According to Regier's latest press conference, the Sabres may head into training camp with a 22 man roster instead of the allotted 23 man roster, which most teams opt for. There are many things wrong with this picture, both explicitly and implicitly.
Now, it's understandable to do this for a few reasons, mostly financially speaking. However, when you have that extra spot, why not use it on one of our AHLers who desperately needs some NHL ice time under his belt? This is ESPECIALLY considering that our cap space is over $5 million, according to capgeek.com. It also gives you a lot more flexibility with benching slumping players, a favorite tactic of Lindy Ruff if history is any indication. Having 2 forwards itching for playing time rather than just 1 who knows he will go in if, say, I don't know, Drew Stafford starts playing bad hockey, creates a more competitive environment than the latter situation and thus a more competitive team.
However, in the last 2 out of 3 seasons, according to nhlnumbers.com, the team has left cap space of 5 or more million in 2 seasons and 1.6 million in the other season. Guess which seasons had the large cap space? That's right. The 2 years when they didn't make the playoffs. Which season did they win the division? The year when they had slightly over 1.5 million left. Now, it's not necessarily true that in order to do well you need to spend the money, but if this is any indication it certainly helps. According to this track record and the current status of having cap space of almost $5.5 million, does that mean the team is destined to be relegated to their home TVs for the 10-11 playoffs? Absolutely not.
Where is all this going? If you look at the team right now, and know what you're talking about of course, you'd be able to say that, with the exception of one questionable spot, we have a solid, veteran 6 for the defense. Sekera, who hasn't been bad, but hasn't been stellar either, is the up-in-the-air call. The goaltending is squared away with Ryan Miller who has been known to go for 60+ game seasons, barring injury by a Scott Gomez "accident." As for the front end, there has been a lot of rumor flying about and not a whole lot of change. Sure, there are several guys not returning next year: Mair, Ellis, Torres, and now Kennedy. The only one I will miss is Ellis because even though he wasn't a superstar, he always played with intensity, never gave up, and was generally a solid player. To make up for them came in Rob Niedermayer. Wait, that's it? That's right. With the emergence of potential star Tyler Ennis at the tail end of last season and postseason, Nathan Gerbe's solid performance in a handful of contests, and Cody McCormick showing his ability to be a tough 4th liner, the others became expendable in favor of youth and a slightly cheaper overall price tag. But really? That's all? I don't buy it. $5.5 million is a lot of money to have sitting around Darcy. There are 3 major rumors I've heard that could potentially happen that would make any sense. First, signing Lee Stempniak. At no more than $3 million or so a year, Stempniak COULD be a good addition to the team. I say could because he has been very inconsistent and the last thing the Sabres need is another inconsistent right wing on the top 2 lines. That's what Pominville and Stafford are there for. Speaking of Stafford, I have heard and I completely believe, that he could be part of a very believable trade to Boston for Marc Savard. The Bruins are going to be hard pressed for cap space when Marco Sturm returns from the IR and making cap space right up front may be the best way for them to go to avoid headaches down the road. Enter the Sabres. After the trade of Paille to the Bruins last year, it shows that the teams are willing to engage in trading together. Will this be a trade on the Simon Gagne level? Of course not. The Bruins will want something good in return. Stafford has shown glimpses of his talents and maybe he needs a move a la Afinogenov to bring him up. Either way, it was clear after last season that Stafford is in Ruff's infamous dog house, which is a difficult place to get out of. Stafford and a pick in the right round might do it for the Bruins. This could also take up a couple million in the cap space that is left floating around. The next possiblity to clear up the plethora of players capable of playing center on the team is to get rid of one, which brings us to the last major move: Tomas Kaberle. I keep hearing that the Sabres are one of the top teams in this hunt and I almost believe it. Regier has historically been rumored to go after Kaberle whenever an offseason or trade deadline is involved. Despite hearing that Brian Burke wants a winger, I can't see the Sabres getting rid of anyone on the wings, either for lack of talent in comparison to Kaberle or too big a price tag for not enough talent or that either team doesn't want that player in the deal. That leaves the middle. Out of Connolly or Roy, I'd have to say Roy. He has several years left on his contract and who doesn't love having a keeper than a rental, which is what Connolly would be with his one year remaining. Not to mention Roy is the safer bet as far as injury goes. I am personally biased to Connolly, but still, it makes sense. The Leafs need help anywhere up front with very few proven NHLers in their forward ranks. Roy would do nicely in his native land. And, more importantly, Mr. Giveaway would not be missed this side of the border. Roy and a prospect or a draft pick should be plenty to get Kaberle off Toronto's already overloaded defense corps. And MOST importantly, it keeps Regier's oh-so-preciously huge salary cap space in tact.
Your move Darcy. What are you planning?