Timeline: Regier era in Buffalo

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In June of 1997, the Buffalo Sabres hired a former journeyman defenseman named Darcy Regier as the sixth general manager in franchise history.

What followed was one of the longest relationships ever between GM and organization. Regier spent 17 seasons on the job in Buffalo and, prior to his dismissal, was the NHL’s third-longest tenured general manager.

As such, there’s plenty of history to look back on during his time in Buffalo…

1997: Regier is hired and replaces embattled GM John Muckler, who was in a feud with then-head coach and reigning Jack Adams winner Ted Nolan. Regier reportedly made Nolan a one-year offer, which Nolan rejected before leaving the organization entirely.

Regier replaced Nolan with Lindy Ruff, who would go on to coach the Sabres for 16 seasons.

’97-98: Regier made his first major trade, dealing franchise legend Pat LaFontaine to the Rangers, just prior to the start of the season. The move came after LaFontaine feuded with Buffalo’s team physicians — he felt he was OK to return from a concussion, Sabres doctors felt differently.

LaFontaine went on to score 62 points in 67 games with the Rangers before retiring after the season.

1998: John Rigas purchases the Sabres from the Knox family.

1999: Arguably Regier’s finest time in Buffalo. Led by the stalwart goaltending of Dominik Hasek, Regier made three key additions at the trade deadline — Stu Barnes, Joe Juneau, Rhett Warriner — that helped Buffalo advance to the second Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

Buffalo lost in six games to Dallas, a series infamous for this goal (or, depending where you’re from, no-goal):

2000: Regier loads up at the deadline, acquiring Doug Gilmour, Chris Gratton and JP Dumont. The moves fail to pay off, though, as the Sabres are eliminated by Philly in five games in the opening round.

2000-01: Regier engages in a contentious contract squabble with captain Mike Peca, which leads to Peca sitting out the entire season. The impasse leads to Hasek questioning the club’s commitment to winning.

In June, Regier trades Peca to the Islanders and Hasek to Detroit in what marks a changing of the guard for the organization. The moves were made to reduce payroll (Hasek was dealt just before his one-year, $9 million extension kicked in) and begin a rebuild.

In the three seasons following the Hasek/Peca deals, Buffalo failed to make the playoffs.

2003: Tom Golisano purchases the team from Rigas after Rigas and was indicted on conspiracy, securities, bank and wire fraud charges. Rigas amassed $150 million in debt on the Sabres, and the financial situation handcuffed Regier from spending on and retaining free agents.

2001-04: After stockpiling picks, Regier brings in a fresh new crop of Sabres via the draft. The 2001 class yields Derek Roy and Jason Pominville; ’02 nets Keith Ballard, Daniel Paille and Dennis Wideman (none do much of anything for Buffalo, mind you), ’03 lands Thomas Vanek and Clarke MacArthur; ’04 sees Buffalo obtain Drew Stafford, Andrej Sekera and Patrick Kaleta.

Regier also goes about re-establishing the team’s identity through a series of trades, most notably acquiring Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, who go on to serve as co-captains.

2005-06: The rebuild is a success as Buffalo emerges from the lockout as one of the NHL’s most dynamic teams. The Sabres win 52 games and rack up 110 points during the ’05-06 season, boasting one of the league’s best offenses featuring six 20-goal scorers.

Ryan Miller, the club’s fifth-round pick in ’99, emerges as a bonafide No. 1 and the club’s best goaltender since Hasek. The Sabres lose in the Eastern Conference final to Carolina.

2006-07: Buffalo is as good, if not better, than the year before, winning 53 games while racking up 113 points. The team finishes first in the NHL in goals for (308), Briere and Drury post career highs in points and Vanek has a breakthrough campaign, scoring 43 times.

But the Sabres once again fail to get to a Stanley Cup Final, losing in the EC finals to Ottawa.

2007-09: Things begin to crumble. Briere sign in Philly, Drury signs with the Rangers and Vanek signs a massive offer sheet with Edmonton (seven years, $50 million) forcing the Sabres to match, putting a pinch on the club’s finances.

