BUFFALO (LGS) — Darcy Regier sat in front of media cameras and microphones at HSBC Arena shortly after trading away their two-time All-Star defenseman. The Sabres general manager lamented that he was disappointed with not being able to reach a contract extension with Brian Campbell, essentially forcing the trade of the defenseman to San Jose in return for forward Steve Bernier and the Sharks' first-round draft pick in 2008.
"Steve Bernier addresses an immediate need and a future need," Regier explained. "He's a young player who will be able to help us now and down the road."
Don't get me wrong, maybe Bernier will work out down the road, as Regier stated, but to say the Sabres have addressed an immediate need is ridiculous. Simply put, the Buffalo Sabres took another big step back today while the teams they are chasing in the standings went the opposite direction.
The Sabres front office remains hell-bent that this group of players can still complete and make the playoffs. While I still believe these Sabres could and should make the playoffs this season, I have to question this move for a variety of reasons.
First and foremost, losing Brian Campbell is not a good thing for any team. While his play in some games over the last few weeks has been less than desired, Campbell proved over the past two seasons that his play goes to another level when the playoffs begin. We all know Soupy is a great offensive defenseman, but most of us forget how good he was during the playoffs over the previous two campaigns, especially in 2006 when the team was decimated in injuries during the Eastern Conference Finals against Carolina.
Losing Campbell obviously affects your special teams and Buffalo's much-talked-about transition game. Campbell was the quarterback on Buffalo's first power-play unit and the only defenseman on the team you could count on to consistently skate the puck up the ice and maintain position in the opponent's zone. The Sabres have no way to replace Campbell's capabilities this season and this is a serious blow to their playoff chances.
For a team that's screaming for leadership, I don't see how getting a 22-year-old forward is going to help. It took Campbell years to become a leader on this squad and when he finally accepted that role, he proceeds to be traded for a young power forward that has been regressing and not progressing since his short but successful rookie campaign in 2005-06.
While on the topic of Bernier, have the Sabres noticed the amount of right wingers they have on the roster? Maxim Afinogenov, Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville, Ales Kotalik and Patrick Kaleta. That's five right wingers before you throw Bernier into the mix.
God forbid Regier makes a smart move to pick up a centerman with some valuable experience considering the Sabres have only three natural-centers on the roster.
Obviously the status of Max and Drew are still in doubt, although Afinogenov could be back this weekend, but I just don't see how Bernier makes the Sabres better in the near future.
The glut of forwards of the roster, which I would have used as trade bait today, now leaves Buffalo very vulnerable on defense. The Sabres are only six defensemen strong with Nathan Paetsch as the team's final blueliner. Yes, the same Nathan Paetsch that the Sabres opted to sit in favor of minor league defenseman-turned-forward Marc-Andrew Gragnani over the past two games. Andrej Sekera is clearly Campbell's replacement down the road but don't expect anything from him this season.
The more I look at this trade, the more I dislike it. It makes me feel as if Regier panicked with Campbell because he didn't want to face another debacle this coming summer. While this might not be popular opinion, I would have rather the Sabres kept Campbell with the chance of losing him to free agency and been more apt to the Buffalo brass upgrading some of the forwards with a package deal. The Eastern Conference is wide open and having Campbell made the Sabres that much better. Adding a veteran centerman would have made this team even better and more dangerous.
Now, after a few hours of processing this trade, it feels as if the Sabres have raised the white flag on this season, no matter how Regier or Larry Quinn decide to spin their views. Sure, playoffs are a possibilty but do they honestly believe they can win once they get in? No matter how you slice it my friends, the Sabres have turn into the farm team for the rest of the league.
"Campbell is pretty much the best defenseman in the league, from my point of view," the newest Sabre said on a conference call with the media. "It's going to be tough. I'm young right now. I've got a lot of growing to do to become a good player. I'm happy to do it with the Sabres. I'm going to work hard and try to be as good as possible to make sure that trade is going to be a good trade for the Sabres."
And when that day comes that Bernier turns into the real deal, the Sabres incompetant management will surely find a way to lose him as well.
For a team that has made millions of dollars over the past three seasons, and a team that is owned by a billionaire, you have to expect and demand more, especially with the Stanley Cup up for grabs.
My take on the deal that wasn't...
What I just can't understand is the Sabres matched Campbell in terms of financial figures at roughly $5.75 million per season but they couldn't agree to terms on the years. Campbell wanted six, Buffalo wanted three. I don't know if the Sabres know this but defenseman, especially those like the 28-year-old Campbell, tend to get even better as they grow older. I don't believe Campbell has reached his prime yet and while the same can't be said for long-term deals given to forwards, I fully expect Campbell to be worth the money six years from now.