Ok here we go……..
When I look at the Sabs I see potential for a great, great team. One like Boston has now. We have the parts of a team that are the most difficult to obtain (goaltending, a number one d-man, depth forwards who can add scoring, coaching, and sniping wingers). The main thing we need is centers (duh).
So here is what I would try and do today, this could change though as we move on.
Goaltending: Miller and Enroth are your guys. You keep them both unless someone absolutely blows you away with an offer. I don’t see them going anywhere, esp. with Bryzgalov on the market. I think we could add a goalie like Michael Leighton as a depth goalie in Portland. But it would just be for insurance and really David Leggio (local product) is doing quite nice there now.
Defense: Were so lucky to have Myers to build around here. After that Leopold, Sekera, and Weber are all keepers. They will be solid top 6 guys. Marc-Andre Gragnani was probably my favorite Sabre in the playoffs. He prob. should have been up here the whole season. He will also be in the top 6. He also takes away the need for a pp dman like Kaberle, who I would rather not overpay anyways. That’s 5 guys right there. That leaves us with Montador, Butler, and Morrisonn to talk about. Montador is a solid defenseman, however I have watched Monty throughout his career and unfortunately while he is a great 6th d-man, he shouldn’t be relied on as much more. His true colors started to come out late in the year. I love the guy and loves that he wants to stay but he will be asking for around 3 mil. and that is just too much. You have to let him go IMO. He also, has never done well in the playoffs in his career and usually finds himself watching from the press box in big games. Sorry Monty. Butler had a roller coaster year. At one point I wanted him gone for anything. He looked small to me when I saw him in the off-season and therefore I wasn’t surprised at his slow start. The guy came on though and in the playoffs at times, he was the best player on the ice. He played more minutes than Tyler Myers in each of our wins. Pretty impressive. I would keep Butler and start him off as the 7th d-man. Shaone Morrisonn had a really disappointing year. I liked his game in Washington, however with the injury earlier in the year, he never seemed to recover. He’s on the books for one more year at just over 2 mil. THAT SUCKS! He needs to be moved if possible because “it’s not happening here.” I doubt we will have any takers and therefore you either put him in Portland or you buy him out. I would like to be able to just keep him as an eighth d-man but with the players we need, we need every penny to make additions to win the cup. Brennan, Persson, and Crawford are all good d-man but will really need to impress to have any shot at beating out one of the young studs on D. Our D is young and good and I really think they will be key next season. CONSISTENCY is what we will need from them.
But I would like to find a partner for Tyler Myers and since the strength of this year’s FA class is on defense, then we need to look at finding Myers man. The only guy who really jumps out at me is Joni Pitkanen. He plays a major amount of minutes and is a steady presence that would go nicely with Myers. I would think he will want around the same amount of money as he makes now, which is 4.5. Offer him a 3-4 year deal. He is worth it.
Offense: It’s simple we need to centers. Gaustad is your third line center as he proved to me he could be that guy when Lindy gave him second line minutes, late in the year. I want more points from him though. McCormick should be re-signed for cheap as your fourth line center. You then have Pat Kaleta, Nathan Gerbe, Luke Adam, and Zach Kassian, all fighting for bottom 6 spots. I really like this part of our team. Looking at the top 6, I see Vanek, Stafford, Pominville, Hecht, Ennis, and Boyes. One too many wingers. The Boyes trade comes back to bite ya. It does because you have too many right wingers and now that Drew Stafford will demand a deal in RFA prob. worth 3.5-4 mil., we might be forced to trade Stafford for a number of reasons. Vanek is safe. Pominville can’t be moved because of his terrible deal, so he is safe. Hecht would be hard to move as well. He is in his contract year and we will be starting the year in his home of Germany so I think we should keep him and see if he can provide the two-way game he does. Ennis is safe. This comes from a decision of keeping 2/3 of our small guys. I would pick Gerbe and Ennis and trade the valuable and affordable Derek Roy. You cannot keep all three if you are serious about a Cup run. I know we need centers but Roy isn’t the guy for either the second or first lines.
Therefore you shop Roy. He has really high value. You try and trade him for another center. One that jumps out is Paul Stastny. He is a bit overpaid and that makes him available in the first place. He also didn’t have a great year. But he is a great player. Therefore the Avs. may see a Roy for Stastny trade as a good one money wise and they wouldn’t lose much production either. “A change of scenery trade that gives us our top center.” Now here is where this summer gets interesting….
When you look at the free agency depth at center, there are only TWO top 6 centers. Brad Richards and Brooks Laich. I would show interest in Richards, but in the end he will not be worth the money that you will have to pay, and we can’t forget about the contracts of Myers and Ennis being up next off-season either. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see us get the top center, but he will prob. choose the Rangers or Leafs and that is why we get our top guy through trade. You can’t have both Richards and Stastny. Let me make that clear.
Brooks Laich is one of my top 5 favorite players in the entire league. I would kill to have this guy. Washington isn’t stupid though and I would put it at about 95% that he re-signs there. If not you sign him for 4-4.5 mil. to be the second line center.
Jason Arnott and Eric Belanger are nice centers too, but they are more of third line guys right now.
So we will prob need to make a second trade. Stafford will have to be dangled because he has such high value. The first center I would go after would be Joe Pavelski. He would be great to add, but I think in the end San Jose would pass on any deal. I would then try and pry R.J. Umberger from Columbus. Stafford would bring in more than R.J though, so maybe you try and give them Boyes, Adam, and our first. If you have to give Staff up, then you will get RJ +. R.J. is a great second line center with size. He would be the guy we need to beat Philly, his former team who he still would love to have revenge against.
Other free agents who jumped out at me were Simon Gagne, Michael Ryder, Villie Leino, and Joel Ward. We simply don’t need wingers though. I would love to steal Leino from Philly but it would cost us at center. I don’t want to see Niedermayer centering our second line again. That should never happen! Ward would be a nice addition though.
Many believe Chris Drury will be bought out by the Rangers. If so I would show major interest. Drury is my favorite player and who wouldn’t want this guy? He’s a great example and he knows how to get the job done. He may not be the same player, but you know he would be motivated to finish what he left off 4 years ago. He would love to come back here. Bring him in on a cheap deal. He is this year’s Niedermayer.
So here is my line-up:
Vanek Gaustad Kassian
Ennis Umberger Stafford
Hecht Stastny Pominville
Gerbe Drury Kaleta
Spending to the cap, but with Hecht and Gaustad coming off the books next season, then we should have enough to give long-term deals to Myers and Ennis. By the way: Connolly, Mancari, and Lalime are also gone. Sign Ellis to Portland.
Name Thomas Vanek your captain. Make Grier a coach. Bring in the Stanley Cup in June.
This line-up would fit under the current cap with about 1 mil. in space. Thank YOU!
, Joey Pezzino