Buffalo fails to make the playoffs in ’07-08 sand ’08-09, their first misses since the lockout.

2009-11: Miller emerges as one of the best goalies on the planet, the Vanek-Roy-Pominville trio emerges and the Sabres are a solid 40-45 win team, but they crash out of the opening playoff round in ’09-10 and ’10-11. Regier appears to hit a draft pick out of the park, though, when ’08 first-rounder Tyler Myers wins the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.

2011-present: New Sabres owner Terry Pegula purchases the team from Golisano and essentially gives Regier a blank checkbook, and Regier proceeds to sign Christian Ehrhoff ($40 million), Ville Leino ($27 million) and trade for Robyn Regehr.

The moves failed to make an impact, though.

Buffalo missed the playoffs in 2011-12 and Regier began shipping out assets. Jordan Leopold, Paul Gaustad, Roy, Regehr, Sekera, Pominville and Vanek were all moved for either prospects or picks (the Sabres end up with five first-round picks from 2011-13, selecting Joel Armia, Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov.)

Nov. 13, 2013: Regier is relieved of his duties as Sabres GM.

It’s Pittsburgh Penguins day at PHT

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The Pittsburgh Penguins became the first team since the 1997-98 and 1998-99 Detroit Red Wings to repeat as Stanley Cup champions last season.

After a summer of painful (if necessary) losses, the Penguins now aim to become the first NHL team to “three-peat” since the New York Islanders rattled off a dizzying four consecutive championships from 1980-83.

Just yesterday, Matt Cullen became the latest omission from the Penguins’ mix, but he was far from the only noteworthy loss. Marc-Andre Fleury headlines a list of exits that also includes Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Trevor Daley, and Ron Hainsey.

Their additions have been a mix of small (Matt Hunwick) and polarizing (giving up a first-rounder for Ryan Reaves), so overall this team saw some minuses this summer.

That said, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the Penguins navigated the choppy waters of the postseason despite plenty of bruises, especially with Kris Letang out for the entire 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. One could argue that a healthy Letang cancels out most of the Penguins’ losses.

(You know, not that this franchise isn’t accustomed to seeing Letang, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin miss significant time almost every year.)

It’s been a remarkable run, as the Penguins have been on fire ever since Mike Sullivan took over. Phil Kessel‘s been a brilliant addition, even with the hot dog jokes and surprising trade rumors.

Matt Murray‘s also been a revelation, although the 2017-18 season presents an intriguing test for a goalie who has enjoyed a Ken Dryden-like start to his career. With “The Flower” out of town, more rests on Murray, a goalie who’s passed all of his tests with flying colors so far, but hasn’t ever carried a franchise netminder’s workload.

There’s a lot to like when it comes to the Penguins next season, who even with some tough losses, retain the vast majority of their key contributors. Will they run out of gas after two championship runs, not to mention some key players getting older? Can they continue to generate great results in a challenging Metropolitan Division?

PHT explores the defending champions’ burning questions today.

Draisaitl on signing with Oilers: ‘We have something really special’

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As a restricted free agent, Leon Draisaitl only had so much say regarding his future with the Edmonton Oilers, especially since teams rarely send offer sheets around in the NHL.

Even so, Draisaitl could have opted for a “bridge” deal; instead, he signed for the maximum of eight years for a whopping $68 million on Wednesday.

Some would probably grumble but understand if Draisaitl explained his rational by pointing at one of those big checks or at a calculator. Instead, the promising young forward explained that he believes that the Oilers have a bright future, and he wants to be a part of it.

In case you’re wondering, additional details have surfaced regarding the year-to-year breakdown of Draisaitl’s deal. TVA’s Renaud Lavoie also reports that Draisaitl has a no-movement clause, thus making it that much more likely that he’ll get his wish to stick with the Oilers:

Of course, with Draisaitl and Connor McDavid combining for a $21M cap hit beginning in 2018-19, the bigger question is not whether they will stay, but who the Oilers will manage to keep in the fold.

