The Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres may not be thought of as regular rivals these days, but there was a time when the battles were intense between the two, mainly throughout the 1990, when they clashed in the playoffs nine times. The rivalry culminated in two famous line brawls, once in 1996, and the more famous encounter during the 1997 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
Off the ice, the trades between the two were few and far between, regularly going a decade or more without striking a deal. Though when the trade route was open, it led to some interesting moves that would play big roles in shaping the Flyers as we know them today.
11/16/71 – Larry Keenan for Larry Mickey
The first trade between the two teams came a year after the Sabres entered the league in 1970.
Larry Keenan was a forward prospect with the Buffalo Sabres, who had bounced between the AHL and NHL during his career. He played in 14 games for the Flyers during the 1971-72 season and spent an additional two years with the Richmond Robins, the Flyers’ AHL affiliate at the time.
Larry Mickey was a forward who played in 14 games for the Flyers before the trade. He spent the next three seasons between the Sabres and Cincinnati Swords and would retire shortly after leaving the organization.
3/5/90 – Kevin Maguire and 1990 second round pick (Mikael Renberg) for Jay Wells and 1991 fourth round pick (Peter Ambroziak)
19 years after the teams last spoke, the organizations once again made a deal, swapping enforcers during a year when neither team had playoff hopes, the Sabres getting ousted in the first round and the Flyers missing the postseason altogether.
Kevin Maquire was the resident tough guy for the Sabres for three seasons. He racked up 518 penalty minutes in 167 games before being traded to Philadelphia at the 1990 trade deadline. He was packaged for a second round pick in exchange for fellow tough guy Jay Wells and a fourth round pick.
Maguire played five game with the Flyers to end the 1989-90. He was traded back to the Maple Leafs, his original NHL team, in June of 1990. The Flyers would use their new second round pick on Swedish forward Mikael Renberg, who would eventually become one-third of the famed “Legion of Doom” line with Eric Lindros and John LeClair.
Jay Wells played two more seasons with the Sabres, spending most of the time injured, before being traded to the Rangers in March of 1992. Peter Ambroziak played three seasons in the Sabres’ system, even playing 12 NHL games with the club. After his tenure with Buffalo ended in 1995 he spent the next 10 years playing for various minor leagues across North America.
4/7/95 – Petr Svoboda for Garry Galley
Defenseman Petr Svoboda’s NHL career started in 1984 with the Montreal Canadiens. He was acquired by the Sabres in March of 1992 and played 139 games with the club until he was traded to the Flyers in April of 1995. He would play in parts of five seasons for the Flyers, racking up 70 points in 232 games. He was later traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning and retired in 2002 after 17 professional seasons.
The Sabres landed defeseman Garry Galley, who had played the best hockey of his career with the Flyers during his four year stint in Philly. He never was able to emulate the same level of production during his three seasons in Buffalo, but did manage 102 points in 163 games. He left the Sabres during free agency in 1997.
2/27/07 – Martin Biron for 2007 second round pick (TJ Brennan)
During the Flyers’ atrocious 2006-07 season, goaltenders Antero Niitymaki and Robert Esche were no longer making the grade and the organization had to find outside help. They acquired longtime Sabres’ goalie Martin Biron, who had lost his crease to youngster Ryan Miller in Buffalo. He would take the starting reigns for the Flyers over the next two seasons before leaving the Flyers for the Islanders in 2009 free agency.
The Sabres used the 2007 second round pick on defenseman TJ Brennan, who became a well respected AHL defenseman for various teams, including a four-year stint with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Flyers AHL affiliate, from 2016 to 2020.
1/17/19 – Justin Bailey for Taylor Leier
12 years after their last encounter, the Flyers and Sabres sat down again, this time a seemingly nothing happening trade that sprung a meme to last a lifetime; the Flyers acquired forward Justin Bailey in exchange for forward Taylor Leier.
Bailey would play 11 games with the Flyers and 17 with the Phantoms during the 2018-19 season before leaving in free agency in 2019 after not receiving a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent. He’s best remembered for getting recalled and sent down 10 different times in a few month span from January to April.
Taylor Leier was the Flyers’ fourth round pick in 2012 and predominantly in the AHL during his tenure in the organization. He never played a game for the Sabres, spending the following season-and-a-half with the Rochester Americans. He left for Europe to continue his playing career in 2020.
7/23/21 – Rasmus Ristolainen for 2021 first round pick (Isak Rosen), 2023 second round pick, Robert Hagg
In a highly criticized move, the Flyers acquired RHD Rasmus Ristolainen from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a first round pick, a second round pick, and defenseman Robert Hagg.
The Flyers were overhauling their defense after a disaster of a season during the covid-shortened 2021 season and felt they needed size and physicality. Ristolainen provided just that, easily leading the team in hits with 230. He signed a five-year extension with the Flyers in March of 2022.
The Sabres drafted Isak Rosen with the 14th overall pick in 2021. He has yet to sign with the organization as of this writing. Robert Hagg played all of 48 games with the Sabres before being traded at the 2022 trade deadline for a sixth round pick in 2022.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)