Sabres Summer Signings: A Breakdown

17 days ago (on July 1st) the NHL Free Agency period officially began. By the end of the first day, the Sabres lost two defenseman and gained a new one. The next day they resigned a depth bruiser. After waiting five days to make another move, the Sabres signed a veteran grinder to add some much needed depth. Let’s break things down.

The first major Sabres signing of the day was defenseman Jordan Leopold . After fans watched both Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman walk to the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks (respectively) things started to get a little nerve wracking. However, in the late afternoon Darcy Regier and the Sabres front office announced the signing of one Jordan Leopold. The 6 foot 1, 200 pound D-Man came to the Sabres after serving as a rent-a-player for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Jordan Leopold: One of the Newest Sabres

Many people held Tallinder and Lydman both in high regards and felt that letting them go was a big mistake. However, these people need to look at the real picture and not what they think is the real picture. Although Hank was Tyler Myers’s main partner, he is past his prime and is quite old. The same can be said for Lydman. Both players seem to have lost their luster. Last season both Tallinder and Lydman scored 4 goals and had 16 helpers for a total of 20 points. Leopold had 11 goals and 15 assists for a total of 26 points. The addition of Leopold adds a bit of size to the blue line. Couple that with his ability to put pucks on the net (he had more shots than both Tallinder and Lydman last season) and this acquisition looks like a fine replacement for either Henrik or Lydman (not both). Leopold is signed through 2013 (3 seasons) and will make 3 million each year. It’s worth noting that both Lydman and Tallinder are making at least 3 million a year with their new teams.

You may be saying to yourself: “But that doesn’t make sense… We lost two defenseman and only gained one. What does this team plan to do?” Well, first don’t start a statement with the word “but”. Second, the talk from within seems as though the team is going to replace the missing piece with a player already in the organization (aka a prospect). Now would be a good time to point out that youngster Mike Weber has resigned with the Sabres for one more year. He has had a few opportunities with the big club but has yet to give the team a real reason to keep him up. This season he will have to provide that reason.

On July 2nd the Sabres resigned depth grinder Cody McCormick to a 1 year deal. This is the perfect deal for a guy like McCormick. Because he is relatively unproven as a Sabre, a one year deal helps motivate him to play well but provides a safety net in case we want to part ways with him next year. McCormick brings a lot of size and hard work to the table, something this team could always use more of. On top of that, he proved that he can perform in big situations when the team called him up during the playoffs. If not for his playoff performance, McCormick’s name would probably not even be in the equation right now for the Sabres. However, McCormick is a hard worker who fights for every second of ice time he gets. He’s a Lindy Ruff kind of player.

The Sabres front office made another move on July 7th with the acquisition of Rob “No, Not Scott” Niedermayer. At the age of 35, Niedermayer brings a lot of veteran experience. Actually, he won the cup with Anaheim in ’07 making him one of the only players on the roster to win a cup. Niedermayer will likely center the third line bringing depth and some much needed role to this team. Because of the way Lindy shuffles his lines, however, Niedermayer could end up with anyone on any given night. He’s been known to be a decent set up man and has great hockey senses. He’s a rich man’s Mike Grier in that he knows how to move with and without the puck. Watch for Niedermayer to make a positive impact on this team with his superb two way playing.

Speaking of Mike Grier, the Sabres re-signed him to a one year deal way back on May 17th. This signing speaks for itself. He likes the organization, the organization likes him. Win-Win. His hard work will be much appreciated next season.

Overall, I am actually quite pleased with these signings. The two new players will bring a bit of spark and chemistry to a team that is really only looking for those last few pieces. Would I like to see a definitive top 6 scorer? Of course. Although we didn’t make that splash, I think this team is quite capable of doing well. We brought in a great D Man in Leopold and a hard nosed veteran in Niedermayer. Couple those signings with more experience for our young players (Ennis, Myers, Kennedy) and better playing from the “core” and you have an equation for a solid team.

Tomorrow I will break down what I think the lines will look like. I’ve never really done this before so it’ll take a lot of thought and could be a bit out there. See you tomorrow, Ruffians.

PS Some guy name Kovalchuk re-signed with the Devils for 17 years.


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About AndrewTRW

Sabres blogger with a propensity for music and sarcasm. The Ruff Writers dot Wordpress

2 responses to “Sabres Summer Signings: A Breakdown”

  1. David Scirto says :

    The Sabres are going in a decidedly grittier direction with their defense this year. Exit big-bodied balls of fluff, Lydman and Tallinder, and enter gritty Jordan Leopold and (on paper) Mike Weber. Both players can play with a nasty streak — players that help a team lacking in front-end talent, but heavy on depth.

    The biggest thing is that the addition of Nieds is that it moves Kennedy to the wing and Gaustad (or Nieds himself) to a 4th-line center. All of a sudden, Connolly-Roy-Niedermayer-Gaustad looks like a stacked set of centers. Not to mention, Kennedy and Hecht can both play center in limited roles if the forwards need a shake-up.

    Although a top six of Hecht-Connolly-Pommer and Vanek-Roy-Stafford looks kind of pedestrian, look at the bottom half: Some combination of Grier, Niedermayer, Kennedy, Gaustad, Kaleta, McCormick on the bottom six is stacked. That’s assuming players like Ennis and Gerbe don’t force the Sabres to keep them in Buffalo and keep someone like McCormick as a healthy scratch. Ennis-Niedermayer-Kennedy is an incredible 3rd line. Kaleta-Gaustad-Grier is the best 4th line in the league. What if Mancari is resigned? That’s lower-line depth.

    If I’m Darcy, I have Lee Stempniak on the line. If he’s playing in an environment he doesn’t feel pressure to perform (see: Phoenix), he can be an incredibly efficient lower line scorer who can log significant PP time. If he’s relied upon as a top six forward (see: Toronto), he can’t put up the numbers. How would you feel about a 3rd line of Ennis-Kennedy-Stempniak? A 4th line of Gaustad-Niedermayer-Kaleta/Grier? Dear lord.

  2. Andrew Meyer says :

    David you get me exactly. While everyone else is quivering in their boots over top 6 talent, I see a team that is rearing to roll 4 lines night in and night out. Out work the other team and the goals will come. I fully expect Ennis to work his way onto the starting roster next year and I expect Kennedy to play his way into upper line contention by mid-season.

    As far as Stemper goes, I would love to see him in his hometown. He can be a solid depth player and would even have the possibility of being a breakout scorer on a team like this one. We’re begging for someone to come take the scoring reigns and just run away with them. I see Ennis doing that soon but Stempniak would help for sure.

    I’ll go more in depth the next few days as I try to formulate some lines but you’ve got it pretty well nailed down. I’ll look to your mock lines (and throw some credit your way, of course) as I brain storm these combos.

    Thanks for reading Dave and thanks even more for sharing your thoughts.

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