May 25, 1971 -- Sometimes the small deals pay the biggest dividends.
Such was the case when Sabres' General Manager Punch Imlach made a nice little transaction with the Detroit Red Wings that turned out to be one of the best moves in team history.
The Sabres had three goaltenders after the 1970-71 season, their first in the NHL. Roger Crozier was good and Dave Dryden was coming along, so they didn't really have room for Joe Daley. Therefore, Imlach sent Daley to the Red Wings for center Don Luce and defenseman Mike Robitaille.
Luce had scored four goals in his NHL career, and he was mostly stuck in the Rangers' AHL system before spending a year as a regular in Detroit. Robitaille had spent the 1970 AHL playoffs in Buffalo, helping the Bisons win a Calder Cup in their last year of play. Daley was best known for not wearing a mask. He might have reconsidered the night he faced 72 shots in a game against Boston in 1970, setting a team record that is still on the book.
Luce turned out to be a huge find. He teamed up with Craig Ramsay soon into his first year as a Sabre, and the two became one of the best pair of penalty-killers in the league. Luce later helped pay dividends off the ice when he worked in Buffalo's front office. Robitaille stayed for more than three years in Buffalo and helped the Sabres reach the playoffs for the first time in 1973. What's more, he became a popular broadcaster; Robitaille still has that role today.
Daley jumped to the World Hockey Association. He had some good years there ... although that didn't help the Wings much.
--- Budd Bailey
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