While no one in the media appears to think that Buffalo is going to do anything this summer, I find it pretty hard to believe that with his job potentially on the line, Darcy Regier isn’t going to do something to make this Sabres team better and at the very least, a playoff team.
Not all of these options are entirely realistic (Parise, Suter) but I tossed them in, just because.
Also, a brief summary on the Sabres’ cap situation: as it stands, the team has 11.6 million in cap space. That looks like a nice number, but they have to sign Tyler Ennis and Patrick Kaleta, which will take up roughly around 3-4 million of space. I’ll operate under the idea they have 8 million.
But, it’s also important to note they have some movable deals. Derek Roy’s 4 million could easily be dealt, and Jordan Leopold’s 3 mil could also be moved.
Free agent forwards:
Zach Parise, W, Devils
27 years old
82GP, 31-38-69 (Playoffs: 24GP, 8-7-15)
With some contenders having an absurd amount of cap space - the Penguins will still have almost fifteen million in cap space, even after signing Crosby for a billion years - it’ll be pretty tough for the Sabres to compete in the Parise sweepstakes, especially considering they’ll have about half as much cap space.
There are two things that give the Sabres the edge with Parise in particular, however. First, the most obvious one, Pegula. While he can’t offer more money against the cap, we saw last year how Pegula was willing to give both Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers 10 million dollar signing bonuses. Darcy could conceivably offer Parise a contract with a 7.5 cap hit, but also a 10-20 million dollar signing bonus that not many teams, if any, could match.
The second thing that is specific to Parise is his friendship with Drew Stafford. The two played together at the University of North Dakota, work out during the summers, and Stafford’s even going to be a groomsman for Parise at his wedding this summer. Parise’s also close with Ryan Miller from the US Olympic team, and he’s stated how the Sabres ‘have a great new owner’.
I’m not really holding out hope that Parise will sign with the Sabres, but with the opportunity to make a shit load of money (with signing bonuses, the Sabres offer could be the most lucrative), play with close friends and on a team that really isn’t far away should at the very least peak his interest. With Darcy’s job on the line and Pegula wanting to field a more competitive team, the Sabres will at least sniff around.
- Parise’s a legitimate cornerstone player. His 31 goals and 38 assists would be considered a bad year by most, as he’s a good threat to go 40/40. He’d instantly be the best Sabre and would take their offense to a whole new level (Unforgivable voice).
- Obviously we don’t really know for sure, but Parise is the kind of player that wouldn’t cash it in now that he’ll be set for life. He’s widely considered one of the hardest working players in the entire league, so he’d be a pretty safe investment.
- Continuing on the safe investment thing, besides two years ago, he’s missed three games in his seven-year career. No injury worries.
- Age. He’ll be twenty-eight in a month, so he’s still in his prime and right in the age range of most of Buffalo’s core players.
- Fit with the team. While they’re trying to get bigger and tougher, the Sabres have had a lot of smaller, faster players succeed under Lindy Ruff.
- God, he’d look so amazing with Cody Hodgson feeding him the puck…..
- There really isn’t much to dislike, but I guess I’ll nitpick to put a few things here… He’s only 5’11. Buffalo is trying to be a bigger, tougher team. While I’m sure they’d sacrafice some size to get a guy who has scored forty five goals, I guess it’s not entirely ideal.
- He’s a winger. I guess it’d be better if he played center.
- This is more ‘bad’ for the Sabres than it is about Parise’s game, but he seems like the kind of guy that would take less money to play for a contender. Unfortunately for the Sabres, they can offer more money, but not the enticing roster.
Contract prediction - 8 years, 60 million
Shane Doan, W, Coyotes
35 years old
79GP, 22-28-50 (Playoffs: 16GP, 5-4-9)
Maybe even as soon as a week ago, I don’t think anybody had Shane Doan reaching free agency. Not because he wouldn’t garner any interest or get paid nicely, but because he’s been the face of the Coyotes franchise literally from the beginning. But, because of their unstable ownership situation, it appears as if Doan will test the open market and see what’s out there.
