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Sabres start off-season of changes

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06-11-2007, 09:37 PM
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Sabres start off-season of changes

After being a major disappointment during the season, and being absoloutely horrible in the playoffs after promising so much heading into the 06-07 season, changes were bound to made. Perhaps none of them however will be quite so drastic.

The Sabres ran a press conference to announce that top line center Olli Jokinen will take his A game to Columbus along with veteran blueliner Scott Hannan, promising youngsters Nikolai Zherdev and Lukas Kkrajicek and the Sabres 1st round pick in 2008. Coming back in the deal are stud blueliner Joni Pitkanen and Matt Pettinger.

The deal has bought a wave of mixed reactions from fans, who are still hurting from the downward spiral that came in the aftermath of the Berard trade. There are those who question what the organisation is trying to do, given only 2 seasons ago, Ryan Whitney was moved along with Gilbert Brule for what amounted to be Olli Jokinen and Shawn Matthias, and now they're giving up Jokinen plus a heap to get back Pitkanen, who is not a whole lot better than Whitney.

Of course, that deal bought Buffalo a cup, so nobody can really complain too much...as much as the franchise would love to have Whitney back.

When asked about the deal, Pitt was more than happy to talk...looking like a man who had gotten a lot off his chest.

"This one was one of the more difficult deals i've had to do in my time." Pitt said.

"Its one thing to do a deal to help your team, its another thing to do a deal you think will help you in the long-run, but you KNOW you're overpaying for the guys you're getting. That's the hardest part about this deal...we knew we wanted another all-star calibre blueliner and to get a guy as young as Joni was as good as we could hope for. We want to get younger always...its important in a cap environment...young guys are RFA's and therefor cheaper to keep. Olli was going to become a UFA after the upcoming season, as was Daniel Briere, and we knew we couldn't afford to keep both of them. So we made a really tough call and moved one to keep the team intact. Nikolai was the hardest piece to give up once we had come to the conclusion that one of Olli or Daniel had to go. He's the X-Factor in this deal. Scott almost became expendable (not that a guy like Scotty is ever "expendable") with the likely arrivals of rookies Hainsey and Suter, and Lukas was going to struggle to find a home here for the same reason. He'll get a good chance in Columbus with a rebuilding team. Matt brings some much needed toughness and grit to a lineup we felt was still lacking a bit of heart (even after the addition of Eric Cole) and hopefully will have a Scott Hartnell type effect on the guys around him. I'm sure Joni would have liked us to deal Daniel instead, just to keep another Finn around (the team also has Tuomo Ruutu on the roster) but he's really happy to be here with the guys and playing for a contender. I think he's excited by the prospect of he and Jay becoming the next elite pairing in the league...and yes they will play together this season."

"Also, We still feel strong about our forward crew. Travis Zajac is a lock to make the team and he gave us a bit more flexibility up front. Kris Beech, Boyd Gordon and Andrew Ladd should also be in the mix and give us a good 4th line."

With Pitkanen joining Gonchar and Bouwmeester to give the Sabres an awesome 1-2-3 blueline punch, and with resident stopper/tough guys Orpik and Mitchell and rookies Hainsey and Suter, its clear that Richard Jackman's time with the team has come to an end, and its quite possible one of the 7 will be moved to picks/prospects, or used to add a decent backup goalie, as Dany Sabourin looked lost last season after getting off to a strong start.

Pitt has yet to declare that the time for dealing is over, and word is that Marleau and Jagr are still available should the right offer come along, and that the only truly untouchables within the orgainsation are Bouwmeester, Pitkanen, Miller, Frolov and Ryan Suter (who is the latest in a long list of elite young Sabres blueliners that have been coveted by other teams....he would have been the key piece in a deal for Kovalchuk, had Pitt chosen to go down that path instead of making this trade). Regardless, with the draft so close, and a little bit of $$$ available to add a veteran in Free Agency things should still stay interesting for the Sabres and their fans!

Thats all...for now

Buffalo Bill
Hockey Editor for The Buffalo News

Last edited by Chuzwazza: 06-11-2007 at 09:51 PM.
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