Paul Gaustad's seven year run as a member of the Buffalo Sabres is likely coming to an end in the next few weeks.
Despite Buffalo's recent surge which has gotten them to six points back, the Sabres aren't likely making the playoffs. After a 2-1 win over the Islanders on Tuesday night, their chance of making the playoffs actually went up to 1.3 percent according to Sports Club Stats.
Even if they do manage to squeak in, who would give them a chance in a seven game series against the Rangers or Bruins? They have proven over the course of the season that they are nowhere near the level of the top teams in the East.
With that in mind, the team should be looking to strike while the iron is hot and sell as many of its veterans as they can. Gaustad is probably their most appealing piece.
He's a big body (6'5' 212 pounds) who is not afraid of getting physical, which is gets more important as the playoffs progress. He plays center, and is consistently one of the top face off men in the league. Gaustad is shot-blocker and a key component to the Sabres excellent penalty kill in seasons past.
Gaustad is in the final year of his contract, which makes the 30-year-old an excellent rental option especially since he isn't exactly a super option on an everyday basis. Despite his strengths, Gaustad has nearly no scoring touch (71 goals in 477 NHL games) and he is a plodding skater. But for the right team he could add a ton of value as a third line center heading into the playoffs.
But which teams might be in need of his services?
Detroit Red Wings
In their last two playoff exits, the Red Wings were physically outmatched. While they are a team based on skill and speed, it is very difficult to compete in the NHL playoffs unless you are willing to get a little dirty.
Detroit also has one of the worst penalty killing units of any playoff team. They rank 18th in the league right now, stopping just 81.6 percent of opponents chances. Also, the Red Wings acquisition of Kyle Quincey on Tuesday shows that they are looking to get tougher.
Pittsburgh is one of the most likely destinations for Gaustad, especially with Sidney Crosby's status still in doubt, leaving the Pens a bit short staffed up the middle. In last night's game against the Rangers they played Dustin Jeffry as their third line center, and that could stand an upgrade.
The Penguins concern could be that they already have a player with a similar skillset to Gaustad in Joe Vitale; the major difference being Vitale's considerably smaller frame at 5'11 205.
Florida has been somewhat of a surprise success and they hold the third seed in the East by virtue of leading the Southeastern Division even though their 65 points would tie them for eighth without the division lead.
The Capitals are just two points back and Tampa Bay only five back. Both teams are proven late in the season and in the playoffs and the grit, determination and experience of Gaustad could help them hold onto the lead over tough competition.
The Panthers Mike Santorelli has been disappointing this year in the middle of the third line and he could easily be replaced by a player like Gaustad.
But none of this will matter if a deal cannot be struck. Sabres general manager Darcy Regier has a reputation for being difficult when it comes to making trades.
Leaf's GM Brian Burke said of Regier that he speaks a different language, when it comes to player evaluation, and in Burke's opinion Regier overvalues his own assets far too much.
With less than a week to play before the deadline, someone will take a run at Gaustad, but will Regier find a package he is interested in?
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