Obviously, being thirty five, I think it’s pretty fair to say that Doan would join a contender before he chased a big contract, but the Sabres’ situation could be enticing.
- While he doesn’t offer all that much in terms of playoff experience, he’s a sixteen year veteran who would bring a lot of experience and leadership to a young Sabres locker room.
- Fills a role as a top six, big, physical forward. Not a power forward in the same sense as Zack Kassian, but definitely a guy who uses his body.
- Pretty consistent. Brings a solid 20+ goals and 30-40 assists to the table every year, numbers that would surely escalate on a team that wasn’t completely barren of offensive talent.
- While in some ways his age is a positive, he’s 35, which would make him a 35+ contract. So, if he were to retire two years into a four year deal, those final two years would still count against the cap.
- Very clearly on the downswing of his career. His point totals over the past five years: 78, 73, 55, 60, 50. While he could score more on a better team, he’s not going to carry a team offensively.
- More of a negative for his chances in signing in Buffalo, but I know for a fact that Doan absolutely loves Phoenix, and one of the big reasons is because it’s not a hockey market and he can go where he wants to without being completely harassed. At the same time, if he’s going to leave Phoenix, there aren’t many options in terms of small markets that are also contending teams.
Contract prediction: 4 years, 16 million
Alex Semin, W, Capitals
28 years old
77GP, 21-33-54 (Playoffs: 14GP, 3-1-4)
I’m a huge fan of Semin’s skills, but have been pretty adamant all year that I really didn’t want the Sabres to go out and sign him, however I think there’s a possible connection here. Outside of his rookie season, this may have been Semin’s worst year in the NHL, so I guess an argument could be made that a change of scenery could do him well.
- Based on sheer raw talent alone, Semin may be a top-10 talent in the NHL. He has a wicked shot, good vision, is a pretty smooth skater and although he doesn’t use it, has nice size. He has the kind of skillset that he should be scoring forty goals a year.
- One of the reasons I think it may make sense to bring in Semin is because he’s Russian. It sounds like there’s a pretty good chance that Mikhail Grigorenko could make the Sabres this season, but the Sabres are a pretty North American dominated team. While Buffalo wouldn’t necessarily want Semin to mentor him, it’d probably be good to have at least one Russian guy on the team.
- Remember how he could score forty goals every year? Yeah, well, he doesn’t. It’s unfortunate, but Semin is notorious for being one of the laziest players in the NHL, and it was pretty sad the way he gave up playing for Bruce Boudreau this year. Semin was making pretty nice money in Washington playing with other Russians and one of the best players in the world, so it’s hard to imagine what would motivate him if that won’t.
- More of the same. The size he brings is different, but it’d be another soft, one-way winger on the Sabres. They don’t really need any more of those.
- If he hated playing for Boudreau, he’d hate playing for Lindy Ruff.
I really don’t want Semin, but I could definitely see a situation where Pegula loses out on Parise, and he tries to throw money at someone to make this team better, much like Ville Leino last year. I think the good news is that it seems very likely Semin will go to the KHL, since I seriously doubt any NHL team offers him more than two years.
Contract predition: 2 years, 9 million.
PA Parenteau, W, Islanders
29 years old
PA Parenteau has put up 120 points in his last 161 NHL games, after putting up nine in his past 27 games - over a five year span. His 49 assists were 12th in the NHL last season, an especially impressive feat for a guy playing on a team that doesn’t score a whole lot of goals.
In such a thin free agent market, Parenteau will probably be the beneficiary of a huge contract coming from a team that whiffs on Parise but doesn’t want to sign Alex Semin. Another case of a guy that Pegula may throw money at just because he lost out on Parise.
- While many may think he only scored so many points because he played with John Tavares, less than half of his goals and assists were scored/assisted by JT. I wish I could find the source of that stat, but I cant’t.
- Despite playing on the wing, he’s really become a top notch setup man over the past few seasons.
- Again, another winger. If he was a center, his game would be perfect for the Sabres. But he’s not.
- He’s going to get ridiculously overpaid because of the thin market, and I’m not sure he’s really worth the 4-5 million per season he’ll get.
