With the 2008-2009 NHL season officially in the books for the Sabres, Buffalonians will spend the next 5 months “getting their popcorn ready” and wondering what the Sabres will be doing in the off-season to get ready for next season.
I would like to offer an idea of what should be done in the Buffalo Sabres organization to ensure a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs next season.
I am now in full management mode.
First on the agenda: Free Agents
Max Afinogenov had a great end to the season for Buffalo. He was one of the hardest working players on the ice and showcased a new side of his game for fans. Unfortunately, his tenure in Buffalo has run its course. He is still an incredible talent that needs a fresh start in another system.
Drew Stafford is going to need to get paid, so best make room for him to make 2.5-3 million dollars next season. Lock him up.
Andrew Peters would fist fight a mirror if you told him to and Buffalo lacked a bit this season in physical play, but it’s time to consider trimming the fat in order to bring in a bigger name. He’s gone. The Same goes for Numminen and Tellqvist.
I am a firm believer in “workhorses” or “grinders” as they often go overlooked but do the most for a team on both sides of the puck. It’s crucial to lock up Kaleta. As for Moore, it would be best to part ways since there is no room for him as a purely offensive center and after last year’s uncharacteristic offensive output, he’s going to be looking for more of an offensive role. I would bring in Sammy Pahlsson as he knows his role as a 3rd/4th line workhorse and is lights out in the face-off circle.
Jaroslav Spacek is still a solid source of points from the blue line and could be willing to take a small pay cut since he isn’t getting any younger. Lock him up for 2 more years. Clarke MacArthur has yet to really show the Sabres his full potential and should be relatively cheap to retain. Give him a shot to play an increased role next year and we could see a breakout season finally. Sekera is a part of a young Sabre defensive core that will turn into a rock solid top 4 defender in time. Lock him up.
Second on the agenda: Acquisitions.
I truly believe that adding a player like Jay Bouwmeester would give Buffalo just what the doctor ordered from the blue line: a rock solid defender with an offensive upside. He won’t come cheap so we’re going to have to break out of our conservative spending shell. I would also consider Marc-Andre Bergeron for his offensive upside or Ole-Kristian Tollefsen as a cheap option for some scrappyness.
I have been a firm believer in not making a pitch for Marian Gaborik because of his proneness to injury, however, there is no way that he makes 7.5 million again next year. Offer him a 4 year deal at a reduced cost (5.5-6.5) million and get some scoring back in Buffalo! T.O IS HERE! WHY NOT GABORIK TOO!
Obviously, Bouwmeester and Gaborik together would not be economically feasible, so it’s up to the reader to decide what’s more important. Here’s what I would like to see:
Possible Line Combo:
Vanek – Roy – Gaborik
Stafford – Connolly – Pominville
Hecht – Gaustad – Kaleta
Paille/MacArthur – Pahlsson – Mair
Spacek – Rivet
Tallinder – Lydman
Sekera – Bergeron
It’s not easy being a GM I’ll tell you that much. Trying to figure out needs while satisfying the players and the budget is no easy task. I’m glad I’m just an over-opinionated fan who thinks he knows what’s best for every sports organization in the National Hockey League.