The ink may still be wet on the legal documents that Terry Pegula signed to take over the Buffalo Sabres, but one thing is for certain, he wants to put his stamp on his team and fast. Pegula is determined to bring a Stanley Cup to Buffalo and will spend away to make it happen if he has to. He has said he wants to win a cup with his core three of Ryan Miller, Tyler Myers and Thomas Vanek, right now he is showing true to that commitment by allowing GM Darcy Regier free reign with the check book before and after the draft.
First off, the move to acquire veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr, former Sabre, Ales Kotalik and a 2nd round pick from Calgary for Chris Butler and Paul Byron. Add to that the acquisition of the negotiation rights of another top blueliner in Christian Ehrhoff (acquired from the Islanders whom was acquired from the Canucks) for a 4th rounder, and the Sabres have been busy before the free agent spree begins on July 1.
The Sabres (without Ehrhoff’s potential contract) have $11 million to spend this off season. If Buffalo can sign Ehrhoff, it would probably be in the range of $5-$6 Million a season so that takes the spending down to say $5million. Make no mistake about it, Pegula wants the Sabres to win and quickly. Here is what the Sabres need to do with the rest of that money on July 1 and after to make them the contender that Pegula wants them to be.
First off, sign Chris Drury. The New York Rangers will be buying out the contract of Chris Drury and now the one time fan favorite in Buffalo could be a finishing touch that the Sabres need to take the next step. Sabres fans can forgive Drury for leaving them in the past and I think with the buyout Drury can come cheap, maybe between $1.5-$2 million a year. Drury is a proven winner in the past in winning a cup in Colorado and a change of scenery back to Buffalo could spark his career for one more long cup run. Drury’s contract would have to be a one year deal at $2 plus million but if you can get him for about $1.5/season it may be worth a two year gamble.
The second thing the Sabres need to do is lock up another forward on top of Drury. Players that could fit this description, and in the salary range of $2-$3 million might be ; Anti Miettinen (MIN), Scottie Upshall (CBJ), Jamie Langenbrunner (DAL) Erik Cole (CAR) or even Jussi Jokinen (CAR). Buffalo needs some more scoring up front and a guy like Langenbrunner with all that playoff experience combined with Drury would make for a very gritty and character filled team to take Buffalo to the next level. Upshall and Miettinen may be wishful thinking as they may cash in on a very bare free agent market this year but both those guys would fit in nicely in Buffalo.
It may be time to let go of some Sabres as well. Buffalo should rid itself of Tim Connolly’s contract and not even attempt to sign him unless its for a deal under $2 million a season. Even then I would be hesitant. Connolly was good in a Sabre jersey but there is still too much expectation for this guy. Let him go. Another guy to let go, unless you can get him cheap, is Mike Grier. He is worth a lot on the PK and could be a great 3rd or 4th liner again this year if you can get him for about $1 million. If not I would let him walk.
Finally, if the Sabres cannot sign Ehrhoff or any of the above mentioned players, they should dip into the Brad Richards sweepstakes and sign him for a long term deal at about $7-$9 million a season. Richards is on everyone’s radar right now and why not throw Buffalo into this mix. Richards is a great set up guy and imagine him playing with Vanek on the Powerplay. This move will only work if they don’t sign Ehrhoff and or unload a big contract before July 1.
SABRES 2011-2012 Roster (Using CapGeek.com Calculator)
Thomas Vanek ($7.142m) / Jason Pominville ($5.300m) / Derek Roy ($4.000m)
Drew Stafford ($4.000m) / Brad Boyes ($4.000m) / Jochen Hecht ($3.525m)
Ales Kotalik ($3.000m) / Tyler Ennis ($0.875m) / Nathan Gerbe ($1.433m)
Paul Gaustad ($2.300m)/Top 2 Center/ Top 6 Forward
Robyn Regehr ($4.020m) / Jordan Leopold ($3.000m)
Shaone Morrisonn ($2.075m) / Tyler Myers ($1.300m)
Andrej Sekera ($1.000m) / D man *Ehrhoff*
Ryan Miller ($6.250m)
Back Up *Enroth*
Buffalo needs to land some players that can help now. There is no waiting as this team probably has a three year cycle left with its current core of young players to take a run at a Stanley Cup. One thing is for certain, unlike the past, the Sabres are willing to spend the money at free agent time to lure players to play in Buffalo and have that ability to do so for the first time in quite a while.
About the Author
Written by George Kouvalis
A huge fan of sports who loves to travel for major events. I've seen my fair share of major games and events including three Olympics, Wimbledon, The Masters etc.... Always up for a road trip or a drink to talk over sports or pro wrestling, in any city I am in or online. Favorite Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto FC, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Bulls, San Francisco 49ers, Toronto Argonauts, Manchester United, and of course the teams I blog for, the Texas Rangers and Buffalo Sabres. Follow me on twitter at the handle georgekouvalis