- Incredibly risky. This is a guy who has had two good NHL seasons under his belt. But, I guess Ville Leino had one good postseason and one good season under his, so maybe that’s not that much of an issue.
Contract prediction: 5 years, 20 million.
Paul Gaustad, C, Predators
30 years old
70GP, 7-14-21 (Playoffs: 10GP, 1-1-2)
Obviously, Paul Gaustad was one of the longest tenured Sabres on the team prior to getting dealt at the deadline. Ironically, his size and toughness was probably the extra push Buffalo could’ve used when trying to make the playoffs at the end of the year, but it was totally worth trading him to get Zemgus Girgensons.
- Goose was a respected player in the Sabres locker room and not many players were happy to see him leave. His return would be a welcomed re-addition.
- He’s one of the best faceoff guys in the league, something the Sabres struggle with mightily.
- Apparently he’s asking for a fairly modest raise on his current salary, but he may be willing to settle for less to return to Buffalo.
- His size and physicality were sorely missed after he was traded.
- Even his ‘hometown discount’ may be 2.5-3 million. Is it really worth it for a 4th line center, as good as he is at his job?
- Zemgus Girgensons really isn’t that far away from the NHL, and he’ll be taking the Goose role whenever he’s ready. Should the Sabres just wait for him to develop?
Contract prediction: 4 years, 12 million.
Brandon Prust, C, Rangers
28 years old
82GP, 5-12-17 (Playoffs: 19GP, 1-1-2)
Brandon Prust is the kind of glue player that teams need in their bottom six, and it’s pretty surprising that the Rangers are letting him go to the market. His asking price is apparently 6.6 over three years, which may seem like a bit much for a fourth line guy, but I think some team will give that to him.
- He’s not big, but plays a very physical game and doesn’t leave any hits unfinished. Does everything you could ask of a fourth liner.
- Very good fighter, not necessarily a heavyweight, but constantly drops the mitts and protects his teammates.
- While his stats weren’t very impressive this year, he had a very good 13-16-29 the previous season, and you can expect something in-between those two seasons.
- Prust is from London, so Buffalo could be a realistic option for him as it’s close to home.
- Buffalo already has a pretty expensive fourth line fighter in Cody McCormick for the next two years. I guess the Sabres could let Kaleta walk and replace him with Prust, however.
- If Buffalo meets his asking price of 2.2, would it not be worth it to pay less than one million more for Paul Gaustad, who they know exactly what they’re getting with?
Contract prediction: 3 years, 6.6 million.
Free agent defenseman:
Ryan Suter, D, Predators
27 years old
79GP, 7-39-46 (Playoffs: 10GP, 1-3-4)
Ryan Suter is probably the best defenseman to hit free agency in the salary cap era, and he’ll undoubtedly be the highest paid. Suter’s played second fiddle to Shea Weber basically his entire career, but don’t be fooled by the fact he was the #2 defenseman on that team. He’s a legit, #1, franchise defenseman who will probably never even be nominated for a Norris, but will be one of the top 10 defenseman in the league throughout his next contract. He simply does everything well and is one of the top two-way defenseman in the NHL.
In terms of the Sabres, this one is a pretty major pipe dream, but I like to pipe dream, so shut up.
- Well… everything.
- Very, very consistent. Can safely chalk him up for 5-7 goals, 30-40 assists and 40-45 points. Was third in the NHL with 26:30 per game, and also brings a rock solid, consistent game on the defensive side.
- Age. He’s 27 and won’t turn 28 until January. Defenseman usually age better than forwards anyway, but he’s still very much in the prime of his career.
- Like Parise, a very safe bet. He won’t glide around now that he’s getting paid like an elite player.
- Imagine Myers-Suter? O M F G
- Honestly? There really isn’t anything bad about signing Ryan Suter. I suppose with every free agent that gets a massive contract, there’s a risk of the player crumbling under the pressure, but I just don’t see that happening with Suter.