Still, that’s for GM Peter Chiarelli & Co. to decide. For Draisaitl, this is a great moment, and he might even be able to back up that big contract with big results on the ice.

Cullen explains why he chose Wild over Penguins

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If you check out a bio on Matt Cullen, you’ll notice that he’s from Minnesota. It doesn’t take a leak, then, to explain why Cullen signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.

As Cullen explained to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “this is a family decision.” As he goes deeper into his logic, even especially sore Pittsburgh Penguins fans should probably understand Cullen’s perspective.

“Minnesota is home and it’s a special place for me,” Cullen said. “It’s not easy to say goodbye and it’s not easy to walk away [from Pittsburgh]. I’m confident in the decision we’re making and it’s the right thing for our family. But at the same time, it’s not an easy one.

Now, to be fair, Cullen also told Russo that he believes the Wild are a “hungry” team that might have been the West’s best in 2016-17. It’s not like he’s roughing it, and surely the $1 million (and $700K in performance bonuses that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher hopes Cullen collects) didn’t hurt, either.

Still, such a decision makes extra sense for a 40-year-old who’s played for eight different NHL teams during his impressive career. Russo’s story about Cullen attending his kids games and seeing his brothers is worth a read just for those warm and fuzzy feelings we often forget about in crunching the numbers and pondering which teams might be big-time contenders in 2017-18.

This isn’t to say that getting a fourth Stanley Cup ring wouldn’t be appealing to Cullen, but perhaps he’ll get his family time and win big, too?

There’s also the familiarity that comes with playing three fairly recent seasons with the Wild, so Cullen’s choice seems like it checks a lot of the boxes.

In other positive Wild news, Russo reports that Eric Staal is feeling 100 percent after suffering a concussion during the playoffs.

Tuesday was Wild day at PHT, but perhaps this feels more like Wild week?

Bovada gives McDavid higher odds than Crosby to win Hart in 2017-18

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In handing Connor McDavid an eight-year, $100 million extension, the Edmonton Oilers essentially are paying the 20-year-old star based on the assumption that he’ll provide MVP-quality play.

At least one Vegas oddsmaker agrees, as Bovada tabbed McDavid as the favorite to win the Hart Trophy, edging Sidney Crosby.

That’s interesting, yet it might be even more interesting to note where other players fall in the rankings. Auston Matthews coming in third is particularly intriguing.

Who are some of the more interesting choices? The 20/1 range seems appealing, as Carey Price is one of the few goalies with the notoriety to push for such honors while John Tavares has the skill and financial motivation to produce the best work of his career next season.

Anyway, entertain yourself with those odds, via Bovada: (Quick note: Bovada originally had Artemi Panarin listed as still playing with Chicago. PHT went ahead and fixed that in the bit below.)

2017 – 2018 – Who will win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player?
Connor McDavid (EDM)                         3/2
Sidney Crosby (PIT)                              5/2
Auston Matthews (TOR)                         17/2
Alex Ovechkin (WAS)                            9/1
Patrick Kane (CHI)                                 14/1
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL)                       15/1
Evgeni Malkin (PIT)                                16/1
Carey Price (MON)                                 20/1
John Tavares (NYI)                                20/1
Jamie Benn (DAL)                                 25/1
Steven Stamkos (TB)                             25/1
Erik Karlsson (OTT)                               33/1
Nikita Kucherov (TB)                              33/1
Jack Eichel (BUF)                                  50/1
Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)                               50/1
Patrik Laine (WPG)                                50/1
Brad Marchand (BOS)                            50/1
Tyler Seguin (DAL)                                50/1
Nicklas Backstrom (WAS)                      60/1
Brent Burns (SJ)                                    60/1
Braden Holtby (WAS)                            60/1
Phil Kessel (PIT)                                    60/1
Artemi Panarin (CBJ)                              60/1
Joe Pavelski (SJ)                                  60/1