Someone is going to pay dearly.
They don’t call the beginning of free agency on July 1st a “frenzy” for nothin’. Teams desperate to gain an advantage over their competition have resorted to extraordinary leaps of faith on aging players, offering staggering amounts of money and long-term deals to the hottest available names. (See: Chris Drury.)
This year’s big name on the UFA market is the Dallas Stars’ Brad Richards, but is he worth an inflated investment? Here’s a look at his stats over the years:
The stats (aside from the dodgy plus/minus ratio) are very impressive, but is he really worth the $7-8 million/season that he will likely be offered at the frenzy? How would he fit into Pegula’s 3 year Stanley Cup plan?
Well, hold those thoughts right there. According to some in the media, there won’t be a sweepstakes on this guy. This year, maybe money isn’t enough to snag the best UFA’s: it looks as if the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs could trade for the rights to negotiate with Richards before July 1st, giving up first assets and then cap space to earn his cap hit.
From Larry Brooks, of the New York Post:
It’s important for the Rangers to acquire Richards, as estimable a pro as there is in the league and a player who makes his teammates better, but it is equally important for the team not to make a mistake on the contract.
It’s equally important the Rangers know all there is to know about Richards’ health in the aftermath of the concussion he sustained on Feb. 13 that sidelined him for nearly a month before the center returned for the final 16 games of the season.
We’d suggest Sather offer Nieuwendyk the 57th-overall selection for the rights to Richards, for the right to get a head start on 2011-12, for the right to avoid the rush-hour frenzy of July 1. For the right reason.
A 2nd round pick is a lot to give up just to gain the rights to negotiate with a guy and examine his head, but crazier things have happened this time of the year.
Damien Cox of The Toronto Star wrote on the Maple Leafs’ odds to land Richards, pre-frenzy:
…the real challenge for the Leafs is that Richards may not get to July 1st. Before the March trade deadline, Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk was asking prospects and picks in exchange for Richards and the right to talk about a new contract with the veteran centre.
In theory, the Leafs could get in on trying to buy the rights to negotiate with Richards, but not if it costs them a top prospect like Nazem Kadri. They just don’t have enough in the cupboard to start giving those up, particularly without a deal in place for Richards. That’s not even considering getting team doctors to have a look at him, something clubs may want to do because of the serious concussion Richards had this season.
Clearly, Burke’s preference would be to wait until July 1st. But he knows Philly landed Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timmonen a couple of years ago from Nashville in this way and benefitted from that aggressive move, and he also knows the market for No. 1 centres via trade or free agency looks mighty slim this summer.
Both writers cite the Los Angeles Kings as the other club legitimately in the running to land Richards. Musings over the Sabres as a possible destination are nowhere to be found, save on Buffalo Sabres message boards and hopeful fan tweets.
There is no doubt that the Sabres would love to add a legitimate #1 center to the roster – but giving up a 2nd round pick or any other assets to do so is insane. That is not how to move a franchise forward, it’s how you set it back.
The Sabres have said that one of their main priorities right now is developing their defense, and creating a true shutdown pair again. If they’re smart, they’ll stick with that plan – there are plenty of top defensive names on the market after all.
Let’s not forget that Buffalo is already dealing with the contract of Drew Stafford, who is due a hefty raise after this year’s breakout performance – and Stafford is just one name on that big ol’ list of RFA’s that Regier and Co. is working on fitting under the cap. Next year, Buffalo will need the room to resign Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis as their contracts expire and put them in the RFA market.
It’s one thing to sacrifice an asset or two just to land the rights for Richards – it’s another thing to pay for an inflated contract that could cost you the leverage to sign the new stars on your team. Like I said, Richards impact on a new team could be one that actually sets it back.
If the Leafs or Rangers are willing to do that, well then, let ’em go for it. After all, a weaker team in Toronto or New York only helps the Sabres over the next 3 seasons.
Fans should try to remember all of this as the frenzy approaches. Don’t be disappointed if Richards isn’t in Blue and Gold next season, folks – don’t trumpet your horns that Regier can’t land the big names.
The big names are already on the team, and we need to keep it that way.
See also: “Target: Brent Burns“
So, I should probably get this out of the way now.
I’m a Bluejackets fan.
Well, I’m a Sabres fan, first and foremost, forever and ever, amen. Allow me to explain. I moved to Ohio in ’98, and was only able to catch the occasional Sabres games – aside from the playoffs of course. In those days we had no Internet and I don’t think any of the local bars had the NHL package. It was a hockey wasteland.