- I guess one thing that could possibly phase him is that he’s always been overshadowed by Weber, and that could be something he prefers. If he went to Detroit, he’d be viewed as the number one guy and Niklas Lidstrom’s replacement. With Myers, Ehrhoff and Sekera, this may actually help Buffalo’s chances.
Contract prediction: 8 years, 56 million.
Matt Carle, D, Flyers
27 years old
82GP, 4-34-38 (Playoffs: 11GP, 2-4-6)
Matt Carle was acquired by Philly a few years ago in the Steve Downie trade, and he’s been one of the lone steady presences on their blueline ever since. He’s a good puck mover, and another guy who will benefit from a weak free agent market. Once Schultz and Suter sign, Carle will likely cash in, pricing himself out of Philadelphia.
- A lot of people seemed to think the only reason Carle put up points was because he played with Chris Pronger, but with Pronger out the entire year he had a solid 38 point campaign.
- He’s a really solid puck mover, but not necessarily in the sense that he’ll stand at the point on the PP or that he’ll fly up the ice as a 4th forward. He just makes good passes out of the zone and has a good hockey IQ.
- Well, the last Sabres free agent signee out of Philadelphia didn’t exactly work out…
- He never scores goals, which is kind of alarming. In 359 regular season and playoff games for the Flyers, he’s only scored 18 goals.
- Very much a one-way offensive player. Buffalo has a few of these guys.
- Another player who will require a serious overpayment. I’d be shocked if he got anything less than 4.25 a year after Wideman’s contract.
Contract prediction: 5 years, 25 million.
Now, I feel like the Sabres will be active in player movement this summer, but I think it’s more realistic to assume that Darcy will test the trade market rather than the free agent market, given the overpayment it will take to get some of the guys available. Here are two guys in particular I’d love the Sabres to target:
Bobby Ryan, W, Ducks
25 years old
Back in November-ish, I wrote a blog about the Sabres potentially trading for Bobby Ryan, as his name surfaced in trade rumours. At the time, the Ducks decided to fire Randy Carlyle rather than trade any of their players, and despite the fact Bruce Boudreau turned around their season, the Ryan trade rumours surfaced again. This time, it appears as though they won’t die down, and that Ryan wants out of Anaheim.
So, it’s time for Darcy to step up and grab a player that would fill so many needs for this team, even if it means giving up quite a few assets.
- Ryan’s scored thirty goals every year he’s been in the NHL, and at 25, he’s only getting better. He’s a legit first line winger.
- 6’2, and plays like it. Exactly the kind of power forward with skill the Sabres need.
- He’s got three years left at 5.1, which is a very fair cap hit, especially when factoring in he’s probably going to improve.
- Since he’s only 25, he’s closer in age with guys like Myers, Ennis and Hodgson, as apposed to someone like Zach Parise.
- You’ve got to give some to get some, but it’d cost a lot of assets to get a guy like Ryan.
- The entire Ducks team had down years, but I guess it’s kind of alarming his point total dropped by 14.
What I’d offer:
- Derek Roy/Drew Stafford
- Tyler Ennis
- Brayden McNabb/Joel Armia
Steve Ott, C, Stars
29 years old
Steve Ott has a reputation as a guy who is just a pest, but he’s really one of NHL’s most versatile forwards. If the Sabres weren’t able to sign a guy like Gaustad or Prust, trading for Ott, who can be had according to Pierre LeBrun, would make a lot of sense.
- Can play both wing and center with effectiveness, and can play a top line role or a bottom six role.
- Better than advertised offensive player, although some of this can be credited to playing with Eriksson and Benn at times.
- Very good faceoff guy, one of the best in the league.
- The kind of player that the Sabres needed when Lucic ran over Miller. He’ll always stick up for his teammates.
- One of those guys you absolutely love on your team and hate on others. He’d effectively replace Patrick Kaleta (or make the best pest combination ever) but also bring a quality player to the mix.
- Has a pretty fair 2.95 cap hit for the next two years.
- Considering Paul Gaustad netted the Sabres a first round pick, the price for Ott should be pretty high.
- Not really many negatives, I guess he could probably tone down his penalty minutes. He’s a guy that’s effective at what he does.