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Black & Blue & Gold Looks Toward July 1st: Phil’s Take

06/22/11

EDITOR’S NOTE: What started out as a Vulgar Stats post is now a two-part series in which Black & Blue & Gold’s two authors take on the pink elephant in the room that is free agency. First was Alex’s gameplan. Next up is Phil.

The Buffalo Sabres have $44,842,024 wrapped up in 13 players going into the 2011-2012 season. Add into that $425,000 in bonuses and the last remaining $166,667 from Tim Kennedy’s buyout and the team has $14,557,976 in cap space. Take into account the $5M the cap ceiling will raise courtesy of the NHLPA’s inflator clause (bringing it up to around $64M), and the team has just under $19M to fill some needs and re-sign some pending free agents.

After the jump, I try my hand at playing armchair GM.

NOTE: In this post, I will only be acquiring players through free agency. No trades will be considered.

Taking a quick glance at the current roster make-up, a small list of things immediately jump out at you. The Sabres:

  • …need a top-6 center and two bottom-6 wingers among forwards
  • …need a partner for Tyler Myers and maybe another veteran among d-men
  • …need a back-up for Ryan Miller
  • …could do well to sign a few veterans for the farm team

Forwards
It’s pretty safe to say that Nathan Gerbe will get re-signed (especially if Ted Black, who is a Gerbe fan, has anything to say about it), and reasonably safe to say that the same will happen for Cody McCormick. As GM, I extend Gerbe for 3 years and a $1.65M cap hit and McCormick for 2 years and an $850K cap hit. That establishes a bottom-6 of Gerbe-Hecht-Boyes and Kaleta-Gaustad-McCormick. Onto the next task: finding that elusive top-6 center.

Even though in the real world Darcy Regier is going to have trades at his disposal to try and fill the empty top-6 pivot position (Carter, Stastny, etc), the focus of this post is free agency and the only center that’s going to free agency that is worth a damn is Brad Richards. The sentiment among fans clamoring for Richards to join their team is to sign him to a megabucks deal and a lengthy term, but it’s been made clear by Richards already that winning is his focus and not a Kovalchuk-esque payday. In that vein, as GM, I would sign Brad Richards for 6 years and a $7.5M cap hit. Is that lowballing? Possibly, compared to what the New York Rangers might offer. But Richards’ desire to play in a town without an oppressive media presence comes into play here as a selling point in favor of Buffalo.

Defense
First things first, I waive Shaone Morrisonn with the intention of sending him to the AHL so I can take his $2.075M cap hit off the books. Then I let Butler hit restricted free agency with the hopeful intention of someone signing him away. Otherwise I just let him walk.

Then I take care of my RFA defensemen: Mike Weber, Andrej Sekera, and Marc-Andre Gragnani. I sign Andrej Sekera to a 1 year deal with a $1.15M cap hit, Mike Weber and Marc-Andre Gragnani each to a 2 year deal with a $850K cap hit and $750K cap hit, respectively.

Left on the defensive agenda is filling two top-4 spots, one of them being Tyler Myers’ partner and the other being Jordan Leopold’s. As a veteran partner for Leopold, I see a soon-to-be former Blue Jacket (and former Sabres draftee!) Jan Hejda as an option. It doesn’t look like he’s wanted back in Columbus, so I give Jan Hejda a 2 year deal with a $2.15M cap hit. What’s harder to figure out is a good partner for Tyler Myers through free agency. The two most attractive options are Kevin Bieksa and Eric Brewer, but both of them are purported to be remaining in their respective markets. Christian Ehrhoff was an option before his dreadful showing in versus Boston. What I want in a partner for Myers is skating, toughness, and offensive upside, so I look at James Wisniewski and give him a 4 year deal with a $3.75M cap hit.

Goaltending
This one is quick and easy: I give Jhonas Enroth a 3 year contract with a $1M cap hit. It nearly doubles his salary from the previous season and with his new deal expiring the same season as Ryan Miller’s, it gives him a bit more motivation to try and steal the starting job in the 2013 season.

Connolly, Grier, Niedermayer, Mancari, Montador, and Lalime walk

It’s a very tight fit, but there is my FA-only vision of the Buffalo Sabres. A couple of variables that could be taken into account are that Luke Adam can have a balls-out awesome training camp that has Jochen Hecht demoted to the AHL (one advantage to having an owner with deep pockets is the ability to stash bad contracts in the AHL for a year until they expire) and the possibility of having either Sekera or Gragnani truly emerge over the other makes the other available to a mid-season trade for a pick in the next draft.

Joining Shaone Morrisonn in what will likely be Rochester is Matt Ellis, who I re-sign for 3 or 4 years with a $650K cap hit (upon call-up) to remain in the AHL as the perfect mentor for developing prospects. As GM, I’d offer Mark Mancari a similar situation – another two-way deal to remain with the farm team as a AAA star and mentor – but my personal hunch is he’ll reject any offer the Sabres tender to him in favor of seeking out greener pastures. Oh well.

Speaking of the AHL…

Free Agent Prospects
The Sabres have 9 free agent prospects, 5 of which are restricted free agents and 4 of which are unrestricted free agents. Dennis Persson, Felix Schutz, Travis Turnbull, Dennis McCauley, and David Leggio are RFAs. Mark Parrish, Tim Conboy, Colin Stuart, and Derek Whitmore are UFAs. Of the RFAs, I let Schutz and McCauley walk. Of the UFAs, I let all but Whitmore walk. The rest I sign to small deals to keep them in the fold.

There you have it – both Alex and I have put our thoughts on free agency to type. On Sunday, we’ll both be updating our proposed agendas to relfect any changes to the roster following the draft and how they might affect our vision for the team.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 06/22/11 12:16 PM

    I like how you have this set up, the only question I would have is on Sekera and the cap hit being low. I think a team might give him an offer sheet assuming he’s not signed prior to July 1 or he’s going to want a bigger deal than 1-year with a $100k pay cut? I’d probably let Sekera go and keep Butler to the 1-year deal.

    • 06/22/11 12:48 PM

      That was kind of the idea, actually. He might generate enough interest to garner a low-level offer sheet, slotting in Gragnani on the bottom pair with Weber and add another $1M to cap space. Also, yeah I didn’t look at actual salary when I did this, so that was an oversight error on my part that he actually takes a $100K paycut. Whoops.

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