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Have the Sabres Become the new New York Rangers?

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I’ll give you a moment to wipe the spit-take off of your face.

Now that the Buffalo Sabres have become big time spenders in order to become big time contenders, the perception of this team and its management is going to change. Sure, it’s not like anyone ever has anything nice to say about the Queen City anyway, but get yourselves ready to hear “You guys are trying to buy a Cup, so laaaame” all over the internet.

new york rangers and buffalo sabres new era hats1 300x227 Have the Sabres Become the new New York Rangers?

This image is just plain creepy.

Frankly, the teams now bear a lot of similarities. Both now have a young core that was weaned from the draft, and both have over-spent to hopefully bolster their lineups on July 1st.

In order to assess how Sabres fans feel about this troubling comparison, I did some very scientific research: I consulted the Twitter. Here’s a few gems from the Sabres Nation Twit Poll:

  • @Sabrefreakydeak: Yes & No> Yes: TPegs flexing financial muscle. No: Nobody can make idiotic decision quite like the tandem of Dolan & Sather.
  • @MintyP69:  no, because the talent we bought into isn’t here because of our name & they are still in their prime
  • @MusingMaryAnn: Think of it as trying to catch up with the rest of the League who had a jump on us in the past. Spending money is new!
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Brad Richards Update: Toronto, Rangers Still in Play

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Dallas is saying goodbye to their star center.

Brad Richards’ agent, Pat Morris, gave the New York Daily News some details on Monday night:

“The Stars have not asked Brad to waive his no-trade clause, and at this point in time, he has no intention of doing so,” agent Pat Morris told the Daily News Monday night when informed that a source had said a move to the Toronto Maple Leafs could be completed by the end of this week. “We’re still pointing toward July 1.”

The Daily News goes on to say that the Leafs remain the team to beat in the Richards derby:

A source told The News Monday night that the Maple Leafs felt close enough to making such a deal that they already have plans in place for subsequent moves to clear salary-cap room for Richards, who made $7.8 million this season.

“It’s legit,” the source said. “Toronto is desperate for a star like this.”

The Rangers remain linked to Richards through their head coach, John Tortorella, who coached Richards in Tampa.  The Lightning, whom Richards won a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy with back in 2004, are also in the speculative market.

richards1 281x300 Brad Richards Update: Toronto, Rangers Still in Play

Next stop: Toronto?

Meanwhile, Mark Stepneski of ESPN reports that while the Stars are out of the running to retain their star center, GM Joe Nieuwendyk has a plan B already in place:

One of the priorities for 2011-12 is a top six forward with it becoming clear now that Richards will hit the free agent market and will not be back with the team. Nieuwendyk said that top six forward might come through a trade rather than overspending on one in free agency.

“I think we need a top 6 forward with Brad obviously moving on,” Nieuwendyk said. “Jamie [Benn] shifting to center is a very likely scenario. It’s not 100 percent set in stone yet. If you’ve Benner and Loui [Eriksson] and you’ve got [Mike Ribeiro] and Brenden [Morrow], there’s your top two (lines)and you fill in around them.”

While adding Alex Goligoski at last season’s trade deadline was a major boost to the defense, Nieuwendyk said adding a top defenseman is a focus as well.

“We’d like to improve our defense for sure,” he said. “Again, it may be through trade.”

Depth is another priority. It’s an area that hurt the Stars last season and something that has paid dividends for teams that have gone deep in the playoffs.

That might seem like a lot of work for the Stars, but it shows what kind of impact a big contract like Richards’ can have on a team. With his $7.8 million off the books, Nieuwendyk suddenly has the ability to change the complexion and depth of his entire roster.  Any team that takes on Richards is going to lose much of their wiggle-room for a long time, a problem that Buffalo Sabres Nation has touched on before.

Still, some team out there will think Richards is worth the riches.

Go Sabres.

See also: “Target: Brad Richards.

 

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The Resurrection of Tim Kennedy

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It’s a saga of redemption.

ThePassionOfTheTim 300x225 The Resurrection of Tim Kennedy

Tim Kennedy's been searching for a break since August of 2010. That break has finally arrived.

The sorry tale of Tim Kennedy began on September 30, 2009, when the Sabres announced that Kennedy would start the 2009–10 season in Buffalo.  Kennedy scored 10 goals and 16 assists, for a total of 26 points in 78 games in the regular season.  He scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 6 playoff games.  Things were looking up for the kid from South Buffalo.