But then an NHL team was announced in Columbus, Ohio. Intriguing, I thought. A chance to see the Sabres once in a while perhaps? Even if they were in the Western conference and that meant once a year at most.
Then I saw who they had drafted from other teams – they were many players that I liked. Sabres players, like Geoff Sanderson, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre and Dwayne Roloson (who declined to play for the Jackets, which was probably a good career decision: he’d have been shell shocked and/or his name would’ve been mud). Even many players drafted from other NHL teams I liked, like Ron Tugnutt, Lyle Odelein, Dallas Drake and Mathieu Schneider. Come to think of it, that sadly may have been Columbus’ most talented team.
I need not remind Sabres fans of how 1999’s Stanley Cup Finals ended, even though I guess I just did. Brett Hull’s goal ripped the hearts out of Buffalo Sabres fans – just mentioning his name can cause severe emotional allergic reactions to this day. If you really want an earful about this incident, ask the nearest three-arena-beers-in guy at the HSBC (preferably one wearing one of these).
Buffalo will never get a chance to have revenge on Hull, but he at least is the inspiration behind today’s award, which goes to the player “most hated by Sabres fans, and who causes the most anger and/or sadness through their distasteful decision to continue to exist.” We’ll entertain two categories here: the “Permanently Loathed” sect and the “Reproachable Act” sect (who will be represented by players who slapped Buffalo fans around specifically in the 2010-11 season).
The “winner” of the award will receive one especially creative curse from me on HockeyJobu.com – so vote with your hearts, and a heavy dose of your spleens.
Also, due to the high volume of players in the NHL that have ruined our lives, I’ve trimmed the list down to the most infamous offenders.
Now, on with the nominations of this year’s “Dirty Brett”
Pegula’s 3 year plan is about to get nasty.
The Buffalo Sabres have a nice crop of big, angry prospects that are nearly pro-ready. Darcy Regier’s philosophy shift from drafting small and speedy to big and nasty is about to affect the lineup in Buffalo, with guys like Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno posturing as likely call-ups next year. Brayden McNabb just signed onto a 3 year entry level deal, and the punishing 6’4″ defenseman will be looking to join the pro ranks at the AHL level.
So how do these prospects fit into Pegula’s plan to win the Cup within 3 years?
Let’s examine the Sabres’ current depth chart:
This picture will change on July 1st, when teams go nuts trying to fill out their roster at the beginning of free agency. Darcy Regier has never been a GM to join the insanity, but with his new “Pegula Bucks,” he may actually be free to land some pretty good players this year. Until then, this is what we do know: the defensive corps is a young one, but the prospects run deep. At RW, veterans have pretty much locked up the roster for now. Center will be thin with the likely UFA departure of Rob Niedermayer and possibly Cody McCormick. At LW, well, besdies Thomas Vanek, positioning is pretty much up for grabs. Even Hecht has only one year left on his contract, and he sometimes lines up at center.
Lindy Ruff has done well juggling the lineup to keep the LW position full on gamenights, but is there help on the way? Here’s a quick look at Portland’s roster at the end of the 2010-11 season:
Players who can be considered NHL ready at the LW position include, well, actually there’s just one – Luke Adam – and he could very well line up at the faceoff dot for the Sabres.
Yeah, yeah, we could’ve gone with Adam Mair for this trophy’s name.
Mair, if you recall
anything if at all about him, was fined $2500 bucks for a 2008 tirade in Buffalo, when he tried to pummel Chris Neil of the Ottawa Senators with f-bombs. In a hallway between locker rooms. That was pretty awesome, Mairsy – a tirade fit for the ages. However, in the spirit of nobody caring about Mair anymore, this award will be named after the legendary pugilist of the Blue and Gold and Bloody Red, Rob Ray.
So, sports fans, if you haven’t figured it out for yourselves yet, this contentious award goes to the Sabres member/player who unleashed the most endearing tirade/emotional meltdown during the 2010-11 season.
The winner receives my very own slightly scratched up copy of “The Razor’s Edge.” Vote responsibly!
Before we get to the nominees, let us pause to consider a little bit of the legacy behind this award. Over the years dressed in a Sabres uniform, Rob Ray became highly regarded for his
huge humanitarian efforts with WNY charities powerful influence on the Sabres bench ability to sit on the bench undaunted until the crowd got bored and started chanting “WE WANT RAY”