#1, Re-sign Drury to a 5-year deal at between $7 and $7.5 million a year.
#2, Re-sign Vanek to a 5-7 year deal at an average of $3.5-$4
#3, Re-sign Roy (about $1.5 million a year), Mair ($750,000 a year), Michael Ryan (minor league contract), Dan Paille ($750,00 a year), Nathan Paetsch ($1 million a year) to multi-year deals. Definitely lock Paetsch up as long as possible. I think he will step in to a starter roll very smoothly.
I love Danny and Zubie, but bye bye (too much $$ if you want Drury and Vanek). Also bye bye to Peters (sorry he's a great guy and I really like him. But I want to win and cannot waste a roster spot on him anymore). Bye bye Teppo (too old and too expensive at over $2.6 million a year).
#4, Re-sign Conklin or a different backup goalie.
#5, Find a way to trade Kalinin and maybe even Kotalik to free up cap space.
So before free agents from other teams this would be our roster in no particular order:
Stafford / Drury / ___________
Vanek / Roy / Afinogenov
Hecht / Connolly / Pominville
Mair / Gaustad / Paille (an awesome checking line).
Tallinder / Lydman
Campbell / Spacek
Paetsch / ________
Miller / Conklin
So basically we would have some money to spend now and we would need one forward and one defenseman. Briere frees up $5 million, Teppo frees up $2.6 million, Zubrus frees up $1.85 million, Kalinin frees up $1.75 million, and Peters $460,000. That totals $11.66 million dollars. Now we have to see how much we spent on the guys I just signed.
If we increased Drury's salary by $4 million a year he'd be getting paid $7.154 million a year. Sounds fair to me. Then Vanek's salary goes from $942, 400 a year to $4 million a year. A difference of $3,058,600 a year. Roy goes from $627,000 a year to $1.5 million a year. A difference of $873,000 a year. Paetsch would go from $495,00 a year to $1 million a year. A difference of $505,000 a year. Pay Mair and Paille about the same they were getting.
That means $8,436,600 dollars would be taken out of the $9,910,000 million we freed up. That leaves us with $1,473,400 dollars. The salary cap will be increasing by between $4 million to $6 million dollars a year. That means we'd have between $5,473,400 and $7,473,400 a year to sign a forward and a defenseman. I say you get ballsy and sign Sheldon Souray from the Habs. He instantly improves your power play a ton (him and Connolly on the points) and brings some physical play to the blue line. If you want to play it more safe and go a bit more hard-nosed, sign Scott Hannan from the Sharks. And then you sign a hard nosed winger like a Mike Grier. This is all very realistic now that the Sabres' front office has said they will spend more money this year than they did last year.
The blog above is a solution that would keep the Sabres as a cup contender and make them a bit more hard-nosed so that they can compete when the Refs inevitably put their whistles away during the post-season.