Habs Ink Yemelin: Sabres to Pursue “Wiz?”2
The Sabres defense is simply too young.
As I’ve described before, the Sabres defense is full of greenhorns. If Pegula and Co. really want to win a Cup in the next 2-3 years, then the Sabres will need to add grit and experience on that blue line.
Meanwhile, the news out of Montreal was that the Habs finally came to terms with ’04 draftee, Alexei Yemelin. This could mean that UFA James Wisniewski will not be re-signed by Montreal – and should then be immediately pursued by the Sabres. From the the Montreal Gazette:
“The signing gives the Canadiens three defencemen under contract for next season – Yemelin, P.K. Subban and Jaroslav Spacek. Next up for negotiations are unrestricted free-agent Andrei Markov and restricted free-agent Josh Gorges. Both finished last season on the long-term injured reserve list after major reconstructive surgeries.”
“The Canadiens are unlikely to bring back James Wisniewski or Brent Sopel because of cap restraints, but Hal Gill and/or Roman Hamrlik are possibilities.”
At 27 years of age, Wisniewski (or “Wiz,” as he is called) has everything Buffalo needs – the age, the experience, the point production, the mean streak, heck, he even has a rare right handed shot for the power play. These are all qualities that Buffalo should covet.
The Sabres exited the playoffs with only three players on defense over the age of 24. A disturbing list:
- Steve Montador, 31
- Jordan Leopold, 30
- Shaone Morrisson, 28
- Chris Butler, 24
- Andrej Sekera, 24
- Marc-Andre Gragnani, 24
- Mike Weber, 23
- Tyler Myers, 21
Of those guys over 24, Morrisson was hardly a defensive stalwart this season, and Leopold/Montador were not able to stay on the ice. Indeed, if there was a major weakness of the Blue and Gold that was exploited in the series against Philadelphia, it was the green defense corps (see: Butler getting victimized behind his own net).
Of all places, it is in their own zone, from where the team must take it’s most important steps, where their Achilles Heel lies.
A few more points on “Wiz” that should get you thinking:
- 51 points (10g, 41a) in 75 games last year (his highest offensive totals, as he now enters his prime)
- 7 power play goals
- Smart hitter – only took 38 PIM’s
- 119 blocked shots (for the Sabres, Montador had 138, Leopold 123, Weber 99)
Pegula is in a lucky spot right now – the old core boys, Roy, Miller, Pominville, Vanek, et al are still around as the new core boys, such as Myers, Ennis, Weber and Gragnani are coming up. Both cores are full of talent, both are full of the desire to win, but the defense remains perilously inexperienced.
Pegula noted when he came in that the loss of key veterans Toni Lydman and Hank Tallinder was a major mistake. If Terry is looking to restore that sort of stability on the back end again, you better believe he will write Darcy Regier a veritable blank check to land Wisniewski.
Of course, there are plenty of other teams out there (likely all of them) that would love to add Wisniewski to their club, and there is no guarantee Wisniewski will want to leave. Despite the Canadiens’ cap constraints, he appears to be ready to take a pay cut in order to stay in Montreal, where he apparently wants to raise a family.
Perhaps part of Darcy’s pitch should be how great a family town Buffalo is.
See also: James Wisniewski’s blog.