BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres, already one of the most potent offensive teams in the league, made a bold move Tuesday toward a run at a Stanley Cup, acquiring veteran goaltender Grant Fuhr from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Fuhr, a member of five Stanley Cup teams with the Edmonton Oilers and a former Vezina Trophy winner, instantly becomes the No. 1 netminder with the Sabres, who have been searching for a top goalie to emerge out of a crop of prospects.
One of those was Daren Puppa, who in exchange was sent to Toronto along with veteran left wing Dave Andreychuk. In addition, Toronto also will receive a first-round pick in 1993, while the Sabres will have an option on either a fifth-round selection in 1995 or a sixth-round pick in 1994.
The Sabres, with top offensive talent in winger Alexander Mogilny, currently the league's leading goal scorer, and center Pat LaFontaine, now believe they have shored up their major defensive hole. They reportedly had been shopping for a goaltender much of the season while alternating between Puppa, Tom Draper and Dominik Hasek.
'With Grant Fuhr, we feel we have acquired an experienced, proven, number one goaltender,' Buffalo General Manager Gerry Meehan said. 'Grant is a proven performer in the playoffs and in international competition.'
The Sabres host Hartford on Wednesday night in their final game before the All-Star break, and Fuhr could make his Buffalo debut against the Whalers. At 26-20-6, Buffalo stands in fourth place in the tight Adams Division race, although the Sabres rank second in the league in scoring.
Fuhr, 30, will be reunited with his former coach in Edmonton, John Muckler, currently coach and director of hockey operations with the Sabres. He has appeared in 29 games with Toronto this season, posting a 3.14 goals-against average. Fuhr is 13-9-4 with oneshutout in his second full season with the Maple Leafs.
Fuhr, whose 264 career wins lead all active goalies, has been named an All-Star six times and in 1987-88 won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender. He was traded by Edmonton to Toronto on Sept. 19, 1991, as part of a seven-player deal.
Fuhr became expendable in Toronto for two reasons -- first because of the emergence of rookie goalie Felix Potvin, and secondly because of the upcoming expansion draft in which teams will able to protect only one goaltender.
'It was a very difficult decision,' Maple Leafs president and general manager Cliff Fletcher said. 'We've taken a calculated risk in letting a great goaltender in Grant Fuhr go. It helps us tremendously, not just with goal scoring power for the present, but with the first- round choice hopefully solidifying the future.'
The Maple Leafs are the oldest team in the NHL. Potvin's presence bodes well for the future, however. He ranks second in the league with his 2.61 goals-against average and .907 save percentage through 23 starts.
Toronto has scored the least amount of goals in the Norris Division this season, and Andreychuk leaves Buffalo as the club's second-leading all-time scorer with 348 goals and 423 assists for 771 points in 10-plus seasons.
Andreychuk, 29, Buffalo's No. 1 draft pick in 1982, has 29 goals and 32 assists this season.
Puppa, 27, has been with the Sabres for eight seasons, appearing in 215 games. He played in 24 games this season with a 3.58 goals-against average and has an 11-5-4 record.
'I would like to acknowledge the contributions of Dave and Daren to the Sabres organization,' Meehan said. 'Dave leaves Buffalo as one of the all-time scorers in team history, but we felt we have the depth to absorb the loss of both players right now and in the future.'
Puppa recently returned to action after sitting out with a sprained knee, and Hasek has missed time for Buffalo because of a pulled stomach muscle. The Sabres recently recalled goalie Bill Pye from their Rochester farm club and dressed him as backup to Draper.