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Commentary: Sabres lay foundation for new ‘core’

The 2013 NHL trade deadline has come and gone. Sabres general manager Darcy Regier is known for making big moves at the deadline, and this year was no exception.

Veteran defensemen Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr were traded to the St. Louis Blues and L.A. Kings, respectively. Rookie defenseman T.J. Brennan was sent to the Florida Panthers. Despite all of this, it still came as a surprise to everyone when the Sabres announced that they had traded captain Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild. Pominville, drafted by Buffalo in the second round of the 2001 entry draft, had played his entire career with the Sabres to that point.

In exchange for these players, the Sabres received prospects and draft picks. Between the 2013 and 2014 drafts, they now have three first-round picks and five second-round picks. In the Pominville trade, the Sabres also received prospect Johan Larsson, a responsible defensive-minded forward, and goaltender Matt Hackett, a solid goalie with potential to be a starter.

With the Pominville trade, the Sabres became the youngest team in the NHL. Regier refuses to label it as such, but it is clear that the Sabres are rebuilding. Pominville was part of a core group of players including Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek, who had been part of the team for several years. These players led a team that consistently underachieved, season after season, despite changes in ownership, coaching personnel and players. In the last five years, the Sabres either missed the playoffs completely or lost in the first round. This is simply unacceptable for a team whose reason for existence is to “win the Stanley Cup,” according to owner Terry Pegula.

Although the rebuilding phase may take some time, it can eventually pay big dividends. Inevitably the team will get worse before it gets better. Fans who stick with this young team through its growing pains should eventually see it begin to improve beyond its current status. The current makeup of the team is a better alternative than mediocrity and stagnant veteran players. Meanwhile, in the remainder of this season, AHL players such as Kevin Porter and Mark Pysyk can get valuable NHL experience.

If the Sabres use their draft picks wisely in the next few years, they will end up with several of the top young players in the world. These players will not immediately be ready to enter the NHL, of course, but they can continue improving and developing until they’re ready. They are the future leaders of the team. They will form another core group that will hopefully, unlike Pominville, Vanek and Miller, lead the team to a Stanley Cup.

Kelsey Auman is a junior at Orchard Park High School.