Hey everyone. I’m Matthew — the newest member of the team here at Buffalo Wins. I also write a Sabres and Bills analysis blog called The Buffalo Torch, which I’d love it if you checked out. Right now we’ve got an analysis of the best and worst back-up goalies during the Regier era over there. We’ll have some other great content coming up soon including a definitive look at what Drew Stafford would make per year if arbitration made any sense, and so on. I’ll be writing about the Sabres frequently on Buffalo Wins as well. If you have a chance, give Buffalo Torch a try and I’m excited to be a part of this great blog as well. Alright, to the good stuff!
So Brad Boyes is the newest Sabre, and everybody is positively gitty. Me too! For a second round pick, adding a potential 30-goal-scorer with a 40-goal year under his belt is nothing to sneeze at. Sure he’s had a few down years and seems almost like a Western Conference carbon copy of Jason Pominville, but he’s immediately the second leading scorer on the Sabres team and versatile enough to play both Center and Winger. He’s filling a need in other words.
But the Sabres are a team with a lot of needs right now, and bringing in Boyes dirt cheap can not be the only deal that happens before 3 PM EST today if the Sabres want to completely resurrect the season. With any luck (well, lots of luck…) Darcy isn’t done and this is just one of two or three moves that will be made. Boyes $4.5M contract this year and $4.0M contract next year leaves the Sabres with about $3.9M of cap room to play with for the rest of the year. The team has a few expiring contracts and a few underperforming players that they might want to see go today.
One thing we need to remember is that some future cap space is going to be left for the monstrosity of a contract that Tyler Myers will eventually sign. So while we are probably spending to the cap tomorrow and building for the future simultaneously, don’t expect to to take on too much massive, long-term contracts that would provide for no wiggle room down the road. Keeping Myers long term is about as important as any acquisition that can be made within the next few hours.
On the same note, the pool of fringe players who can probably be acquired for a draft pick is getting pretty thin, and if the Sabres do, do anything else tomorrow, it will probably involve moving players out as well as getting players in return. Not to mention that they’re going to need to make some room in the line-up and locker room if they get another acquisition. So with about 12 hours to go before the NHL trade deadline, here is a look at who is on the hot seat: from those with singed asses right down to the comfortably cool.
They’re not going anywhere:
Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Tyler Myers, Ryan Miller:
These guys aren’t going anywhere. Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy are very highly regarded by Regier, and considered his tendency to over-value players as it is and his frugal trading nature, it would be very difficult to find a trading partner. With the cap so tight around the league as well, it would be very difficult to move Vanek’s salary, and more difficult to move Roy’s considering he would be someone a franchise would have to wait a year on. Myers is considered the future of the organization, and I suspect that the Sabres will move heaven and earth to assure that he’s a Sabre for a long time. He is one of the best homegrown prospect Buffalo has had in their history. Nothing short of trading the actual Stanley Cup would move him tomorrow. Miller is highly regarded by Pegula and despite struggles this season is one of the reasons for the success the team has had over the last five years. Despite this, he’s also some of the reason for its failure. Regardless, he is considered too crucial a cog to be moved. Pominville is an interesting case. He seems to be regarded almost as highly as Roy and Vanek by Regier, and his $5M contract will make him difficult to move anyway. It’s also interesting to note that he was selected as the “assistant” captain” to take the ceremonial face-off during the Pegula ceremony, so the team obviously values his leadership ability.
I sincerely doubt it:
Paul Gaustad, Tyler Ennis, Jordan Leopold, Shaone Morrison, Patrick Lalime, Patrick Kaleta, Cody McCormick
Paul Gaustad is probably, along with Vanek, at the top of the list for future Sabres captains. He doesn’t log a lot of minutes and is not a particularly good skater. But he is one of the best face off men in the league and has an aura of leadership about him on the ice. What he lacks in talent he makes up for in intangibles. Despite a dreadfully slow start, he’s quietly having an average season. The Sabres lack of depth at Center also prohibits his move. Tyler Ennis is a possible trade, but he is probably atop the Sabres prospect lists (along with Kassian — if you consider Myers untradeable), and so he could be moved if a significant piece was to come back in return. But he won’t be moved in a rent-a-player or typical deadline deal, and so I don’t see it happening. Not for a potential 25 goal, 65 point guy. Jordan Leopold and Morrison are both too new to be moved. Morrison would be more likely, but they can probably not get a substantial return for him, and Leopold is logging major minutes and is one of the better defenseman for Buffalo this year both in production and consistency. Lalime is too bad to trade, and the plan is to key Enroth in the minors and making spot starts for the rest of the year, so his job is secure. Kaleta and McCormick comprise the energy line for the team and there seems to be no need to make a move there. After the Tim Kennedy situation, if Kaleta was moved, the city might burn.
