In the summer of 2008 Dan Paille signed a two-year contract worth $2.25 million. Sabres fans were giddy, as the 23-year-old had just come off a 35 point season (19+16) in just his first full tour with the team. Things were looking up, nicknames were debated, and the former first rounder looked poised to play a key role on the Sabres for years to come.
Just over a year later, Paille gets shipped to Boston for draft picks, joining the growing list of first round draft busts in the Darcy Regier era. Reaction to the news has ranged from outrage to indifference. A good nickname lost and draft picks gained.
But what happened?
Well, the Sabres had too many forwards, and Daniel Paille fell off a cliff. The guy we thought might get floated an offer sheet that summer went away for long stretches during the 08-09 season, and with only 27 points (12+15) and a decrease in productivity on the penalty kill, he moved down the depth chart. That’s tough to do on a team stricken with mediocre players, but Paille managed to spend a few games in the press box watching other sub-par performances on the ice.
The departure of Paille might not be a big deal for some fans, but this is an interesting demarcation point in the tenure of Darcy Regier. As John Vogl notes, not only is this the first time the Sabres have ever traded with the Boston Bruins, it’s also the first time since 2002 that he’s made an in-season trade that wasn’t at the trade deadline.
Now trading with Boston is an interesting departure from the “Don’t trade within the division” mantra, but pulling the trigger in anytime but February/March is a huge deal. How many times has Darcy waited to make a move with a struggling team early in the season while fans clamor for new blood? How many times have the Sabres waited until March to evaluate what they have and move accordingly?
Moving Paille says a number of things, the first of which being that Tyler Myers and Tim Kennedy are up for good. We’ve been saying that about Myers for a few days now, but yesterday Darcy said some pretty strong things about Kennedy:
“I initiated it awhile back, not specifically with Boston, but I contacted a number of teams about our situation, that we had a lot of forwards,” Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said by phone. “[Rookie Tim Kennedy] makes our team in the middle, and he pushes people out to the wing. Next thing you know, you’ve got an abundance of left wingers. That’s really the only reason that we were able to make this move.
In other words Kennedy wasn’t going anywhere, and the Sabres needed to act accordingly. Considering the seven-year gap in trades like this, either Kennedy made a huge impression or Darcy understands just how important this season is for both he and Lindy Ruff. So far the Sabres have had few problems on the ice, but their personnel logjam needs to be fixed.
That means evaluating just what the team has and making roster moves accordingly. Getting rid of a Paille puts Ellis in lineup more frequently and ensures Tim Kennedy stays in Buffalo. It also means that injuries will bring us another dose of Portland players like Gerbe and Mancari, which continues the notable youth movement we’re seeing.
Let’s face it, I’d rather see Paille get shipped out for something rather than see a press box full of forwards and a backed up farm system. Boston has their needs and we have our surplus, and a third round pick isn’t the end of the world. Neither is a Buffalo Sabres team without Paille. We have too many mid-range forwards on this roster, and if Paille isn’t making “the leap” then I’m just fine with him going elsewhere.
We still haven’t found a resolution for our eight defenseman problem, but that decision has been delayed by Sekera’s injury. Still, we’re seeing a roster issue solved a lot faster than we’re used to, and that’s a good thing. Say what you will about Darcy’s record with first round draft picks, but trading Paille shows that he’s willing to admit his mistakes.
Just 195 games and 77 points later, Daniel Paille has been recycled into a third round draft pick and spare parts. Better now than in March.