There are certain times of the year that I dread. Everyone has them. Unfortunately, mine coincide with hockey every year. The first time of year i dread is the NHL trade deadline. The second, came one week ago today, free agency in the NHL.
Being a loyal fan of the Sabres, I always get my hopes up. I think that the Sabres will do something to improve the team. However, I'm always proven wrong, and i normally end up cursing general management. Again, free agency for the Buffalo Sabres looks exactly like free agency in 2008.
I accept, as should the fans of any NHL team, that every year, teams will lose certain players to free agency or trades. It's inevitable. In exchange, I don't think it is too much for teams to try and fill those gaps left by those players, either by making trades, or signing a free agent. I personally like Punch Imlach's approach, that if one can better their team by 5%, you should do it. If you make 4 small deals, that have improved your team 5% each, you've improved your team 20%.
Let's look at Buffalo's wisdom this off-season. Welcome Steve Montador. Good-bye Jaro Spacek. Has this bettered the team? There's no doubt that Montador is a more than able defenseman, but is he comparable to Spacek? Has the team done anything else? Nope. I'd love to say that I'm surprised by this, but I'm not.
Let's look at the restricted free agents on the team, namely Sekera, Stafford, Kaleta, and Mancari. By simply mentioning their names, I have probably given them more attention the Sabres general management. Why has the team not even tried to sign them? Again, I'd love to say I'm surprised by this, but I'm not.
As for the unresricted free agents, nothing has been done either. I suspect that Dominic Moore's tenure with Buffalo will last about as long as Dainius Zubrus's. Afinogenov, Numminen, nothing done, nor do I expect anything. I don't advocate re-signing them... but at this point, I think I'd almost welcome signing Numminen to another one year contract. It'd tell me that general management is still alive.
I can expect this for the rest of free agency leading up to training camp in September. Buffalo will probably not sign any free agents. I suspect that general management thinks their job is done. As for the restricted free agents, Buffalo will end up having to match another team's offer, and overpay for Drew Stafford. It's just like what Buffalo had to do for Thomas Vanek (who is earning every penny of his deal) and Derek Roy (same thing as Vanek, both have stepped up their game). Patrick Kaleta, he'll probably sign a deal w/ Buffalo for a few years. As for unrestricted free agents, don't expect much. I plan to see Nathan Gerbe, Tim Kennedy, maybe even rookie Zach Kassian cracking the lineup this season. But don't expect to see many new faces, or new veterans getting on the team. Nothing else will be done to help out the defense, and nothing else will be done to fill offensive gaps and help spark the offense. Those are the two holes that I see. Opening day will come, and the hole's will not be filled.
I'd love to say that I have every confidence that Buffalo will make a few moves this off-season. I'd love to say that I'm surprised by Buffalo not doing anything. But I'm not surprised, and neither is the city of Buffalo.