Sabres Free Agency Madness and Wishlists
[Note this was written before the Sabres signed the rights to Ehrhoff. That doesn’t change a whole lot, but it might affect the ability to afford Brad Richards and make it more likely that the Sabres have to trade for a center or two. Read on…]
So, we’ve landed our dream top defenseman, the grittiest of the gritty. We love Robyn Regehr and can’t wait to see him smash some opposing forwards into the boards.
Now Sabres fans thoughts turn towards Christmas Day, a.k.a. July 1st, otherwise known as Brad Richards Lottery Day. If you’re tuning in late, live under a rock, or have just been too busy to keep up, Friday, July 1st is the date that unrestricted free agents can sign with other teams.
And who might the Sabres go after? The aforementioned Brad Richard is one possibility, and despite the high demand for a player of his caliber, there are many knowledgeable people who think the Sabres have both the gumption and cap space to go after him. For instance, Michael Gleich of Bleeding All Blue says,
the Sabres have the opportunity to give Richards just about everything he has said he wants in his next team. Pegula is the stable owner that he wants. Buffalo is a smaller market with less scrutiny than he would be getting in Toronto or New York. With a forward group consisting of names like Richards, Vanek, Roy, Staffod, Pominville, Boyes, Ennis, Gerbe there is plenty of offense. Reghr, Myers, Leopold, Gragnani is not the greatest defense corps ever, but it is solid and Ryan Miller gives them a goalie capable of winning a Stanley Cup.
Richards will likely command $7-$8 million dollars a year, perhaps more. The Sabres can afford it but would be unable to sign some of their remaining free agents, including *cough*Connolly*cough*. (I have to cough when mentioning Connolly’s name, it’s a contractual obligation. It lessens the emotional blow to some fans that are sensitive to that hearing or reading that name.)
While landing Richards would be a major coup for Hockey Heaven, it might be a contract too rich even for Pegula’s blood. Or rather, that might put too many eggs in one expensive basket. Richards is clearly the standout free agent center this offseason, but there are a couple of other, cheaper, options.
Sabres Hockey Central has a great list of free agents, and looking down it for centers, we can cross Brooks Laich off as he just re-signed with Washington. Next up we see Brandon Dubinsky, who had 24 goals and 30 assists last year for the Rangers:
Dubinsky is a bigger body forward who would be great on the PK and is also a capable 20+goal scorer. He would fit nicely on the Sabres second line if Derek Roy has to be the number one pivot. I don’t think it would take any more than Stafford money to get Dubinsky from the Rangers, $3-$3.5 million should suffice, and he is well worth that to me.
The Sabres Hockey Central list also mentions Tyler Kennedy who is a stellar young talent and 20 goal scorer who could command upwards of $3 million a year, according to this SBNation post.
Die By The Blade started their free agent series of posts as well, focusing on centers. They name the Sabres possible targets as Jason Arnott, Tomas Fleischmann, Maxime Talbot, John Madden and *cough*Tim Connolly*cough*. I have always liked Arnott, but his age is a huge factor. As DBTD’s Andy Boron says,
He can still provide a decent amount of offense to the table, tallying 17 goals and 31 points last season, and will also bring toughness and leadership. … It’s also debatable whether he can still be a second line center and hang with players like Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford, or if he would function better on the third line. Still, he knows what it takes to win, commands a good amount of respect around the league, and would be a great addition to the Sabres’ locker room.
Last but not least, Sabres Noise comes in with their Christmas wish list. Chris Elardo opines that if the Sabres don’t go all out for Brad Richards, they could pick up some capable 3rd line centers in Marty Reasoner (who had 32 points for a horrible Florida team), Vern Fiddler or Marcel Goc. Aside from that, the Sabres could trade for Paul Stastny, Joe Pavelski, Jason Spezza, Jordan Staal or Antoine Vermette. Stastny would probably be most people’s favorite, but Pavelski may be the cheaper trade option as well as smaller salary cap hit. Spezza and Vermette many Sabres fans may not like at first blush due to their days as Senators, but I really like Vermette. And once we saw Spezza in a Sabres jersey, I think we could all forgive and accept him pretty quickly.
So…there’s an awful lot to think about and wish for, and we all get to play armchair GM over the next few days. And the really great part is that, with Pegula in charge, we know that anything is truly possible. Now, who’s with me on taking the day off Friday to make sure we can focus on the excitement?