Sabres RFAs

Thankfully, the Buffalo Sabres won’t have a lot of RFA drama this offseason.  As far as RFAs that made any sort of roster appearance with the big show this year, well, there ain’t that many:

  • Tim Kennedy
  • Patrick Kaleta

You know those guys are coming back.  Neither one is worth enough for another team to make an offer sheet for, but they hold down important roles on the Sabres.  The next tier of RFAs are the ones leading the way for the Portland Pirates:

  • Mark Mancari
  • Marc-Andre Gragnani
  • Mike Weber
  • Phillip Gogulla

Mike Weber (who got some PT with the Sabres a couple of years ago) is a guy that some are looking to step up to the show potentially, if Tallinder and Lydman both end up leaving.  No guarantees though, considering that Sekera and Butler had basically been sharing the 6th d-man spot down the stretch.

The third tier of RFAs are guys I know very little about, to be honest.  You can get more info on them at Sabres Prospects, but if there are any RFA types that don’t get tendered an offer by the Sabres, it’s these guys

  • Matt Generous
  • Jean-Phillipe Lamoreaux
  • Michael Kostka
  • Derek Whitmore

Not a bad year for Restricted Free Agency for Buffalo.  Only one guy is arbitration eligible, and he’s in the third tier (Generous).  Shouldn’t be too much stress there.

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When Do You Pay Attention To The NHL Again?

Okay, I know some of you are still watching the playoffs, and for others, it’s over when Buffalo is done.  I’m curious, how involved are you in the offseason machinations that surround the team?  Do you track who gets drafted at the draft?  Pay attention to rookie development camps?  Hit an open practice or two during training camp?  Or do you circle opening day on your calendar and catch up then?

UFA! UFA! UFA!

Since the Buffalo Sabres have been eliminated for a while now, I think it’s safe to take a look at the pending UFAs and see who we want to bring back.  The Sabres got out ahead of us, by announcing the signing of Mike Grier to a 1 yr, $1.4 million deal the other day.  He said right off he wanted to be back, so this was the easiest decision GMDR and company have made.  Grier is an important part of the PK as well as being the sort of hard worker you want the younger guys learning from and leaning on.

The rest of the UFAs, with last season’s cap hit after:

  • Raffi Torres – $2,250,000
  • Adam Mair – $758,333
  • Matt Ellis – $500,000
  • Toni Lydman – $2,875,000
  • Henrik Tallinder – $2,562,500
  • Patrick Lalime – $1,000,000

Not including the AHL roster filler guys like Joe DiPenta (although Cody McCormick did make an impression).  Looking at the forwards, I’d be fairly certain Raffi Torres is not sticking around.  He just never found ‘it’ here, and he has his sights set on other locales anyway.  Mair and Ellis are a bit different, though.  It’s easy to say ‘let them both go!’ and bring in Gerbe or Ennis or someone like that, but it’s not that simple.  Mair has stuck around longer than you’d imagine, simply due to the fact that he’s one of the few ‘tough’ Sabres.  But there are guys coming up (Zack Kassian, for one) who can provide that with more upside.  Matt Ellis seems more likely to be back, especially if he is willing/able to go on a two-way deal.  Lindy seems to be a big fan, and he has been a consistent effort guy, which you can’t always say for the top six as currently formed.

For the defense (your honor), Tallinder and Lydman are both heading towards free agency.  Keeping both seems unlikely, but I’m not sure which one I would choose.  Lydman may be better all around, but I also have a hard time letting go of the guy Tyler Myers developed so much chemistry with.  Keeping neither is also an option, though the questions around Rivet’s shoulder might make at least one coming back more likely.

As for backup goalie, Patrick Lalime may be the best option out there as far as a guy willing to take that role, unless Marty Biron decides it’s worth coming back.  To be honest, the numbers weren’t much different last year between the two, but Marty is still a fan favorite and has an obvious love of the area.  Management is probably comfortable with either guy, so the wants and needs of other teams may be the biggest factor here.

