Buffalo Sabres: Ranking the Top 10 Trades in Team History
In recent years, Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier has been criticized by many fans for his shortcomings at the NHL trade deadline. Additions such as Brad Boyes, Dominic Moore and Raffi Torres have fizzled over the past few seasons after excelling with their previous employers.
When you look back into the archives, however, Regier has made plenty of shrewd trades that have helped the Sabres in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup. It seems as though Regier may have hit another home run with his acquisition of defenseman Robyn Regehr from the Calgary Flames a couple weeks ago.
In the deal, Buffalo gave up only defenseman Chris Butler and forward Paul Byron, and received forward Ales Kotalik and a second-round pick in addition to Regehr. With Butler and Byron not expected to become much more than fringe NHL players, this trade could eventually go down as one of the best in team history should Regehr continue his stellar play.
Since the trade has yet to play itself out, it would be unfair to label it as an all-time great at this point. With that said, there has been no shortage of one-sided trades during the Sabres’ 40-plus years of existence. Here are the top 10 trades in Buffalo Sabres history.
10. Rene Robert to Colorado for John Van Boxmeer
As part of “The French Connection,” one of the most iconic lines in hockey history, Rene Robert was a huge part of the Sabres’ success throughout the 1970s. As the ‘80s approached, however, Robert’s skills were beginning to erode. It was then that the Sabres made the difficult decision to trade him to the Colorado Rockies for defenseman John Van Boxmeer. Although it may not have been the most popular decision among fans at the time, it ended up being an excellent deal for Buffalo.
Robert was solid during the 1979-80 season with Colorado, posting 63 points in 69 games. The following three seasons split between Colorado and the Toronto Maple Leafs were hit and miss, however. In his final three seasons, Robert played just 97 games due to injury and totaled 69 points. Van Boxmeer, on the other hand, went on to become one of the more prolific offensive defensemen in Sabres history. He racked up 69 and 68 points in 1980-81 and 1981-82 respectively. Van Boxmeer only played four seasons with the Sabres, but he was a key cog on some very talented teams.
9. Gare, Schoenfeld and Smith to Detroit for Foligno, McCourt and Peterson
In many ways, this trade was the end of an era for the Buffalo Sabres. Forward Danny Gare and defenseman Jim Schoenfeld were huge parts of the Sabres team that fell just short of winning the Stanley Cup in 1974-75. Gare was among the greatest goal scorers in team history, twice lighting the lamp 50 times in a season. Schoenfeld captained the Sabres and was an absolute rock for them on the back end. Derek Smith may not have been as beloved by Sabres fans as the other two, but he did register two 60-plus point seasons in a Sabre uniform.
As difficult as it may have been for many Sabres fans to understand at the time, Gare, Schoenfeld and Smith were reaching the twilight of their careers, which is why it made sense to deal them for up and coming talent before they lost all value. Gare was able to notch a couple more 25-goal seasons, but he was no longer the dynamic player he once was. Schoenfeld could no longer stay healthy, and Smith essentially did nothing in Detroit.
Forwards Dale McCourt and Brent Peterson had two 20-goal seasons apiece as Sabres, but Mike Foligno made this trade a great one for Buffalo. Foligno played a decade in Buffalo and was a very consistent producer. He scored 20 or more goals eight times, including three 30-goal seasons and one 40-goal season. His leaping celebration after scoring helped make him one of the most popular Sabres ever. Foligno went on to captain the Sabres and flourished long after Gare, Schoenfeld and Smith had retired.
8. Joe Daley to Detroit for Don Luce and Mike Robitaille
When you think of the term journeyman, former Sabres goalie Joe Daley is certainly someone who comes to mind. Daley bounced around a number of professional leagues before joining the Sabres for the 1970-71 season. Daley played 38 games for Buffalo that season, posting a 12-16-8 record with an inflated 3.70 goals against average. Clearly unimpressed, the Sabres dealt Daley to the Detroit Red Wings following the season in exchange for forward Don Luce and defenseman Mike Robitaille.
Daley played just one lackluster season in Detroit before embarking on a decent career with the Winnipeg Jets in the World Hockey Association. Robitaille was steady stay-at-home defenseman in parts of four seasons with the Sabres, although he has gained more fame as an analyst for the club in retirement. The crown jewel of the trade was clearly Luce who was an integral part of many of the best teams in Sabres history. Not only was he one of the league’s finest defensive centers and penalty killers, but he also possessed plenty of scoring pop as he tallied at least 25 goals and 60 points on five occasions each.
