Feb. 27, 2008 -- The Buffalo Sabres knew they would have trouble re-signing defenseman Brian Campbell when his contract expired in the summer of 2008. The decision was: should they keep him through the end of the season and possibly get nothing for him, or trade him before the deadline?
The latter alternative won. John Vogl reported on Campbell's departure this way in The News:
There is a file on Darcy Regier's computer that charts the future of the Buffalo Sabres. The general manager had a feeling 2008 could be an off-the-charts year for Brian Campbell. He was right.
Regier used his cut-and-paste key strokes Tuesday, taking Campbell and this June's seventh-round draft selection off his file. In their place, the Sabres inserted young San Jose forward Steve Bernier and the Sharks' first-round pick.
The trade of the two-time All-Star defenseman was expected, and not just by those with access to Regier's time line.Campbell is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July. For an organization that has lost too many unrestricted players without getting anything in return, holding on to Campbell just to have him walk out the door this summer was not an option.
"You recognize that if you allow everyone to go to the unrestricted free agent market, and I'm not blaming anyone here, your draft cannot support the makeup of your hockey club," Regier said. "Subsequently, in the best interest of the club, you have to get something back. Otherwise, you won't have enough players and you won't have enough quality."
The decision to trade an older, costlier player for a young prospect is a switch from recent seasons. The Sabres had been a bona-fide Stanley Cup contender at the previous two deadlines, so they went the opposite trade route. They are on the playoff bubble entering tonight's game against Nashville in HSBC Arena, so it was time to restock the organization.
--- Budd Bailey