Since it's the most recent development, I'll start off by saying that I think bringing Tallinder back into the fold was a great move by Darcy and the Sabres. Not only has he had a solid career as a defensive defenseman, but he is exactly the kind of hard-working professional that the young Sabres need as a role model. The most interesting aspect of this move, however, is what it means for the Sabres D-corps, which was already a bit of a logjam, and has now become a full blown cluster(frank).
The Sabres have 10(!) D-men competing for 6 starting spots.
Here is how I see the Sabres D pairings (barring injury) to start the season:
Ehrhoff - Sulzer
Tallinder - Myers
Weber - Pysyk
Amerks: Ruhwedel, McNabb, Ristolainen
It's not outlandish to assume Tallinder will at least start the season with Myers. The two had unbelievable chemistry in Myers's rookie season, which saw him with the Calder. Myers has obviously struggled since that season, coinciding with Tallinder's departure for the Devils via free agency in '10-'11. The caveat is that Myers shouldn't still need Tallinder, and this could point to some deeper issues with his development. Myers will be entering his fifth season as a Sabre, and despite being a young 23, he is by all intents and purposes a veteran. Defense is not typically a young man's profession, and it's said that the position requires a more mature perspective than that of a forward, since your play must be much more calculated and your mistakes usually carry a heavier penalty. As much as Tallinder will benefit the other young players, I believe that deep down this is a bit of a last ditch effort to get Myers's game back on track. If Myers continues to struggle, I could see him being moved, though his contract could make that difficult.
The more optimistic scenario is that Tallinder has been brought back to mentor Pysyk, who is all but a lock for a roster spot this season. The kid looked fantastic, but the 82 game season he'll partake in this year will be his first, and will be grueling, especially considering the competition in the revamped Northeast division. If Myers can stand on his own two feet (and again, at this stage of his career, he should be able to), he could end up paired with Weber, and Tallinder could pair with Pysyk.
Regardless, it will be nice to see Hank back in a Sabres sweater. Ehrhoff wears the #10 now, and #7, which he wore in New Jersey, belongs to the late Rick Martin and is retired with the rest of the French Connection. He also wore #7 in Sweden during this year's IIHF Championships, so he'll don a new number this year.
The kid's got a ton of talent, but Carolina GM Jim Rutherford didn't pull any punches when he said that McBain didn't show up to camp in shape last year, got in the coaches doghouse early, and stated that he didn't think he would ever get out. He also expressed his satisfaction with the Sekera trade by way of saying it was good to replace McBain with "someone more reliable." Now that Tallinder has been brought back in and Sulzer re-signed, he'll really have to impress to make the top 6.
McBain does have a great shot, and has the potential to be a 30+ point D-man in the right situation. He struggled last year and has played for a generally average Canes team over the last four seasons, but saw some second unit power play time in '10-'11. It would be a huge surprise if he came anywhere near those numbers, but that's more a knock on the state of the Sabres than his potential.
Darcy said Ron Rolston "stressed the need for both right handed and left handed defensemen," and that plays well in McBain's favor. I think that he'll start out as the #7 D, but if he shows up to camp in good shape and is committed to earning a roster spot, I think he could displace Sulzer in the top 6 early in the season. McBain is 25 years old, however, and professional practices should be ingrained by now. He is a fairly low risk option as he will go RFA next season, so if he doesn't work out, there will be plenty of talent looking to replace him.
I like Sulzer, but the Sabres lack of commitment prior to the July 5 opening of the UFA market tells the whole story. Sulzer and Ehrhoff showed great chemistry in late '10-'11, after he came to Buffalo with Cody Hodgson from Vancouver. He also played well early this past season, but then was hampered by a season ending injury. I think he holds the edge to start on the Sabres roster having more experience and the professional attitude that's going to be expected around the youth movement. That said, the youth movement will be happening in Buffalo, and at 29 years old, and having been signed for a measly 1 year/$725k contract, it's painfully obvious that he won't be a Sabre long term. The #6 D job is his to lose, but will be highly contingent on what McBain brings into camp. It's also worth noting that Sulzer is a left handed shot, which does not align with the plan of playing Left-Right D combinations.
Thanks for reading!