Summer Bummer – Post #2: TRW’s Official Guide to Free Agency Part 1
The month of July has many things to offer including warm weather, trips to the beach, cookouts and a few key holidays (including my birthday which in my opinion should be a national holiday). The biggest and best day of July, however, is the first day of the month. July 1st not only marks the start of the month but also marks the start of something much greater: NHL Free Agency. Sabres fans know of the agony and excitement that free agency can bring. 2008 saw both Briere and Drury and walk away to bigger contracts and brighter lights. The Sabres haven’t made any big free agency moves since that fateful day.
Tomorrow the cycle will start all over again. Who will walk? Who will we sign? Who will crush all of our hopes and dreams? What RFA will Kevin Lowe offer a ridiculous contract to? With that I present to you: The Ruff Writers Official Guide to Free Agency.
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Adam Mair – After 7 seasons as a Buffalo Sabre, center Adam Mair is a free agent again this offseason. Although Mair played quite well in the playoffs, it would be okay by me if he left for greener pastures. Mair is a player who has been past his prime for a few years now. He has this horrible knack for becoming invisible when the situation calls for exactly the opposite. Think Pat Kaleta but without the bark or the bite. As much as I strongly dislike Mair, I would not be surprised at all if he was still a Buffalo Sabre next season. The organization seems to really like him and the fans tend to give him a lot of support. My prediction: Adam Mair is a member of the Buffalo Sabres for the next 2 seasons.
Cody McCormick – Although fans only got a brief glimpse of this rugged center, many people liked what McCormick brought to the table. During the playoffs, McCormick was able to bring new life to a nearly comatose Sabres squad. His hustle and seemingly endless want for ice time won over both the coaches and the fans. Although McCormick is mainly an enforcer, he showed that he could contribute on offense as well. He picked up 2 points in 3 playoff games with the Sabres and was a bright spot on a very lackluster team. Plus, he’s got the best to do list of any Sabre. My prediction: Cody McCormick is signed to a one year deal. He spends the beginning of the season with the Portland Pirates but works his way up to the big club for the majority of the season.
Raffi Torres – The Sabres acquired Torres, a left winger, at the trade deadline this past season. Torres, not unlike acquisitions of the past was very quiet for the Buffalo Sabres. Although Torres’s 19 goals made him automatically the leading scorer for the team when he was acquired, his total would stay there for the rest of the season. He amassed a total of 5 points as a Sabre, all of which were assists. Torres didn’t seem to be a perfect fit for the Sabres and the Sabres didn’t seem to be a perfect fit for Torres. My prediction: After very brief talks with the Sabres, Raffi Torres walks away to a team that needs him more.
Jeff Cowan – Not much can be said for this Portland Pirates mainstay. Although Cowan played 71 games with the Pirates last season, he never saw any NHL time. Cowan is an enforcing left winger who knows his role and plays it well. Not that anyone really cares about him. My prediction: Jeff Cowan (a poor man’s Cody McCormick) signs a 1 year deal with the Sabres and stays in Portland for 99% of next season.
Matt Ellis – As far as the forwards go, I saved the best for last (in my opinion). Ellis is one of the unsung heroes of the Buffalo Sabres. He constantly works hard and makes plays. He hits the corners harder than anyone else on the team and constantly makes smart plays. Ellis knows that he is not as naturally gifted as most but uses his instincts and smart play to make up for it. He is the perfect depth player for any team. I will be DEVASTATED if we don’t resign him. I’m not overreacting either. He truly is an unnoticed talent for this squad. My prediction: Matt Ellis is resigned to a two year contract and continues his quiet awesomeness for this team.
Toni Lydman – Toni has been a staple of the Sabres blue line for the past 5 years after being acquired from the Calgary Flames. Lydman provides a veteran calming presence on a relatively young team. These talents, however, are often overshadowed by some negative traits that Lydman has. Although Lydman doesn’t often make mistakes, when he does they are costly. Time and time again Lydman has coughed up the puck to oncoming forwards and the puck often results in the Buffalo net. Lydman is also getting old and is losing some of his ability. He rarely can contribute offensively and is not as dynamic of a shutdown D-Man as he was in the past. Lydman’s already numbered NHL days are even more in jeopardy with heat coming from younger, more talented players (Mike Weber, Chris Butler). My prediction: Lydman signs a 2 year deal… Somewhere else.