7. Barrie Moore and Craig Millar to Edmonton for Miroslav Satan
In retrospect, it’s easy for Sabres fans to call forward Miroslav Satan streaky, lazy and heartless, but the fact remains that he was Buffalo’s lone true scoring threat during its Stanley Cup run in 1998-99 and for quite some time thereafter. When the Sabres acquired Satan from the Edmonton Oilers during the 1996-97 season, he was an underachieving player who seemed miles away from reaching his true potential. That seemed to change once he joined the Sabres, however, as he scored eight goals in 12 games to close out the season.
Satan went on to play for Buffalo for parts of eight seasons. He scored at least 22 goals in each of his full seasons as a Sabre, including three 30-plus goal seasons and one 40-goal season. Although Satan may have had some dry spells in terms of scoring, he was extremely consistent on a season-by-season basis, as he totaled 62 or more points in five consecutive seasons as a Sabre. The factor that made this deal a home run for the Sabres is the fact that Barrie Moore and Craig Millar went on to do essentially nothing after the trade. Moore played in 39 career NHL games while totaling eight points, and Millar played in 114 games, accruing a grand total of 22 points.
6. Rick Martin to Los Angeles for 1st-Round Pick (Tom Barrasso)
Like Rene Robert as a member of “The French Connection,” Rick Martin is among the most legendary Sabres of all time. In 10 years as a Sabre, Martin racked up at least 73 points six times and scored 30 or more goals eight times, including two 50-goal seasons. No Sabre has more hat tricks or 40 goal seasons over the course of their careers than Martin. During the 1980-81 season, Martin suffered a severe knee injury that caused him to miss many games. With concerns surrounding his health, the Sabres dealt him during the season to the Los Angeles Kings for a third-round pick in 1981 and a future first-round pick.
“Rico” went on to play just four games for the Kings over a season and a half before having to retire due to his knee injury. Chisholm never played a game for the Sabres and went on to play in just one NHL game in total. Although the Sabres had to wait a couple years to use the first-round pick they acquired in this trade, it paid immediate dividends as they selected goalie Tom Barrasso fifth overall in 1983.
Barrasso became the only goalie to ever go straight from high school to the NHL, winning the Calder and Vezina Trophies as a rookie in 1984. Although he eventually fell out of favor in Buffalo, Barrasso went on to win two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh and is considered one of the greatest American goaltenders of all time.
5. Michal Grosek to Chicago for Doug Gilmour and J.P. Dumont
After falling just short of winning the Stanley Cup during the 1998-99 seasons, the Sabres were poised to make another run in 1999-00. Although they went on to lose to Philadelphia in the first round, general manager Darcy Regier executed a trade that set Buffalo up for future success. Forward Michal Grosek seemed to finally be reaching his potential as he piled up 20 goals and 50 points. After struggling to maintain that form the following season, the Sabres dealt him to Chicago for forwards Doug Gilmour and J.P. Dumont. The decision was a great one was Grosek never scored more than 20 points in a season over the next five years.
Gilmour was an immediate help to Buffalo as he scored 17 points in 11 games to lead the Sabres to the playoffs. He was unable to replicate that success in 2000-01, however, and wound up leaving Buffalo on poor terms before retiring two seasons later. Dumont went on to prove that he was by far the best asset in the deal, playing five seasons for Buffalo and scoring at least 20 goals in a season four times.
Dumont was especially valuable as a playoff performer, especially in 2005-06 when he totaled 14 points in 18 games. After leaving the Sabres following that fantastic playoff run, Dumont continued his progression by scoring at least 65 points in three straight seasons for the Nashville Predators.
4. Mike Wilson to Florida for Rhett Warrener, 5th-Round Draft Pick (Ryan Miller)
After defeating the Hartford Whalers in the final game at The Aud at the end of the 1995-96 season, the Sabres celebrated by having Sabres of the past, present and future skate in a ceremony. One of the players who represented the future of the Sabres was defenseman Mike Wilson. It may seem comical to consider that now, but there were high hopes for Wilson at that time. It goes without saying that Wilson never lived up to his potential, but that didn’t stop the Sabres from getting a king’s ransom in return for him. Buffalo traded Wilson to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Rhett Warrener and a fifth-round pick during the 1998-99 season.
