So here we go, another off-season filled with free agents and question marks only fit for the Empire State. This year it comes down to the absolute core of the team, the two captains, Chris Drury and Daniel Briere.
I love Chris Drury, he is everything I want my captain to be. If I have a team led by Drury, backstopped by Ryan Miller, and coached by Lindy Ruff, I am going to like my chances. Drury seems like he is the unquestioned leader in that locker room and does not have to rely solely on words to lead. He scores goals when they count most and his work ethic cannot be compared to any other. The reports of him putting it all out there in practice before game four against Ottawa to get his team going is what a captain should do. Then taking a Tim Connolly slap shot to the face in game five, and returning. I was at that game and my thoughts matched what Danny Briere said after the game, I expected him to come back. It was just a matter if there would be enough time. Then coming out for the post game press conference with a towel to soak up the blood, classic.
Danny Briere is great too don’t get me wrong. He has more talent in his right hand than I can ever dream of having. Some of the plays you watch him make are jaw dropping. 95 points would be very hard to replace. But it was they way he played that disappoints me. He really looked like he was trying not to get hurt, and that is not behavior befitting of a captain. After only getting 15 minutes of ice time and not registering a shot in game three in the conference finals, he left early and did not talk to the press. I don’t know if I like the thought of my captain having a rough night then going away to hide.
But the team loves them both, and as Ryan Miller said on locker cleanout day, the players learned a lot from them in their time here.
Locker cleanout was confusing too. It was the opposite of what I thought was going to happen. Briere sounded committed to staying in Buffalo, whereas Drury did not say much and left his options open by not committing to anything. But then again, that was Drury playing it safe and not getting himself in trouble in the media, which looks like classic Captain Clutch.
As great as it would be to keep both players, it might be improbable, but at the same time not impossible. Right now the sabers have about $27.8 mil tied up, which leaves (assuming the cap will go to $49 mil) 21.2 mil left to sign their own free agents as well as any others they may need. If Kalinin and Kotalik are dealt another $4.3 mill will open up. Spacek costs just too much for other teams to want him, and with the way he rebounded in games four and five, I might want to keep him if he will continue to play that way. So roughly $25.5 mil will be free to use. Lets say Briere and Drury both get six, the Sabres will have only $13.5 mil left to play with. That may sound like a lot but when you still have to sign Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, possibly Dainius Zubrus, another d-man, Ty Conklin, and some others, that money will disappear quickly. And what if the Sabres don’t want to spend to the cap? They might want to have enough flexibility to make a move or two at the deadline.
I’d love to see Danny Briere stay in a Sabres uniform, but it will be too costly. If Briere and Drury decide they want to give Buffalo a “home town discount” then great, bring them back. But it doesn’t look as if that will happen. They should commit to Drury, and sure up Vanek and Roy to long term deals, but that is a topic for a different blog.