BUFFALO — In a seller’s market, with bubble teams clamoring for any asset that might buoy their playoff chances and contenders searching for that last piece, Sabres veteran Paul Gaustad should be coveted at the upcoming NHL trade deadline.
The versatile American, an unrestricted free agent in July, has been at his best recently, centering a strong shutdown line with Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Kaleta.
Gaustad has three goals, including the winning score Sunday, and seven points in the past 10 contests. At 56.8, he ranks ninth overall in faceoff percentage. He won 16 of 23 draws last game. He also kills penalties and can play center or wing.
With his stock rising, he could bring at least a second-round pick.
But who says the 14th-place Sabres are sellers leading up to Monday’s trade embargo?
Fresh off a 6-2 thumping of Pittsburgh on Sunday, a win tonight against the New York Islanders at the First Niagara Center could bring the Sabres (57 points) to within five of the eighth and final playoff spot with 22 games remaining.
“Right now, I’m not even going to comment,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Monday when asked if he expected any moves. “I look at it like if we can win a game, we can close the gap to five points. You win that game (tonight), I think we can put ourselves in this. …
“I think we can put a run together, and I told the team that before Pittsburgh, that I still believe in you, that when we’ve been healthy and on the same page, we’ve been able to push ahead.”
Whether the Sabres, a sturdy 6-3-2 since they reached full strength Jan. 24 in New Jersey, push ahead with Gaustad will be interesting.
The 30-year-old met with Sabres general manager Darcy Regier on Saturday, a meeting he’s downplaying as being about the team and not his future. Clearly, Gaustad, a homegrown player in his seventh season, doesn’t want to leave.