Had the trade been Wilson for Warrener straight up, it still would have been a resounding win for Buffalo. Wilson went on to play in just 105 more NHL games after the trade and has since played in the AHL and ECHL, as well as in Europe. Warrener would play in parts of five seasons for the Sabres, teaming with Jay McKee to form one of the steadiest defensive pairings in Sabres’ history. He also eventually became part of the trade that brought center Chris Drury to Buffalo.
While a fifth-round pick is normally just a filler in trades, it helped the Sabres knock this deal out of the park in this instance. That’s because this particular pick turned out to be all-world goaltender Ryan Miller. Say what you will about Miller’s performance in the clutch, but there are few better goalies in all of the NHL. Miller proved his worth when he won the Vezina Trophy following the 2009-10 season. For a trade that occurred over a decade ago, it’s quite amazing that a piece of the deal is still central to the success of the Sabres.
3. Eddie Shack to Pittsburgh for Rene Robert
Forward Eddie Shack played over 1,000 games in the NHL from 1958 to 1975. He was touted as a warrior who any team would be happy to have on their roster. With that said, Shack was nearing the end of his career when he joined the Sabres for their inaugural season in 1970. Shack played a season and a half in Buffalo before being dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward Rene Robert. Shack played three more NHL seasons after the trade, but injuries greatly limited his effectiveness.
Robert, on the other hand, went on to become one of the greatest Sabres of all time. Forming “The French Connection” with Gilbert Perreault and Rick Martin, Robert played parts of eight seasons for Buffalo. He never scored less than 21 goals in a full season and tallied four 30-goal seasons and two 40-goal seasons. Robert was also named to two All-Star teams during his career as a Sabre and broke the 100-point plateau on one occasion. This trade was clearly a case of a team overpaying for name recognition and paying dearly for it in the long run.
2. Stephane Beauregard, 4th-Round Pick (Eric Daze) to Chicago for Dominik Hasek
Quite frankly, Stephane Beauregard was a poor goalie who accomplished very little as an NHL player. He played in just 90 career NHL games and had a cumulative goals against average of 3.65 over the course of his career. The Buffalo Sabres acquired Beauregard from the Winnipeg Jets following the 1991-92 season, but he was then flipped to Chicago two months later without ever playing a game for Buffalo. In addition to Beauregard, the Sabres sent a fourth-round draft pick to the Blackhawks in exchange for goalie Dominik Hasek.
Although the fourth-round pick in the trade turned out to be forward Eric Daze who had four 30-goal seasons as a Blackhawk, there is no question that Buffalo fleeced Chicago in this deal. Hasek was a relative unknown before playing well in relief of Ed Belfour during the 1992 playoffs. When Chicago decided to stick with Belfour as its starter, the Sabres benefited by getting Hasek at a discounted price. Hasek was incredible from the get go as he won the Vezina Trophy in each of his first two seasons in Buffalo.
In all, Hasek won six Vezinas, two Hart Trophies and led the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Finals during the 1998-99 season. While he never won the big one in Buffalo, he carried many average Sabres’ teams on his back and is without question one of the greatest goaltenders of all time.
1. Chris Gratton to Phoenix Coyotes for Daniel Briere
While he may be hated by some Sabres fans now due to his affiliation with the Philadelphia Flyers, there is no question that forward Daniel Briere had a profound impact on the renaissance of the Buffalo Sabres. When the Sabres acquired Briere from the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2003 trade deadline, they were in flux due to the jailing of previous owner John Rigas for embezzlement. Without an owner and without a certain future, general manager Darcy Regier pulled off one of the biggest steals in recent memory when he got Briere for underachieving forward Chris Gratton.
Briere showed potential immediately, racking up 65 points during the 2003-04 season. With the ownership issue resolved, the Sabres became a model franchise following the NHL lockout because of their innovative style of offense. Briere was a huge part of that as he recorded 58 points in just 48 games during an injury-plagued 2005-06 season. His success carried into the playoffs as well as he put up 19 points in 18 games. If not for an unfortunate string of defensive injuries, the Sabres could very well have won the Cup that season.
Briere became an elite player the following season as he totaled 95 points for the President’s Trophy-winning Sabres. He was also a point-per-game player in the playoffs, although the Sabres fell short of their ultimate goal once again. Briere went on to sign a monster deal with the Flyers and has built upon his stellar career. As for Gratton, he played in five more NHL seasons, but he topped the 30-point mark just twice.