sabres fans in their history, as evidenced by LaFontaine scoring his team record 146 points, Mogilny scoring his 76 goals and Hawerchuk notching 96 points.
Housley was a supremely talented defenseman and had some great years in Winnipeg, but his play was easily offset by Hawerchuk's in a Sabres uniform.
Arniel was a solid third liner, but was not irreplaceable, and Parker saw little ice time and was inconsequential.
The first-round picks that were swapped ended up being Brad May for the Sabres and Keith Tkachuk for the Jets. Tkachuk has the better legacy, but May has a special place in Sabres fans' hearts.
While there was no clear winner in the trade, Hawerchuk brought more name recognition to Buffalo and helped put the Sabres back on the map post-Perreault.
Pat LaFontaine for Pierre Turgeon
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Three weeks into the 1991-92 season, a disgruntled Pat LaFontaine was traded from the New York Islanders along with Randy Hillier and Randy Wood to the Sabres in exchange for Pierre Turgeon, Benoit Hogue, Uwe Krupp and Dave McLlwain.
The Sabres may have given up a lot in the trade, including the young and talented Turgeon, but the fact remains that LaFontaine was likely the most talented Sabres player ever.
Anyone who has watched LaFontaine play knows that the preceding statement is no slight to to the greatest Sabre of all-time in Gilbert Perreault. Perreault was the greatest Sabre because he did the most for the franchise, mostly with his play, but also with his 17 years of service.
LaFontaine could have easily been that had it not been for the concussion problems he encountered a few years into his Sabres tenure. Many argued LaFontaine was the greatest American player ever with Mike Modano, Phil Housley and Joe Mullen as the others in the argument.
So, this was not a great trade because of how the Sabres fleeced the Islanders, because they certainly did not, as Turgeon and Hogue were great for them, but LaFontaine, along with Hawerchuk and Mogilny, were able to start a new era of Sabres hockey.
1. Dominik Hasek for Stephane Beauregard and a 4th Round Pick
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Before the 1991-92 season, the Sabres traded journeyman goaltender Stephane Beauregard and a fourth-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for their backup goaltender Dominik Hasek.
This is an excellent example of marginal trades that end up making an impact for many years.
Hasek was Ed Belfour's backup in Chicago and certainly had talent, and with Grant Fuhr getting older, the Sabres needed a younger netminder to potentially move forward with once Fuhr retired.
Beauregard never even suited up for the Sabres, as he was on the roster for only a few weeks before they shipped him off to the Windy City to back up Belfour.
Not much needs to be said about Hasek, as he is arguably the best goaltender, at least statistically, ever to play the game.
He almost single-handedly lead the Sabres to the Stanley Cup in the 1998-99 season and was a work horse, playing in at least 58 games six times with the Sabres, including 72 games in 1997-98. He also won the Hart Trophy as league MVP twice and the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goalie six times as a Sabre.
When Hasek won his first Hart Trophy in 1996-97, he was the first goalie to do so since the great Jacques Plante for the 1961-62 season.
This also qualifies as a fleecing, as Beauregard is best known as the "guy that was traded for Dominik Hasek" and the fourth-round pick turned into Eric Daze, while posting four 30-goal seasons, was nowhere near as important to the Blackhawks as Hasek was to the Sabres.
Expect to see No. 39 hanging from the rafters of the First Niagara Center very soon.