A RFA, Tim was unable to come to terms on a new contract through his agent and Darcy Regier. On August 3, 2010,  he was awarded a $1million contract through arbitration.  The Sabres felt the price tag was too high for their hometown darling, and immediately placed him on waivers.

Not a single team claimed him.  It wasn’t a pleasant situation for Tim.

“It hurts. This is not what I envisioned for the last month of the summer before the season started. It’s tough. I hope this isn’t the end, but it doesn’t look too good right now. You grow up watching this team your whole life. I don’t even know what to say right now because I’m so shocked.”

He eventually found a home with the New York Rangers, but found himself shackled in the AHL – the Rangers didn’t want to risk losing him through re-entry waivers by calling him up, and by burying his contract with the farm team, the Blue Shirts’ were able to ease up on their dwindling cap space.  Tim never played a game in a Rangers uniform.

On October 5th of 2010, he was waived again.  And again, not a single team claimed him.

Kennedy remained a Ranger by default, but was clear that they really didn’t want him.  In February of 2011, he was dealt (along with a 3rd round pick) to the Florida Panthers for Bryan McCabe.  On March 8 of the 2010-11 season, he finally saw action in the NHL again, and would skate on to record 1 assist in 6 games with the Panthers.

Fast forward to the 2010-11 offseason.

Kennedy is on the ice for the Panthers’ last game of the season.  It’s a 1-0 victory over the Washington Capitals, wherein TK records an assist and a +1 marker, helping the team finish on a high note by breaking a 10 game losing skid.

That high note doesn’t last long for Kennedy, though.  On April 11, locker clean out day, he is a RFA all over again.  You know that his head has got to be swimming with how this whole dreadful story started when he was a RFA back in 2009.  It sure didn’t help that Florida just fired their coach, Peter DeBoer, who at least had the faith to keep Kennedy in the lineup for that final game.

With an unstable world spinning under his skates again, deliverance must have seemed like a long, long way away.

Then, on May 31st, the Panthers announced the hiring of Kevin Dineen to fill their head coaching vacancy – and for Kennedy, that news must have felt like a godsend.  Finally, it looks like he will get the break he’s been hoping for.

There is simply not a single person on the planet better equipped to save TK’s career than Dineen.  After all, Dineen was the coach in Portland during the 2008-09 season, when Kennedy blossomed with 18 goals and 67 points in 73 games before his promotion to Buffalo.  Kennedy was quick to praise the hiring:

“I can’t thank him (Dineen) enough. He was a great coach down there (in the AHL) and he’d be a great coach (in the NHL) too. He really helped me transform from playing in college [Michigan State] to the pro game. I owe him a lot of credit.”

Those are some smart words from TK – he must know that this is his make-it-or-break-it chance to stick to the NHL.  Dineen knows who Tim is, what kind of player he is, what to expect from him on the ice, and how to utilize him to get the best performance possible.

Suddenly, the future is looking bright again – but there is still that nagging RFA issue.  With Dineen on board, and part of the decision making process, the most damning twist to this saga yet would be if the Panthers decide not to keep Kennedy on the team.  Such a move, by perhaps the person who knows Kennedy’s talents the best, would pretty much sound a death knell over Kennedy’s NHL career.

But I don’t think that Dineen is gonna’ ring that bell.

It would be a shock if the Panthers didn’t bring Kennedy back – a player that they traded for, a player that they used on the ice to help bring a tumultuous season to an end on a high note, and now a player who is reunited with the coach that made him NHL material in the first place.

South Buffalo, rejoice: the resurrection of Tim Kennedy has begun.

Screw the whole saga, and forget all those dates.

Instead, focus on plays like this.

And this.

And this OT gem, (where he “beats his old team” at the 3:45 mark).

Under Dineen, there will be more highlights from Kennedy to come – and from here on in, they will all come at the NHL level.

Good luck, Tim.

Go Sabres.

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Target: Brad Richards

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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:

BRStats Target: Brad Richards

And a Stanley Cup in 2004!

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.

ShowMeTheMoney Target: Brad Richards

Richards holds the record for game-winning goals in a single playoff season with seven in 2004, overtaking Joe Sakic's and Joe Nieuwendyk's record of six.

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.

Go Sabres.

See also: “Target: Brent Burns

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