It’s Possible, But Not Probable
Steve Montador, Drew Stafford, Mike Weber, Jochen Hecht, Nathan Gerbe
Steve Montador has been a great value deal, and one of the sorts of deals that goes unnoticed but does speak to the idea that Darcy Regier has not been a total failure in recent years. Even with the constraints of the Tom Golisano budget, Regier was able to find a very good-value Montador on the market. He is a UFA, but his performance and his commitment to the team may suggest a re-signing of Montador, as there really is no need to move him, especially if the team is looking at a playoff run this year. Stafford is the piece that could garner the biggest return for the Sabres, but I don’t think they can put together a package that would work for Paul Stastny without selling the farm. And I don’t think the Sabres are about to sell the farm. Stafford’s ceiling is very high at the moment, and so I think Regier will require a major piece and picks in order to get him. Teams will be cautious considering Stafford’s history is a little different than his recent returns, and he seems to be coming back to earth rather rapidly. Mike Weber seemed to have jumped both Andrej Sekera and Chris Butler on the depth chart, and who would have thought that a year and a half ago? Weber brings a little bit of a toughness and grit to the defensive corps. He’s available, but I doubt he’d garner the return Regier would want. Hecht is an interesting case. He has had a very down year and seems chronically uninspired as of late. I think he could only garner the sort of return that Brad Boyes did in coming to Buffalo, and so it would be tough to part with him, considering he is not a UFA and tends to have good seasons following bad ones. Nevertheless, Regier has a recent history of reacquiring draft picks if he trades them, and since the market is set at 2nd rounders for this sort of guy, you may see him go tomorrow. His hybrid abilities as a center-winger are beneficial, though, so it may be a matter of whether or not the new management seems him as a crucial part of future plans. Gerbe is a wild card. He could be a nice cherry on top of a multi-player deal, or be a part of a small swing deal himself. His total lack of size is probably a concern to other teams, and he has been the Sabres best forward at times this year. His youth also means he has not necessarily yet reached his ceiling.
Andrej Sekera, Rob Niedermayer, Tim Connolly
The Sabres have been waiting for years now to see Sekera flourish into the type of puck-moving defenseman that could be beneficial on both blue lines. He’s showed flashes of that, including his excellent performance against the Red Wings this weekend after being a healthy scratch. I think that Sekera is in the situation that Stafford was in one or two years ago — that being that the Sabres might be a little afraid to part with him under the idea that his potential is still a few years down the road. Sekera is still a young kid, but what he has going against him seems to be the inability to ever get in the good graces of Lindy Ruff. Had Sekera not had the sort of talent he does, he would have been gone long ago. It would not take as much to move Sekera as Drew Stafford, but I still think of this grouping he’ll be the one whom the Sabres would want the most return for. As far as Rob Niedermayer goes, I don’t know who would want him and if they did, why? Niedermayer is an obvious swing-and-miss on the part of Darcy Regier, and while his veteran leadership might be worth something, he takes significant amounts of time off. It actually seems to me that he doesn’t try more than he tries. That’s a bad thing. I think Niedermayer is in the category of “Guy who the Sabres would like to move and will try to move but probably can’t”. Tim Connolly, you’d think, would be atop the list. Mostly because everyone around Buffalo is sick of him. But the Sabres still are lacking Center depth and he can take face-offs. He’s playing a little better lately. He’s been over-valued historically by Darcy Regier. And worst of all: The Buffalo News reports Regier is declining trade calls at the moment for Connolly. That could just be a smoke screen, of course, but considering the Sabres look like they will be trying to strengthen the middle of the ice this deadline, I think Regier sees this it as a step backwards, even if they intend to let him go at the end of the year. What is working against Timmy is that there are probably a lot of teams who are very interested in making a move for Connolly, and Regier, what with the Golisano “chains” released, may be liable to make some moves simply because he can, now. I think the payment would have to come in form of an NHL-ready prospect or a mid-to-high first rounder for Connolly to move, but it’s possible, especially if a team that wants to make a move is getting near deadline hour and is desperate.
Their asses be-a-burnin’
Mike Grier, Chris Butler
I like Mike Grier. I think everybody likes Mike Grier, and that’s exactly why I think the 36-year-old, plays-the-game-the-right-way, gritty two-way forward would be a guy that many playoff teams and potential playoff teams would salvate over. With his contract expiring, his age isn’t really a concern, and the two recent goals will probably bring up a few blips on teams radar. Considering he is a low-risk, short-term player, he may garner the best return for the team, and Regier loves value moves. Chris Butler’s position on the team probably got a little safer with Rivet being picked up by Columbus, because the team doesn’t like to get too shallow in defensive depth, but he is still likely the odd-man out when it comes to this, especially with Sekera’s performance on Saturday. If the Sabres try to swing a big deal tomorrow, expect Chris Butler to be a part of the package.