The Sabres possess nearly $6 million in cap space to acquire the talent necessary to make this team a true contender. Regier has a history of adding pieces to a team to help down the stretch. Players like Geoff Sanderson, Stu Barnes, Doug Gilmour and Dainius Zubrus, were all acquired at the trade deadline to help a contending team.
He has also been willing to trade talent to contenders to bolster the team for the future. Danny Briere was acquired in one such deal. in fact, Regier has made at least one move at or near the deadline each season since joining the Sabres except one.
The next 8 games should go along way to determining if the Sabres are buyers or sellers at the deadline. Over the next three weeks Buffalo will make three significant road trips. The first, which began with an underwhelming performance in Detroit, includes contests with the surging Blackhawks on Wednesday followed by a game Thursday at Dallas.
The Sabres then play a critical game at home against 8th place Carolina before embarking on a two game trip through Florida before the All-Star break. After the break, the Sabres play 4 in a row out West against playoff contenders Edmonton, Calgary, Phoenix and Anaheim.
A winning record over the next 8 games should go along way towards solidifying the Sabres' playoff position and convincing Quinn and Regier to bolster the lineup before the deadline. A failure to play well during this critical stretch could just as easily drop the team out of a playoff spot and convince management to be sellers at the deadline.
Regardless of the result of the next eight games, Regier will be active at the deadline. If the team is out of contention, look for Regier to try to trade some of our pending free agents to save money and give additional ice time to young players like Gerbe, Kennedy, and Butler. The franchise may also audition restricted free agents like Zagrapan to determine if they have a future with the organization.
In the event that the team remains in contention, expect some movement, but nothing Earth shattering. Given the weak economy, uncertainty about the next season's Salary Cap and the team's budget constraints, I believe it is highly unlikely that management makes any significant moves to bolster the lineup unless the team trades a contract for a contract. I also believe that this would be a mistake.
The log jam for playoff positions illustrates the amount of parity in the Eastern Conference. With parity comes opportunity for the GM who takes some risk and makes the right calls. The Sabres' strong performance against the top teams in the East shows that with the right pieces the team this season can go deep into the playoffs. For teams like the Sabres, the deeper they travel into the playoffs the more profitable the season for ownership.
In addition, a strong effort by management to bolster the team also creates significant good will amongst fans. This usually translates to a higher percentage of season ticket renewals, which are the life blood of the franchise.
Ruff and Regier should know what a couple of key additions can do to a team on the playoff bubble. In 1998-99, Regier acquired Stu Barnes, Joe Juneau and Rhett Warrener at the deadline to bolster a marginal playoff team. Warrener and Juneau's inspired play helped Dominik Hasek and Miroslav Satan lead the 7th seeded Sabres to the Stanley Cup finals against Dallas. What more needs to be said?