Henrik Tallinder – The fact that both Tallinder and Lydman are UFA’s this offseason is quite interesting. Tallinder is somewhat similar to Lydman in that he has a veteran presence and tends to be quite calm. He’s dependable and gets the job done. That being said, don’t expect too much out of him these days. Although he has fantastic chemistry with recent Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers, Tallinder is past his prime as well. Unlike Lydman, however Tallinder has a bit more offensive prowess. Tallinder and Myers work quite well on a defensive pairing that has established itself as one of the most dominant in the league. Like Lydman, Tallinder is also feeling the pressure of younger, faster players coming up from Portland. Andrej Sekera, Brayden McNabb and T.J. Brennan are all up and coming players who could give Hank a run for his money. My prediction: The Sabres resign Henrik Tallinder to a 1 year deal for the sake of grooming Tyler Myers. The Sabres need Hank to help Myers avoid the looming Sophomore slump. [UPDATE: According to both Phil at Black Blue and Gold and Pierre LeBrun of ESPN Hank isn’t exactly close to signing with the Sabres right now. Here is a tweet from Pierre: “Source says no progress in talks between sabres and tallinder.” Just food for thought.]
Patrick Lalime – Patty has been the backup to The Man, The Myth, The Miller for the past two seasons. Although Lalime has had moments of brilliance in his time with the Sabres, he has been less than stellar most of the time. Lalime has 9 wins, 21 losses and 0 shutouts as a Sabre. Not exactly stellar numbers, even for a backup. I’ve never really been a fan of Patty as a player (he’s a great person though). The team plays with little to no confidence when playing in front of Lalime. That being said, it should be noted that Lalime has a great effect on the team in the locker room and on one person in particular. It is well known that Pat Lalime and Ryan Miller good friends and that their relationship carries over onto the ice. Lalime is like the backup Quaterback to Miller (WHOA football reference!). Any good starter has a solid backup to help him out. Lalime criticizes Miller when he needs to and praises him when he needs to as well. My prediction: After much debate within the front office Patrick Lalime is resigned for another year until Jhonas Enroth is ready to take over as backup.
Restricted Free Agents:
The Sabres actually have 10 RFA’s whose contracts are expiring tomorrow. For those who don’t know how the RFA system works, I’ll break it down very simply for you. Any team can tender an RFA a contract BUT the team who has the rights to the RFA has the option to match said contract and sign the player before the team that offered the contract can have the player. This is exactly what happened to Thomas Vanek when Edmonton Oiler’s GM Kevin Lowe offer him a very large contract in ’08. There are draft picks involved if the offering team wins the contract but it gets a bit complicated.
I’m not going to break down every RFA we have up for new contracts because frankly I don’t think anyone cares about a guy like Michael Kotska or Derek Whitmore (at least not yet). That being said there are a few interesting names on the list of guys we have to resign.
Buffalo native Tim Kennedy is one guy that the Sabres will most definitely resign tomorrow. He’s young and has a massive upside. Pat Kaleta, another native of WNY, is also an RFA tomorrow. He will also definately get resigned but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone tendered him a contract. He’s the type of guy that teams would love to have. Annoying if he’s not on your team, awesome if he is on your team. Mike Weber is a guy that has been around for a couple years on and off and will likely get resigned. Don’t be surprised though if he is traded. He has had his shot a couple of times and time is running out for him to darn the Blue and Gold.
Among the names of guys that could get traded tomorrow for picks or the like are Mark Mancari and Marc-Andre Gragnani. Outside of the fact that they both are named Mark, these two both have had their chances with the organization and don’t seem to be fitting quite right. I wouldn’t mind shipping Mancari off but Gragnani has a great upside. He was a defensman that was converted to left wing but I wouldn’t mind putting him back on D. We need some good puck movers and MAG (new nickname? check) could be one.
Alright, that’s it for now. Check back in about 30 minutes for my analysis on who I think the Sabres will pick up. WARNING: I’m going to be brutally honest, not dreamfully optimistic.