A lot of Sabres fans would love to poach RFA Shea Weber from the Nashville Predators.
Let’s face it: any offer sheet tendered towards Weber would be immediately matched by Nashville. Still, due to this year’s relatively weak UFA class, NHL GM’s may very well make more RFA offers than expected.
Here’s a look at what it will cost to yank an RFA off another team’s roster this season (via The Sporting News):
An offer with a $1,034,249 annual cap hit or less: No compensation
More than $1,034,249 — $1,567,043: Third-round pick
More than $1,567,043 — $3,134,088: Second-round pick
More than $3,134,088 — $4,701,131: First and third-round pick
More than $4,701,131 — $6,268,175: First, second and third-round pick
More than $6,268,175 — $7,835,219: Two first-round picks, a second and third
More than $7,835,219 and higher: Four first-round picks
Still interested in Weber? I didn’t think so. How about Zach Parise instead?
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The Devil's in the details...
Should be an interesting July 1st.
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“
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.
For an NHL organization to excel and win the Stanley Cup, it must start at the very top of the organization. In that, the Sabres have been pretty fortunate with ownership, aside of course from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The Sabres rarely missed the playoffs under the ownership of Seymour Knox and say what you want about Golisano, but he single-handedly kept the Sabres in Buffalo. Plus, during Golisano’s stewardship, the Sabres made it to two consecutive conference finals just after a tumultuous lockout year.
And now, we have the Pegula era.
It’s been a heartwarming start to the new era, and I think most Sabres fans would lift their caps to Terry Pegula (I just had to work a bad hat company pun in there).
To see how well (or poorly) the Sabres may do, we should look to a team that has done something similar recently. The Tampa Bay Lightning were bought last year by Jeff Vinik, who has completely overhauled the franchise, bringing in new general manager Steve Yzerman and new coach Guy Boucher.
As should be the case for the Sabres, everyone in the Lightning organization has bought in to what they’re doing. From an article at NHL.com talks about the Lightning’s changes:
Any system, any role for a player starts with acceptance, and the guys in the Lightning dressing room almost sound like robots with the way they praise “Mr. Vinik” and “Mr. Yzerman” for how they laid the groundwork before the season even started.
When Boucher asks the players to tweak something or try something different, they do it. When Yzerman makes a personnel move, the players believe he has made the team better.
The Sabres seemed to buy in to Pegula right from the get-go. And the Sabres had the advantage of a smoother transition as they didn’t need to learn how to play a new system. Ruff and Regier stayed in place; probably a wise move by Pegula but time will tell.
Tampa Bay, unlike Buffalo, didn’t have a great goaltender. They picked up 41 year old Dwayne Roloson who is leading the playoffs in goals against at 2.17/game. The Sabres, of course have an all-star in Ryan Miller and a steady backup in young Jhonas Enroth.
The other thing Tampa Bay needed to complete their transformation? A veteran number 1 defenseman:
“We needed somebody that was going to be able to log a lot of minutes, have the speed to play against top lines that are fast, have the size to play against bigger lines, be able to play in the power play and the penalty kill and have leadership” Boucher said. “So if you put that down as a shopping list, that’s a pretty big shopping list.”
A big shopping list, indeed, and something the Sabres need as well. You can talk about how well the young defenseman are maturing, and they are, but it may not be happening fast enough. Will they be ready by playoff time next year? Maybe. Maybe not. Acquiring a big-time, hard-hitting, veteran blue liner is something the Sabres will no doubt look at this offseason.
Of course you can add any players you want and if they don’t gel, you have nothing. From Tampa Bay defenseman Mike Lundin:
“From what I’ve seen from the past few years, this year the biggest thing has been the structure of everything — the organization, the team and then the system on the ice. It has really come together this year, and all around everyone knows their role, how to act in every situation and how to play.”
Judging from the Sabres 2nd half finish, they came together as a team very well. The young core should mesh even further in the offseason. Hopefully Brad Boyes will feel more comfortable and find his role in the Sabres offense. The young guys have gotten a taste of the playoffs and by the time next spring rolls around should be prepared to do much better.
By all accounts, the Sabres seem to be pretty solid and Terry Pegula has the ship sailing in the right direction. Now it’s up to Regier to add a just a few more critical pieces.
Go Sabres. Nope can’t use that, it’s Scott’s signoff.
Let’s go Buffalo! Nah, too cheesy and doesn’t translate well to text.
Attaboy, Darcy! Umm… in a word, no.
It’s their rink, it’s their ice, and it’s their &%$in town. But tonight we got our fans with us! Too obscure?
All hail Pegula!
You know what, I’ll just quit typing and end the post like that.