A trade involving the upper half of the roster is still possible, and I know some of you are hoping it’s likely, to give the forward lines a bit of a shakeup.  I don’t think that does much to change what the Sabres do with these guys, though.  Will be looking at RFAs another time.

Perspective…

This post is influenced by this post at Hockey Rhetoric, and also Pixar’s Ratatouille.  I may ramble around a bit, but I want to get these thoughts down, and where better than right here on the new site?

My wife was surfing around the other day, trying to put something kid-friendly on the tube, when she stopped on Ratatouille.  It was towards the end, but the lines of the critic Ego struck a chord with me:

…you know what I’m craving? A little perspective. That’s it. I’d like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?

*snip*

Very well. Since you’re all out of perspective and no one else seems to have it in this BLOODY TOWN, I’ll make you a deal. You provide the food, I’ll provide the perspective, which would go nicely with a bottle of Cheval Blanc 1947.

Waiter:  I’m afraid… your dinner selection?

Ego (with anger):  Tell your chef Linguini that I want whatever he dares to serve me. Tell him to hit me with his best SHOT.

We as sports fans, especially fans of a specific team, often think we have a perspective or special insight on the teams we live and die with.  Even though, as Paul notes in the linked article, we know even less about these guys than the team does.  I don’t think that should reduce the impact of what we decide about teams and players, though.  Let’s look at how the Sabres season ended.  Many, many Sabres fans on their blogs and on Twitter decried the lack of performance of Craig Rivet.  It’s safe to assume Sabres managment knew exactly how bad his shoulder was, but they kept rolling him out there night in, night out, and he kept answering the call, cuz the dude is TOUGH.  Does that mean we are wrong to harp on his performance, or single him out for playing terrible?  I don’t think so.  We don’t know everything, but there is enough information for informed opinions, if you put as much time into the team as we do.

I have a tendency to try and stay positive longer than most of you, for the team in general, but I do analyze how players are playing and compare them to guys in similar roles around the league.  It’s especially easy with tools like the blogosphere and Twitter to get a feel for how fans of other teams feel about their players.  Where do Derek Roy and Tim Connolly fit in with the top 6 centers in the league, for example?  Most fans think we know these guys, what they can do, that they’ve reached their ceiling as far as performance…but there’s no way to be sure.  We cry out for these two to be traded, but are the points they provide going to be that easy to replace?  Roy had 69 points (26 goals), which is really right in line with his usual production.  If you saw points like that on a guy, who doesn’t have a bad faux hawk and hang on Chippewa, you’d take him.

Let’s face it – Darcy Regier is not stupid.  He has signed, drafted and traded for some good players, and the ones he’s let walk that you’d still actually want, he did so because he’s not in the business of handing out huge overpayments.  They may have to get into that business with Tyler Myers, but we’ll cross that bridge in a couple of years.  So why do his deadline deals hardly ever pan out?  Raffi Torres should’ve been as close to a sure thing as you could get – a tough player, who had already scored plenty of goals on a lacking team, who turned invisible once he got here.  Zubrus did okay, but Dominic Moore and Steve Bernier pretty much just had one good game a piece.  There’s more to it than that (as some of the draft picks and things GMDR has picked up in these trades are or might still turn out), but even with the additional information we don’t have, management gets it wrong.

Another example – the aforementioned Tyler Myers.  For most Buffalo sports fans, the best thing that’s happened this year is the emergence of Tyler Myers as a legit top pairing D-man.  The thing is, that was never a sure bet to happen.  As little as 2 years ago, there were questions about how hard he wanted to work at things, and his early Junior numbers were only so-so.  The main reason he was talked about was his size, as many teams drooled over the potential to develop another Chara.  But it was Myers own hard work at the end of his junior career that rocketed (ahem) him up into the lofty status he has now.  That includes WHL playoff MVP (watched those games, he kicked ass), and the Gold medal for Canada at the World Junior Championships.

I just want to say that I will continue to provide my perspective on the Sabres in this spot, same as I did over at the ol’ stomping grounds.  Hope you enjoy your stay here, and be sure to follow my new Twitter account (@TheTickSP) if you want to get notified of new posts here and see my much shorter Sabres thoughts.