Dear Darcy, More Tylers Please
Greetings readers! I’m Aaron, the newest member of the staff here at The Ruff Writers. I’ll spend a little time introducing myself before I give you my thoughts on the moves the Sabres should make this summer. I’m an engineer and an experimentalist by training, so I tend to look at things that I can quantify rather than the intangible. If you aren’t familiar with my personal blog, which you likely aren’t, then you aren’t familiar with how my Sabres posts can vary. I’ve done everything from looking at the Sabres UFAs and RFAs from a statistical standpoint, to giving some of the Sabres superlatives from the TV series Firefly. While I haven’t been a hockey fan as long as some, I feel confident enough to draw conclusions from what I see on both the intangible and tangible aspects of the game.
As the title of this post implies, I want Darcy to draft more Tylers. We have Tyler Small and Tyler Tall, so how about drafting Tyler Medium? I know that a name isn’t good justification for drafting someone, but you have to admit how great it would be if he did that. Expect to see much love for the Tylers in future blogs. And yes, although Tyler Ennis is my favorite player, I will be able to speak objectively (remember that bit about being an experimentalist?) on his performance. Who doesn’t love the Tylers?
So what should the Sabres next move be? Obviously once the remaining RFAs are signed they will be into the 10% allowance on the cap. The announcement of Mike Weber and his 2 year $1.9million contract today pulls the Sabres to within about $355,000 of the cap. So barring some magic clause that allows them to sign Jhonas Enroth, Marc-Andre Gragnani, and Andrej Sekera for less than that, they will definitely be over the cap. What is it going to take to get below that cap and leave space for call ups during the season? There are obviously several options at their disposal, some of them are more preferable than others.
Darcy has said that they are essentially done in the free agent market, quite obviously due to the cap situation. He hasn’t, however, ruled out the idea of making trades to improve the forward situation. By this I assume that he’s referring to the situation at center. Even though Ville Leino has a +50% FO% while in the NHL (limited chances, mind you), he may or may not pan out at center. Besides, Derek Roy isn’t exactly the cream of the crop as far as #1 centers are concerned. There are upgrades, serious upgrades, that would require a great number of assets to be headed in the opposite direction. I’m not exactly thrilled with this particular idea. It’d be best to see how things pan out and make corrections from there. Darcy obviously has more room for error now than he did in the past, so it’s worth the risk to see how things work with Leino and Roy as your #1 and #2 guys. Not necessarily in that order, of course.
What would be a good idea is to deal with some of the fat paychecks on the roster that will be expiring soon. I don’t think it’s likely that we’ll see Jochen Hecht headed anywhere. Lindy Ruff likes him, and that is pretty much going to guarantee that he won’t be moved. I’m okay with Brad Boyes on the roster. Assuming something better wouldn’t be headed to the Sabres, I want to see him where he is most comfortable, playing right wing. I don’t think he did too bad for what went to the the Blues, and for his performance playing out of position. With more time to adjust to the team and Ruff’s system it’s likely he’ll return to form. While he is overpaid for his spot as the center on the 4th line, I don’t think you’ll see Paul Gaustad going anywhere. With him on that line you have a legitimate checking line with Cody McCormick and Patrick Kaleta at wing. Although, a cheaper alternative may be available, I don’t think they’ll move him.
On the other hand, there is some dead space that can be dealt with to clear cap space, and then some. I’m looking at Ales Kotalik and Shaone Morrisonn (aka Shamo). Kotalik is the redheaded stepchild that came over in the deal to get Robyn Regehr. There is no doubt in my mind that he was the reason why the Sabres got Regehr on the cheap. Most fans do not like him, as he isn’t the most prolific forward (or so I’m told). Of course, I also hear that Ruff likes him, so that could make it harder for them to ditch his $3million cap hit. I’d like to see Darcy either trade him so that he is someone else’s problem, or waive him and send him to the AHL if nobody picks him up. Yes, that is a large chunk of change to bury in the AHL, but it clears up salary and Pegula has the money to cover it.
I also think that Shamo needs to go. I’m not advocating moving him to the AHL, I want him and his $2.075 million cap hit gone. In fact, Paul Hamilton of WGR 550 is reporting that Shamo wants to be dealt. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen, but if it is than it is for the best. I have officially dubbed this plan to get rid of him as Operation Shamo Drop and #OperationShamoDrop is the official Twitter hashtag. There are capable prospects that would be able to fill his spot on the roster for less money.
That eliminates about $5 million off of the cap. That will likely not be enough to cover the remaining RFAs. Enroth and Sekera are going to expect fat raises. Especially Enroth, considering that he knows his value, and that he could likely vie for a starting gig on another club. Someone else is going to have to either spend their season in the AHL, or on another club. My guess is that Darcy will likely opt for the former rather than the latter. Which means that Weber and Gragnani would be the most likely candidates to spend the season in Rochester. I’d rather not see that happen, as both would seriously benefit from playing with veterans like Christian Ehrhoff and Regehr. It it is necessary, then so be it. My ideal situation would be to deal Jochen Hecht for picks or a player. Cody McCormick could easily fit in as a third line center in his place, as he often did this past season. Of course, there is the possibility that Luke Adam is ready to play center at the NHL level. However, some in the Sabres organization have said that they are uncertain of his where he fits in in the organization. This, to me at least, makes it seem as though they’re willing to part with him quite easily.
Regardless, something needs to be done to clear up space for both call ups and potential trades down the road. If they can get someone like Jason Spezza or Paul Statsny, then by all means go for it. I would package Jochen Hecht, one of the many blue chip defensive prospects or Luke Adam, and a pick to get either of them. Of course, I’m likely underpaying for him, but that would be my starting point. Perhaps I’d throw in a little more, say an additional pick, to get Statsny as he is younger than Spezza. Then again, a trade like that would do absolutely nothing to solve the cap situation and would only make it worse.