I have been waiting to discuss free agency/trades for something to happen with Buffalo. Alas, I can wait no more. Yes I know free agency is still on going, and trades can happen at anytime. However, the initial excitement has come to a close.
The Buffalo faithful have been wondering where Darcy Regier has been. There was even several tweets on Twitter with the hashtag “things Darcy did on free agency day”. He finally showed that there was still a pulse when Drew Bagnall was signed, with the idea that he’ll go to the Rochester Amerks. Then yesterday morning, Alex Sulzer (who was supposedly going to test free agency) was resigned to a 1-year deal as well. Then again, all was quit from the Buffalo Sabres.
We’ve heard rumors of Miller and Vanek being on their ways out of Buffalo. Stafford has been rumored to be leaving as well. Even Tyler Myers has been rumored to be moved. Still, nothing happens.
Buffalo has several restricted free agents; Brian Flynn, Matthew Hackett, Corey Tropp, Luke Adam, and Cody Hodgson to name a few.
None have been resigned.
At this point in time, Buffalo has about 17 million in cap space to play with (with Miller and Vanek still on the roster). Subtract a little bit if the restricted free agents are signed.
As I write this, Buffalo has just traded to re-acquired Henrik Tallinder. He did well in Buffalo, I hope he can help this young defensive core. The problem, Buffalo could start 5 defensive pairings this season, not just patch together 3 pairings. I’m hoping that he is the veteran d-man to lead this young back end. However, I’m hoping that this is a prelude to something bigger. I suspect a big trade may be in the works. Why else does Buffalo need so many defensemen?
So what’s the plan?
Better question; IS there a plan?
I know that this years free agent pool wasn’t exactly staggering. There wasn’t a lot there, especially compared to the free agents that hit the market in 2014. For those of you who don’t know, those names include players like Joe Thorton, Henrik Lundqvist, Paul Stastny, Marian Gaborik, Henrik AND Daniel Sedin, Phil Kessel, Patrice Bergeron, Patrick Marleau, Dion Phaneuf, and Ryan Callahan, just to name a few. At this time, on paper, 2014 looks to be a fantastic free agency frenzy.
Could it be, that Buffalo actually has a plan here?
No one expects Buffalo to actually win much next year. Especially with the new divisions, it’s just not happening. So, that tentatively means a high draft pick for the Buffalo Sabres. That could even mean a draft pick in the top 5. That seems pretty realistic right now, doesn’t it?
In the meantime, Buffalo saves cap space. They limp through the 2013-2014 season and plan for the big free agency period of 2014.
There ARE some big problems with this though.
First, Buffalo is flirting with losing Vanek and Miller for absolutely nothing. If Buffalo chooses not to trade them now, they will obviously be on the starting roster come October 2013. They could be moved at any point during the regular season. However, the Sabres run the risk of one of them getting hurt during the season. They also run the risk of one of them, or both for that matter, having sub-par seasons and damaging their trade value. Darcy may not even be able to move Vanek and Miller at the trade deadline. We have no idea what the market is going to look like then. If they don’t move either player, Buffalo will lose both players for absolutely nothing. They are both set to be part of that big 2014 free agency frenzy.
Second, playing the free agency game is an extreme risk. First, a lot of these players are going to be moved at the trade deadline. I think the trade deadline in 2014 is going to be really interesting, especially with the amount of contracts that are going to be up. With these trades, there’s always the risk that the players moved sign extensions in their new cities. All of a sudden, they’re not free agents anymore.
Finally, and the biggest problem of all, how many of those players I mentioned before, that are free agents next year, are really going to want to come to “Hockey Heaven”? Buffalo seems to be the opposite at this point in time, and the fans are losing faith. Not many of those big name players are going to want to move to a city where they don’t have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. The Sabres are going to be very hard pressed to convince high caliber players to come to Buffalo.
If Buffalo is trying to wait, and do a serious overhaul next season, I feel it’s quite a gamble. It’s not that horrid of an idea. I think the best part of it is the fact that Buffalo can land a top 5 draft pick. However, a lot of risks are involved. Buffalo is gambling that they can convince players to come to Buffalo, and put a solid team on the ice. Right now, it appears that they are having a hard time just convincing their restricted free agents to come back.
One thing can be for sure though; things will most likely get worse, before they get better.
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As always, Thanks for reading!