The draft came and went a bit more anti-climatic than expected. The Sabres did well for themselves adding the agile Finnish winger Joel Armia (though i would have preferred Mark McNeill) and the exciting Daniel Catenacci but to expect either of these players to have in impact in the 2011-2012 season is unrealistic. This years draft was to continue stocking the cupboard for the future, and the drafting of Catenacci pretty much replaces Paul Byron.
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As for the Regehr trade i think the Sabres got what they needed in a snarly no-nonsense veteran D-man who should pair well with either Myers or Leopold. Hopefully Regehr will provide them with the shut-down play and shot blocking expertise they really haven't had since they opted to not resign Jay McKee. Giving up Butler is no skin off the Sabres back as at his best Butler is basically Regehr anyway, but now Buffalo doesn't have to live through the 18-25 games during the season that Butler will make bonehead plays and cost the team a few goals. Developing young defenseman takes time, and sometimes it's better to let them grow somewhere else. Paul Byron wasn't going to crack the line-up this year anyway, and as mentioned above, the drafting of Catenacci essentially replaces him in the system...perhaps with more upside.
The only question mark in this trade i see was taking back Ales Kotalik. Obviously this was a requisite imposed upon us by Calgary as they needed to free up cap space and big Al was banished to the AHL for most of last year. Kotalik had some terrific seasons for Buffalo but was always mired in inconsistency...however none more so than after he left western New York. I don't really see Kotalik fitting in this new Sabres line-up both from a strategic or financial perspective. I assume Regier and Ruff will tell him to work his butt off in camp and prove he's back to the old Kotalik or they will have a nice spot for him in Portland (or Rochester at some point).
The Sabres announced they have tendered RFA's Weber, Gerbe, Enroth, Sekera, and Gragnani. Thankfully this means Lalime's reign of terror is over.
Depth at center is still a concern and although i think Connolly could be useful at a really cheap price sometimes it's better to just move on and start fresh. Looking at it again a week almost a week later the Sabres depth at Center is worse than it was before. Connolly looks to be headed out of town and Byron was traded. Luke Adam isn't ready for a top 6 role in my opinion and i don't like all these Wing/Center hybrids Buffalo has. Hecht, Boyes, Gerbe...they aren't true Centers. So again that leaves Buffalo with Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad. Mancari and McCormick have yet to be resigned so even the fourth line has a hole. Though that could be the perfect spot for Adam.
This leads me back to where I was a few days ago campaigning for Brad Richards. I still am. I'm a firm believer that Roy is the best second line center in hockey and if Buffalo can nab a center of equal or greater talent to anchor the top line they may be able to push through to the next level. Brad Richards isn't the only option, however in my opinion he's the best option. Here are a couple other marquee routes the Sabres could go.
Paul Statsny- He is on the block and after all the turmoil in Colorado last year it's probably for the better that both parties move on. He is younger than Richards and possesses elite ice vision at his age. The downside is that in order to obtain Statsny the Sabres would have to give up a lot, possibly including Roy. Losing Roy would defeat my plan of having two top centers.
RFA's- Although the prospect of poaching a potential first line center from another team is exciting....it's very unlikely. Stamkos is the big name on the block but he is going to command an extraordinary amount of money, cost the Sabres four years of first round picks, and at the end of the day he's more of the Jeff Carter scoring type than the Statsny/Richards play maker. I know it sounds crazy to say i wouldn't want Stamkos, but he's probably not the best fit for the Sabres. Other options like Brandon Dubinsky, Tyler Bozak and Kyle Turris are there but none of these guys are really top line centers at this stage of their careers. Turris certainly has the potential, he's just coming along slowly, Bozak will be retained by Toronto no matter what and Dubinsky looks more like a classic second line gritty center than your elite top line playmaker.
All that leaves are trades, and in any trade you'll have to give to get. My point is that Buffalo is pretty close with the forwards they have now, and unless a team is willing to take back depth players, prospects and draft picks the Sabres are better off getting Brad Richards for giving up nothing more than the money Pegula has promised to spend anyway.
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