|Monday, March 10
Updated: May 16, 6:11 PM ET
Sabres part with Ray, Barnes and Gratton
The Sabres, mired near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, sent 14-year veteran winger Ray to the Ottawa Senators for future considerations, then dealt captain Stu Barnes to the Dallas Stars for center Mike Ryan and Dallas' second-round selection in the 2003 draft.
Late in the evening it was announced thei were trading Gratton and a fourth-round choice in 2004 to the Phoenix Coyotes for center Daniel Briere and a third-round choice in 2004.
"It's a cold, harsh, stark reality of where we are as a franchise,'' Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said. "But it's an opportunity to reaccelerate the building process for what will amount to focus on not only next season, but even more so, beyond a new collective bargaining agreement.''
Regier said he consulted with B. Thomas Golisano, the Rochester billionaire expected to complete a deal to buy the team in the near future. The hockey franchise declared bankruptcy earlier this season.
"What we have that we didn't have before is a sense of direction. Frankly, I think it's a good direction,'' Regier said. "We have something here that's broken and needs to be fixed. The fixing is beginning.''
Regier said the Sabres could make further deals before the NHL's trading deadline Tuesday.
Barnes, acquired by the Sabres on March 11, 1999, helped lead the Sabres to the Stanley Cup finals that season. Barnes tied for the team lead with seven playoff goals, and led the league with four power-play goals in the postseason.
The Sabres lost to Dallas in six games in the finals. Now, Barnes goes to the team that spoiled the Sabres' dream.
The Stars lead the NHL's Western Conference with 93 points.
"It's a great opportunity, it's something you play for ever since you were a kid, to lift that cup above your head,'' Barnes said.
Ray goes to Ottawa, which has a league-best 94 points.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to go to a contender,'' Ray said. "It's something the Sabres didn't have to do, but I appreciate the fact they did it.''
The deals also helped the Sabres decrease their payroll.
"In Stu's case there is significant financial relief,'' Regier said. "On the other hand, it creates flexibility. As for what happens to those funds, that's something we'll get a little better feel for down the road.''
The trades mean the Sabres will have to fill a void in the locker room left by the departure of their captain and alternate captain.
"It's tough,'' Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "Rob and I spent six years together in a coach-player relationship. There's nothing bad I can say about Rob. He brought a lot to this team on the ice and even more off the ice. Obviously, I'm sad to see him go.
"I've always thought of Stu has an overachiever. As a player he works extremely hard. He's a hell of a player to coach and he's been a hell of a teammate for his fellow players.''
Gratton, not opposed to being dealt, was the Sabres' second-leading scorer with 15 goals and 44 points in 66 games this season.
Briere is an offensive-minded center, who was third among Coyotes scorers with 17 goals and 46 points in 68 games. The Sabres got younger in the deal with Phoenix as Briere, 25, is in only his second full NHL season.
Gratton, 27, has had a history of being inconsistent, and is in his 10th NHL season. He's spent two stints with Tampa Bay, and parts of two seasons with Philadelphia.
''Obviously Chris was a good player for us, but what we do is kind of roll it back here a little bit,'' general manager Darcy Regier said. ''(Briere's) a couple of years younger. He's certainly a different type of player and I think it's a good fit for us considering where we'd like to go. ... He's got upside.''